WOW! The Blog Turns Four! How did that happen?

Every year on or around our blogiversary, I do a little soul searching and post a recap here on Montecristo Travels. (See last year’s blogiversary post here). It’s a bit self-serving to offer up my soul searching so I want to thank you for bearing with me on this yearly not-travel-related post.

You see, Dear Reader, this blog marks time for me like nothing else. It has kept my travels and the lessons I have learned along the way all neatly stacked in chronological order. It’s been very helpful to keep my past organized that way. I’m not sure why I find that a good thing, but I do. I also find it a good thing to review my stack of travels and lessons as the mark of another year rolls around.

So, what new A-HA! moments did this past year bring?

Not many, to be honest. I still find that doing creative work, every day, over and over, is hard. Why is that you ask? Well, some days I have a dozen blog posts just knocking at my mind’s door, screeching to be let out. (Queue “Who Let the Dogs Out?”) Those are good days, and I harness them because the truth is, more often than not, a lot of days … well, I want to quit. Or maybe bang my head against a baseboard. Or maybe do both. Those are bad days. Those are the days when I find a series on Netflix and watch multiple seasons of a show back-to-back while binging on duck chews. Yes, I am looking at you Dexter and Orange is the New Black.

You see, this blog really has a life of its own now. Luckily, this year we travelled more than usual so material has been in some ways easier to come by. That’s meant less of a struggle. It doesn’t make writing easier but it does take a lot of the angst out of the blogging process.

I know the gurus and blogging self-help feeds, books, and articles will tell you that you should have a plan for your blog. And there are certain rules and processes they recommend. But honestly? We really haven’t done much of that. Other than honouring the credo “Content is King,” we have not done much in terms of planning. We have not changed the blog to draw the attention of award-givers. We haven’t added advertising. (I find it distracting). We haven’t allowed many guest posts or agreed to do much guest posting ourselves.

Perhaps that is why the blog remains small, and for now, that’s okay. Milestones and events will change the blog as needed. One small accomplishment at a time. Just like the book will change the look of this site. Because it has to. There is growth and thus, there is change.

The other startling observation that follows me year after year is that I can’t predict which posts will be the favourites. It’s never the posts that I prefer as the writer, and it’s rarely those which are the most well written. Identifying the favourites is a code I have yet to crack.

So what has kept me going these four years? Habit. It isn’t a very glamorous statement; I realize that. People always hope for something more … spiffy or inspiring. But it is the truth.

I think to some degree, habits can be the key to success in life because habit creates a dedicated space for something. You see, what I have noticed is that most humans complain about not having enough time. And you know what? Unless you are struggling to survive, I think we have enough time to do whatever we want. Most of us are just not willing to make the necessary sacrifices to do it. You know … reduce or give up the time we spend on watching TV, making daily trips to the pub, or going window-shopping. Or, how about my favourite: failing to delegate? These little minute-eaters will devour your precious time.

In any case, the discipline of working on the blog every day has taught me many lessons – none of them new, but perhaps I can share with you the five habits I see more clearly now than I did a year ago.

  1. Establish a routine. Oh, dull! I know. But it’s true. Routine forms the habit. The habit will keep you going when you are just not feeling it. It can be a morning routine – that’s our pattern, a mid-day pattern, or an evening routine, depending upon who you are and what are your circumstances. It’s the routine that matters.
  2. Believe you’ve got it in you. People are often surprised that I find enough to write about week after week, especially when we are not travelling. As a travel blogger, lack of travel can make things tricky! Yet it never fails – even when I am most desperate – an idea saves me. The key, I believe, is to write about your passion. Then you will find that the more you write, the more ideas will present themselves to you.
  3. See a chance to learn everywhere. It can be a conversation, a commercial, a meme on Facebook, a song, a TV show, another blog … . Being a blogger forces you to look for ideas everywhere. I think that’s a good thing. For us, that’s forced an awareness on the now instead of letting life happen. My tip? Keep a note pad handy to jot down inspiration before it flees. It’s sneaky that way. Really. Like that darned tail.
  4. Let go of fear. I know, another doozy, right? But there you have it. Honestly, I am not sure which is worse, getting loads of negative criticism or having no reaction at all. Why is the fear of either so strong? I think it’s because we always feel like a fraud on some level. You think to yourself, “Who am I to be this voice? To give advice? To review? To judge?” The reality is there will always be haters. No matter what. So just go for it.
  5. Understand the dedication involved. So many people say to me, “Oh! I should write a blog!” But I can see that they don’t get it – just as I didn’t get it in the beginning: blogging is a full time, demanding, and, for most of us, unpaid undertaking. Speaking, interviews, writing, learning, reading, meeting, talking … it’s hours each day. There is always a post to draft, photos to upload, editing to review, and web or IT issues to resolve. It never ends. Often there is little to no audience. I said it before and I’ll say it again: blog for yourself, not for fame.

So if I’m blogging for myself, why do I do it? Why do I keep going? It’s because we’ve helped people! I love receiving messages like these:

“We made it! We flew from Paris and we are now enjoying our trip in Peru with our little Cha-ching and he is loving it! Best vacation ever. Thank you!”

“Just moved back to Amsterdam after 3 years in the US. Your blog took the anxiety out of the process of flying with my Pom. Triksy and I thank you for the help, especially in getting the correct EU998 form.”

“I never comment, but I wanted you to know that I read your blog every Saturday. And this year I went on vacation with my No-No from Washington DC to Brussels! I had no idea vacations with my Bichon could be such fun!”

And I enjoy the new experiences that keep popping up. A few really fun things happened this past year! We were on CBC Canada (French) giving a little talk about our favourite dog-friendly place to hang out in Ottawa – WAG. We couch surfed in New Jersey and Pennsylvania thanks to fellow travel blogger, The Boomeresque. We focused on growing the “Local Treasures” part of our blog, and we started (albeit shakily) a video component to the blog with a first stab at a bio. Most important of all, we are poised to launch our first illustrated children’s travel guide. That is HUGE.

What is next? Another book is definitely going to happen and you will see a social media surge as we try to master those murky waters. And, of course, more travel, although not the big trip we had hoped for in 2015. More on that later.

We are so thankful to the Internet for enabling us to blog and reach so many people who are now friends. I feel like we straddle three large communities: the pet-loving community, the travel community, and the self-published-authors community. All three are huge, lovingly dysfunctional, and quirky.

Our 5th year will be a fun year! It isn’t just the travel blog anymore. It’s now the children’s book(s) too. Meeting parents, kids, other travel dogs, and business owners who are as excited to promote the book as we are to let them … it is a beautiful thing! And of course, there is our core group – our editor Dawn, our illustrator Allie, our webmaster Nadine, and so many other people who have helped us, supported us, given advice, and shared their own experiences as authors (Thank you Ingrid!) or bloggers (like our friend Gigi!). When I’m tired and thinking of giving up, I remember all these people, their faith, their support, and their commitment and I can’t disappoint. This community we have in our lives is precious and complex. We can’t stop! Our story isn’t over just yet. There is more world to see, many blogs to write, books to author, and humans and fellow canines to meet!

And, of course, thank you, Dear Reader for making all of this possible! We love you.

THANK YOU DEAR READER!!

23 Comments on “WOW! The Blog Turns Four! How did that happen?

  1. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, DEAR MONTE… Time flies when you’re having fun helping, sharing, educating. Right? Monte, you rock! I look forward to the next four years! Big hugs to you and your very capable team!

  2. Congratulations, Monte and team. I love reading your blog every weekend.

    • Thank you Hebert. And thank you for always kindly letting us know you have been on the blog, or for liking a photo on facebook … we appreciate your friendship! even if virtual. 🙂

  3. Congrats to you, baby boy and your momma and Daddy! I love reading about all your adventures and look forward to a pawtographed copy of your book!

  4. Oh Montecristo! And your parents too… We love your blog, love your Facebook postings and look forward to each one! Please, please never give up! You have brought a new world to parents of dogs who love to travel!!! And I mean the parents are the ones who love to travel… but if the parents love it – then so does the canine, right???

    Your words of advice are so true… and we should all take them to heart. Thank you and happy, happy anniversary on the blog!

    • AW!!! Thank you Linda! What a sweet sweet comment. And yes, most canines (unless ill or very elderly) would rather be wherever their human(s) is. Traveling as a pack is just the thing! I will do my best to keep it interesting!

  5. Montecristo, the blog is how I met you and your people and via the blog, I felt I knew you well enough to invite myself for an in person overnight when I was in Ontario. Definitely not something I would have ever done before joining the blogosphere! Then, having ascertained that I was not an axe murderer, you guys visited us in Philly and Brigantine. And, your blog introduced me to some of your friends who became people I care about. So, happy continued writing.

    • and to you Suzanne! We loved our trip and seeing Brigantine and especially Philly was a HUGE eye opener for us. Such a historically rich and architecturally interesting city! so THANK YOU!! we had a great time and I am just happy that you did as well. Sorry if Mom had that nasty cold and put a tiny damper on things for the first three days. *sigh* it happens right?

      Tell Dino he needs to visit us here! I got stuff to show him!

  6. Dear Monte and the Team,

    First of all, HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!!!! May your resolve never leave you, may your reader base grow every day, and mainly may you always find reasons to share your ideas with us. We may not comment on everything you write, but we read it. We are here to listen to what you have to say.

    I had no idea that you have to spend time on blogging every day. I thought that writing comes to you so naturally that you just whip up the post a day before the release and wow us with the content. Everything you write flows so nicely and effortlessly.

    Thank you for your dedication and this very personal post. Don’t quit on us. Your advice and experience is very valuable to us.

    Thanks to you we will discover some of the places you wrote about in about a month – like Mackenzie King Estate, Mont Tremblant, Ottawa, Gatineau, and more. We can’t wait!! Oliver and Chloe are excited to meet you and to visit your favorite place WAG!

    You see, without you it wouldn’t be possible at this time. So thank you for being here for us.

    Michaela, Jeremy, Chloe & Oliver

    • Thank you so much for your kind words! I am moved.

      I can’t wait to have you all over here! To show you around and to have a good time together! Be it coffee at WAG or taking Jeremy for a shave at House of Barons… we are going to have fun!

      Thank you so much for reading the blog!

  7. Hello Monte and Pawrents!

    Happy Blog-anniversary! We enjoy your blog as much as ever and although we don’t take any grand adventures, we have relied on your good advice and travel tips a lot this year. Thanks to your good advice we made it through our first domestic flight to a charity event this year!

    We truly appreciate the time it takes to invest and maintain a blog as we started our own a few months back. We have no idea if we will make it to four years, but we hope so!

    P.S. We still owe you that Moby blanket…perhaps a DIY post is in order so we can get it done 🙂

    • Aw…. I am SO glad your trip was a success. And best of luck with your blog (will go check it out). Thank you for your loyal support!

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