On the two year anniversary of Andi on Adventure, I sit here in my new office in Nice, France staring out my window with a view of the backside of an old convent located in one of the oldest areas of this stunning city. They’re attempting to renovate this crumbling old building but I’m fascinated by the broken look. It adds character.
I look across the courtyard where the fish market stood for hundreds of years (currently being renovated too) and wonder who sat in the windows of that old convent hundreds of years ago. Did they write home about their new convent life? Did they gaze out the window at the fish market and wonder “How the hell did I get here”? Maybe they wondered if they’re on the right path or should change course?
That old building has character and an interesting history, but sometimes things like crumbling buildings, middle-aged women, and stale blogs need a makeover. So, after two years in the blogosphere, Andi on Adventure has gotten a makeover and, in the process, changed course a bit too.
Because one thing I’ve learned is that things change. That’s just life!
What other valuable lessons have I learned in the past few years?
Blogging Lesson #1 – It’s a lot of work!
There is much more to running a blog than putting words on paper and adding a few shiny photos. I knew NOTHING when I began so I really was starting from scratch. I also had very little confidence in my writing.
Along with writing, I’ve learned about the whole internet marketing thing that takes a lot of time. Social media has created a whole new world of marketing opportunities and figuring out what works takes patience and experimentation.
There’s also SEO (search engine optimization) which basically allows you to suck up to Google so your pages rank higher in their search engine. It’s a boring but necessary task to get your stuff out in the blogosphere. More views equal more potential for monetizing through sponsored posts or affiliate marketing. Some bloggers are obsessed with SEO. I am not one of them. Yet.
It seems there’s always something on my “To Do” list. I often struggle to maintain my focus since there’s so much to explore in Nice!
Blogging Lesson #2 – Do It Yourself!
Many of my blogger friends have created their websites from scratch. I hired someone to do it, preferring to focus on the parts of blogging that I actually enjoy (like writing). I considered trying to tackle the web redesign myself during the recent site makeover, but then I went through the simple task of changing web hosting and bruised my head from beating it against a brick wall. I’m an idiot when comes to this kind of stuff so I’ve been paying the people who know it.
But after working with the most recent web designer, I’d highly recommend learning at least the basics of web design. “I’ll have your site done in a week,” said the Costa Rican web designer I met randomly on Facebook. He reminds me a little of a sloth I saw once on a trip to Costa Rica. He was trying to climb a tree and every movement was slow motion and sloth-like.
That “done in a week” estimate has turned into more than a month of frustration and the site is still a work in progress. The perfectionist in me is trying hard to accept its imperfections! (Like me, it’s perfectly imperfect.)
Blogging Lesson #3 – Life gets in the way sometimes – relax and let it go
This past year has been the most life-changing, stressful, incredible year ever. I went into 2017 with no idea where I’d be by the end of the year and I was OK with embracing the unknown. I actually wrote a somewhat entertaining recap of last year, which has now been lost in cyberspace during the recent site renovation. (Seriously.)
I realized early in the year that putting pressure on myself to focus on blogging may result in a total meltdown. Real life, with all the pressures of change, required my full attention in order to keep my balance.
So, despite my lofty blogging goals, real life got in the way and I had to just let it. I put things on the back burner temporarily and now that life in 2018 has mellowed a bit, it’s time to make writing a priority again.
Blogging Lesson #4 – Be in the moment
Last year I read a blog post by Lili of Lili’s Travel Plans where she described a moment on one of her adventures when she realized she should be taking photos and documenting every detail. And then she just put her camera down, sat back, and observed.
Sometimes you’ve just gotta enjoy the moment without turning every experience into a future blog post in your mind.
That’s great advice from Lili and something I’ve become much more aware of. Some moments are private and should be cherished – not shared on Facebook, in a blog post, or on Instagram.
Blogging Lesson #5 – Write what you know
The first version on Andi on Adventure was intended to focus on “travel with a humanitarian spin”. (Huh?) I’ve always had a passion for humanitarian causes and thought I could blend it with travel and create a “humanitarian travel niche”. I realized pretty quickly that I don’t have enough authority on the subject of humanitarian issues to be able to write about it. (Passion does not equal authority.)
So, I decided to write about people who DO know something about humanitarian causes – people who are actually making a difference in the world. This series of interviews evolved into “Humans of the World” stories, now filed under “Best of” on the revised site.
So, what the hell DO I know?
I know the struggles of starting life over at “50-something”, what it’s like to move to a totally different culture (twice) without knowing the language. And I know travel! So that’s what I’ll be writing about – Expat Life and Travel. (All the other stuff worth reading will be found under “Best of”!)
Blogging Lesson #6 – Big Picture Perspective
Hitting “publish” on a blog post for the first time was terrifying for me. I felt naked in cyberspace and worried about being judged harshly. It took some time for that fear to fade and for me to relax a bit. After a while, I could hit “publish”, turn off my computer, and go for a long walk without obsessing about perfection.
Because, seriously, there are many more important things in the world to obsess about like the refugee situation in Myanmar or whether Hawaii will be hit by a nuclear bomb.
An important lesson learned – publishing a blog post really is NOT that big of a deal. Relax. I try to just write something I’m not totally ashamed of. Then I hit “publish” and get on with living my life.
Blogging Lesson #7 – Success is a marathon, not a sprint
There are bloggers who actually make a living from blogging. They inspire the rest of us and allow us to dream of having that first $1000 month from affiliate marketing or really cool press trip. People like Kristin Addis of Be My Travel Muse or Kate McCulley of Adventurous Kate show us that it’s possible.
But they worked their asses off for years before achieving success!
I’ve found that when you focus on the long term, it takes a lot of the immediate pressure off. This whole blogging thing really is a marathon with so much to learn along the way. My pace is now slower, focusing on quality over quantity, but my focus is becoming sharper. I’ll get there someday and, until then, I try to enjoy the journey.
My first blog post on January 18, 2016, was based on a 4 am epiphany and I was terrified to publish it. It felt like jumping out of an airplane into the unknown and just hoping for the best. That was right around the time David Bowie died and I ended the post with this message:
“Last week David Bowie died and left us with an amazing (although slightly creepy) video. I just stumbled upon a post by some guy named Jason Evangelho, who summed up the message in that video:
“Do not waste any more time not expressing yourself. Say what you need to say, boldly and without reservation. Nurture your creativity and don’t be shy about it. Leave your mark. Start today.”
This was my first blogging lesson and gave me the courage to jump. I hit “publish” on my first post.
Maybe hundreds of years from now when my decrepit old apartment building is finally being renovated, a future travel blogger will be sitting in the window of the convent across the courtyard. She’ll gaze out the window and wonder if anything amazing was written from my window hundreds of years before. Wondering if any mark was made.
Probably not, but you never know unless you find the courage to jump into the unknown blogosphere.
A preview of Andi on Adventure 2.0:
Expat Life – Life lessons learned from starting over in France, embracing the culture, and finally learning a new language! Also, housesitting adventures from Istanbul, Rome, Paris and beyond!
Travel – Exploring the South of France, Italy, Croatia, Czech Republic, Spain and much more!
Resources – A convenient page highlighting companies or sites I use and highly recommend. (Coming soon…)
Best of – This is where you’ll find all the old articles deemed worthy of reading. Humans of the World, Travel Stories, and a variety of other stuff I’m not too ashamed to share with the world.