It seems unlikely and bizarre to me, but today marks the 6th anniversary of my web site, LandLopers. Six years since I entered the weird world of social media and blogging, six years since I first started sharing my thoughts and emotions online, six years since I started on a course that has forever changed my life. Six years sounds like a long time, and it is. Well, sort of. Funny enough, six years is the longest I’ve ever stayed working for the same person, but in this case it’s me I’m working for. When I first started blogging, I didn’t even really know what a blog was. I had spent some time on Twitter, seen other bloggers and knew that I could do better. Or if not better, at least add what I think is a divergent point of view to the global dialogue. Since that rainy, long weekend a lot has changed both in my life and in the world of travel social and digital media. Rather than wax poetically about hitting the Publish button that first time, or how bad my original post was (is), I thought I’d look back at the last six years, share some of the many mistakes I’ve made, what I’ve learned from them and what I see as the current state of travel writing, blogging and social media in general.
I’m exceptionally proficient when it comes to making mistakes, that’s not the issue. No, instead what I care about most is learning from those mistakes, drawing something beneficial from what is an otherwise unfortunate event. When it comes to blogging and my online career, I have been a resounding success at making mistakes both large and small, but here are some key ones, along with what I gleaned from the experiences.
Being cheap – I’ve always liked to think that I could handle just about any issue that pops up. If I don’t know something, I can learn it. Early on though I met my match when it came to my web site. I’m not a tech-centric kind of guy and still today I’m shocked and slightly impressed that I was able to create a (mostly) functioning web site on my own six years ago. But very quickly I learned that there’s a lot more to creating a healthy and well-functioning web site than I originally thought, but even after this realization I still didn’t consult with experts because I was too cheap. Not surprisingly, professionals in fields such as web design, graphic design, technical web site maintenance and so on all come at a premium. At some point though I applied something that I have firmly believed for a long time to my web site, which is if you want something done professionally, then hire a professional. So I did. I hired great pros at graphic and web design that helped create the current look and feel of LandLopers and I work on a permanent basis with technology pros who help me keep the site up and functioning well. I don’t think I resisted out of budgetary concerns though. I think it was more of a mental leap. It’s one thing to start a blog as a lark or a hobby, but it suddenly becomes something different once thousands of dollars are invested into it. A threshold is crossed from well-meaning hobbyist to blogging professional, and it was a scary one to cross. But cross it I did and I’ve never looked back. I’m not done though, there are other professionals in key fields that I still need to engage in order to help me with my brand, from virtual assistants to public relations pros.
Innovation – Maybe it’s from spending too much time around my three dogs, but when I’m at home I am very much a creature of routine. Unfortunately, I’ve carried this over to my professional life as well. I like the process I go through in writing new posts, editing photos and I’ve enjoyed some success with that system. But being truly successful is about innovation, change and doing things that are different from everyone else. I haven’t done a lot of that here on the site not necessarily from a lack of desire, but from a lack of time. Even that though is a lame excuse and instead I need to make some changes to the site and my brand and start developing new products and services that will augment my writing and photography.
Business Diversification – This falls inline with innovation, but after running this site for 6 years and doing it professionally as my full time job for more than 3 years, I now see the need of diversifying my income streams. While we write about vastly different topics, I draw great inspiration from my friend and colleague Matt Kepnes from Nomadic Matt. He’s fiercely intelligent when it comes to business and has done a masterful job at always finding new business opportunities for himself. I need to emulate that way of thinking so that I’m far less dependent on others when it comes to earning a living.
Joys of Travel Blogging
It’s not all mistakes and lamenting my poor business decisions though. I started the web site because I have always had an unquenchable passion for travel. Seeing and learning more about the world has defined me since the day I was born. In grade school my walls were covered with maps and world flags, in high school I was presciently voted Most Likely To Travel The World, after grad school I took and passed the Foreign Service Exam – all of this was in line with my passion and LandLopers is just the latest tangible outgrowth of what is at the core of who I am as a person. So, naturally, I have greatly enjoyed being a travel blogger. The ability to discuss your greatest passion in life with millions of people is a joy unlike any other. The site has also given me any number of remarkable and so-called once in a lifetime travel experiences, and for all of them I am deeply thankful. But don’t confuse any of this with luck. Quite often readers tell me how lucky I am, and while I don’t necessarily deny that, I also take some offense to the statement. We make our own luck in life. I was able to create a successful travel blog not from luck or SEO shenanigans but through hard work, perseverance and passion. If I’m awake I’m working, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. There is no off switch and everything I’ve been able to do and create with this site is, I believe, a direct result of that hard work. The same is true for anything we do in life, from our careers to family lives. The more work we put into something, the more we get back in return. It’s just that simple.
Thoughts On This Strange Career Choice
I’ve always been prone to too much introspection. I tend to overthink things and usually it makes me miserable in the process. But not always and social and digital media and the travel blogging world are all things I devote a lot of time thinking about every day of my life. In the 6 years since I started this web site so much has changed. We’ve gone from being hated by most traditional writers and outlets to being emulated by them. Suddenly everyone has a Snapchat account or published a version of 5 Amazingly Awesome Things To Eat in Paris. There are pros and cons to this, but the evolution has enabled me to make a living in the weird world of travel influencers and blogging where I wouldn’t have been able to just a few short years ago. And generally I’m very happy with my life and where I am having just turned 40. Writing has always been a big part of my life, whether personally or professionally and the ability to combine it with my love of travel is a unique joy. It’s a privilege and I know that. I try to respect that and never take it for granted. And I also realize that it’s all of you that I ultimately have to thank. Reading every day, commenting and encouraging me even when I thought all was lost, you have enabled this life change to happen and for that I am eternally grateful.
I’m not sure how the site and I will continue to evolve over the years but I’m excited. It’s thrilling to look back and see how much my life has changed in what is ultimately a very short time, and I’m eager to see what’s next on the horizon!