For some reason the anniversary of my blog always seems to creep up on me and I almost always forget it. This year I actually managed to get out ahead of it – the first post published on LandLopers.com was on March 14, 2010 and by all accounts it was dreadful. Over the years though I learned and improved, and my ability to fuse together a few words and match them with photos gradually became second nature. I can’t believe I’ve been doing this for as long as I have, it’s actually the longest job I’ve ever had. That alone says something, it says that I made the right choice to hit the publish button that first time, I made the right choice to leave my traditional job 7 years ago and, with many stumbles along the way, I’m still making the right choices when it comes to this strange not-so-new-anymore career of mine. I’ve learned and observed a lot over the years though, and I hope that today you’ll allow me a few moments to share those thoughts as well as how I see my own job evolving over the next few years.
Challenging But Well Worth It
The other day I was watching a news program and a very famous actress was interviewed. She was asked why she worries about getting work even though she’s so well known. Her response was that as a self-employed creative professional, there are no guarantees. I paused and rewatched it a few times because that’s me, that’s my life and how I feel. My job, essentially, is to make it seem as if I’m on vacation all of the time. That’s actually not the case of course; I have a rich home-life and love being off the road just as much as I do on it. I haven’t punched a metaphorical time card in seven years and yet here I am, still living in that overpriced suburb and doing just fine. I work harder than I ever have in my life and believe me, I’ve always worked hard. There are good days and some profoundly bad days, but overall the ride has been an absolute joy. We all have different dreams and aspirations in life but this is mine. This is what I enjoy doing more than anything else and to have the rare opportunity to make it my life’s work is a privilege like none other.
More than improving my photos and writing, LandLopers has been an instrument of incredible personal growth. I’ve written about it a million times, but my life before the blog was not the one I wanted. I was deeply unhappy, except that I didn’t realize it at the time. That unhappiness had become so normal and commonplace that I just accepted it as life. It wasn’t until things in my life started to improve that I fully realized just how miserable I was. I was unmotivated, overweight, my relationships with friends and family suffered – nothing was going right. That’s because I had successfully ignored my true calling in life for more than a decade, but my subconscious was fighting back. My entire life I’ve been fascinated by all things international and foreign. I have two degrees in International Relations and fully intended to enter the Foreign Service for a life overseas. But then I decided not to, for a variety of reasons I won’t go into here, and instead took a job doing something I didn’t like, but which paid the bills. It’s so easy in life to keep doing things because they’re easy. We as humans always choose the easiest route, it’s just in our nature. When entering a building, people will always enter through a door already open rather than take the millisecond to open a new one. But it’s opening that new door which is so important, so transformative and that’s ultimately what I did 9 years ago. It would have been far too easy to keep going with the flow, but instead I didn’t just open a new door, I created it out of the ether. I created this job for myself out of pure willpower and perseverance and because of that it’s so much more than an occupation. This career and website have become important aspects of who I am as a person. It’s how I now define myself, how I present myself to the world. If you stop to think about it, that’s a tremendous amount of change and personal growth in just a few short years. It can take people decades to realize their goals in life, if they ever do, and while I’m far from perfecting anything (believe me) I’m on the right track. More than the trips or other perks the true reward of this site has been in becoming a better man. It’s an entirely selfish pursuit, but one that I needed to undertake. I needed to be shocked and scared, I needed to work and scrape. I needed to create this out of nothing in order to truly appreciate everything it has done for me.
Standing Out in a Sea of Noise
The digital world has changed a lot since I first started this site. Every day new people start their own blogs, social media accounts or YouTube channels all with the goal of being able to do this for a living. Sadly though, most do it for all of the wrong reasons. With anything we do in life there has to be passion, there has to be drive. Your job should be a calling and not a way to only earn a paycheck, otherwise you won’t be happy and you probably won’t be successful. Far too many would-be bloggers or influencers (what a terrible word) do this for selfish reasons, for nice trips and perks. They ultimately won’t be successful because it’s not a sustainable model, but in the process they make my job more difficult than it really should be. They hurt the integrity of the professional – yes, it’s a profession – and add more hurdles in a world where there are already far too many. A good blogger or writer should not be doing this for egotistical reasons. I’ve seen a recent, and sad, phenomenon of young men and women who seem to be all about fluff instead of substance. They purport to have a blog, they write (albeit poorly) but really it’s a platform in which to showcase themselves half naked or in bikinis. I’m not sure how or why this weird trend of models turned travel writers occurred, but it’s not good for the overall profession. They cheapen it and they take away from what’s important all in the vain attempt to increase their own notoriety and probably score some free trips in the process. No, a good travel blog should be about the individual writing it, but it’s also the responsibility of that writer to address the needs and concerns of his or her audience. It’s tough, no doubt there, which is why the most successful travel bloggers are also fiercely intelligent and driven people. Most of the successful travel bloggers are in their second or third careers in life and of the ones I know they come from industries as impressive as medicine, law, banking, politics and more. These aren’t the stereotypical young 20-somethings on a gap year; they are smart professionals who simply have an unconventional job. That’s also why they’ve succeeded, because they have the mental acuity to walk that tightrope and deliver content that is honest and engaging, without being braggadocious or self-aggrandizing. Keep that in mind when looking at travel blogs, are they using you or are they serving you?
Where I’m Going Next
I’ve long said that the site is not the end of my own personal evolution. Will LandLopers be around in 20 years? I would doubt it, but what I don’t doubt is that I will still be working in the travel world and loving every moment of it. Over the last four decades my life has taken any number of unexpected turns, both positive and negative. I’m not unique in that, that’s life for all of us. But one thing that age has given me is perspective. While at one time I thought that each new change was it, the end, that was my life, I now realize that all of those changes were but stations on the route. They’re pass-throughs and I kind of see LandLopers in the same way. This blog is not how I will spend the rest of my days, I know that. No, don’t worry, I’m not giving up on travel blogging anytime soon but I also know that this site will in turn lead to something else, which will lead to something else and so on. No, rather than try to find my terminus (Sounds depressing doesn’t it?) what I believe is more important is to make sure that I’m on the right track in the first place. For a long time I wasn’t, and that proverbial train was taking me into some very dark (and incredibly boring) stops. I flipped the switch though and rerouted the train into new stations. Stations full of life and energy, stations where I’m happy. I’m not ignorant enough to think that I will spend however much time I have left on this planet as a travel blogger. But whatever I do next will be on this same path. It will follow along with my passions and dreams and that, more than anything else, is what is so very important. It’s not key that you find whatever it is you think you’ll do for the rest of your life, that almost never works out. No, what’s important is that you’re on the right track in the first place. If you are, then no matter how many starts and stops there are, you will eventually end up in the place where you were meant to be.