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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.