Confessions of a travel blogger,  Sunday social travel talk

Confessions: Sunday Social Reflection Talk

This week’s Sunday Social Travel Talk has been on my mind ever since I wrote last week’s article. Over the past week, some ideas were born inside my head and up until this very minute (Saturday afternoon 5pm) I still had no idea what exactly I was going to write about. So I’m just gonna start writing and I’ll talk about three things that kept my mind running over the past week, coming together in one article:

– Why taking a blogging break was the best choice ever.
– How social media made me lose my appetite for blogging.
– Why I don’t want to become a full time travel blogger.

Earlier this week, I read an article by Theodora from Escape Artistes and although the responses to this blog vary (and in all honesty, I haven’t read them all … reading about people pissing on each other is fun for five minutes, that’s it) I couldn’t help feeling relieved. Why? Because it totally states why I’m so glad that I found out in time, that becoming a professional  blogger (or better said, trying to become one) would not be my thing… and never will be.

Let’s start with why taking a blogging break was the best choice ever.
January has been an interesting month. Or maybe I should just say it’s been a crappy month. Ok, in all honesty, a total shithole. The first month of the new year has always been my least favorite for various reasons:

a) Although I don’t do diets, I have to cut down eating in order to still fit my jeans.
b) I mostly do 6-day working weeks leaving me just one day to blog/socialize/rest/get outdoors.
c) The days are short: biking from/to the office in the dark basically just depresses the shit out of me.
d) It’s cold.

So somewhere mid January I decided I’d had enough of everything. I came home drained from a trade show for the 3rd day that week and all I could do was sit on the couch and do nothing. Again. Martijn was in Finland and since I was just working, I ate pizza each night (OMG) and didn’t go to the gym even once. No energy. The one free day I had, I spent behind my laptop, trying to get some writing done, producing some of the worst blogs I ever wrote. In the meanwhile, my colleagues told me they noticed I lost my spirit and my friends told me I looked like hell. Blogging became a must-do instead of a want-to-do. I even fell asleep on the couch with my laptop still on my lap, waking up in the middle of the night, with the lights still on (I haven’t told that to anyone yet, so embarrassing, so you just got an exclusive).

It took me a while to realize – but this wasn’t going to work, I didn’t want to spend the rest of my winter like this. During those weeks I booked 3 trips but I wasn’t very excited about any of them. They just felt like another thing I had to do, to fill up my schedule. I had to find a way to regain my energy to write and travel.

Was that really me? Where did my spirit go? Where did I lose it somewhere along the way?
And more important: how was I going to find it back?

I made a drastic decision, at least for me (someone who’s married to her phone and laptop):  I had to take a break. From it all. From being a blogger and from social media. Back to normal life, back to being a normal person. Whatever that may be. I put away my laptop and refused to use it most of the time. In the two weeks I went offline, I used it no more than twice. I also caught up on sleep, even went back to my eight hour routine and I actually felt well rested again for the first time in a long period.  I spent hours taking hot baths and reading books. I partied with my girlfriends and got so insanely drunk that I spent the whole next day being sick on the couch. I went on walks without actually knowing where I was going. That sort of stuff.  Like any “normal” person does…

veluwezoom1

Not for one second I worried about my numbers, about my pageviews, comments and retweets. I realized that worrying wouldn’t make me feel better, so I’d better let go of it all. Where possible …  (I’ll gladly admit, I never ditched the social media completely!).

Then my trip to Stockholm came in sight. At first I wasn’t looking forward to it at all. Sure, I was looking forward to spending time with my friends and to being outdoors. But I wasn’t looking forward to spending hours on the airport and the whole packing/unpacking process. Not for one minute I was excited about traveling again. Until I stepped on the plane. As the engines started running and I was pushed back in my seat, my heart somehow opened up again. That’s when the excitement kicked in and as I closed my eyes, I realized I was on my way back to becoming the old me.

My days in Stockholm were just fab, I can’t say that often enough. I fell in love with the city, the Swedish people and the whole vibe. I even loved being outdoors in the snow for 3 full days, even though it was wet and cold. During my last day in Stockholm I took a 10 km walk through Djurgården and as I was listening to my favorite music on Spotify while walking, I realized that after two weeks of silence, I missed writing.

sweden

Back home, I waited two more days (not by choice, but because of a busy schedule, would you expect anything else from me?) and then I started writing. The words came by itself and I didn’t have to think about it anymore. I knew I was on my way back…

So – what caused me to feel like this, apart from the reason it was January? It was social media. Or at least, that was a major part of it. Recently a friend of mine introduced me to the Findunfollow app. Now you must probably think that I’ve been hiding underneath a rock or so, but I never really tracked who was following/unfollowing me. But when I started using that app for my we12travel twitter, I got extremely frustrated. People would follow me and when I hadn’t followed them back within let’s say 2 days, they’d unfollow. This crazy process kept my mind occupied. Very occupied. “So this is the way it works”, I thought. Like for a like, or follow for a follow, or whatever you want to call it. For one minute, I considered: should I follow back just to make my numbers go up to make them look better? But quickly enough I said to myself: no fucking way. This is not the way I want to be a blogger. I want genuine likes/follows. I know it might not be the way it works in “travelblogger land”, but it will be my way.

Basically said, if you are expecting me to like you because you liked me, forget it. Sure, I’ve probably hit “follow” in the past of pages that I never paid attention to but from now on, I’m just not going to do it anymore. If you don’t like what we have to say, hit that unfollow or unlike button. Please, go ahead, I won’t be unhappy about it for one single second anymore.

Sure, social media is an important way to drive traffic to our site and I’ll always respect that. But not at all costs. I’m not liking pages anymore just to get a like back. I realize I could’ve had 10.000 followers on Twitter or 1.000 likes on Facebook from some Asian click center if I’d pay them a couple of bucks, but basically, I gave up caring.

Where are the days that we had a real life without social media? This is also an important part of Theodora’s article. What really opened my eyes was the quote from Craig from YTRavelBlog, one of my favorite travel blogs:

“By the time we’ve taken photos of our lunch, updated facebook, tweeted, pinned and instagrammed the kids are running loose and our food is cold.”

I’m so glad I’m not a food blogger and generally I don’t post food pics, I like my foot hot! So how about the real life? Well, I choose to have it. To spend my time outdoors without checking my iPhone every single second to see if I’ve gathered any new likes. Or taking my bath with lots of bubbles and a book instead of with my phone. Or going out for dinner with friends without capturing the food from every possible angle. And you know what, now that I’ve decided I’m not going to care about likes anymore, I feel totally relieved.

Changing to this point of view, really made me feel a lot better over the past weeks. It really did. So that leads me to the third reason of my list: Why I don’t want to be a fulltime travel blogger.

I think I could write at least 10 blogposts about this, however for today I’ll stick to the reason that actually has to do with my first item on the list:

I don’t owe anyone anything.

Sure, if I’ve agreed to do an article about a press trip or a review, I’ll gladly do it, but those are very few compared to my other posts. I’m still able to choose my subject each time I’m sitting down to write. I have the freedom I don’t HAVE to write anything nor do I HAVE to post on social media each day. At least, most of the time. If I don’t feel like it, I don’t. If I do, well I do. Easy as that. I’ve seen blogs that I truly enjoyed reading in the past, change into well-marketed businesses that write what their sponsors want them to write. And that’s a shame. Luckily, I have the possibility to choose not to do that. In fact, I like my blog just the way it is. I don’t care that I probably only have 10% of the visitors the big guys have. What I do care about, is that every now and then, we receive messages from people we never seen or heard from before, that we inspire them. And that they like reading our blog. To me, that’s much more valuable than 10.000 Twitter followers.

Amen.

(Note: I would like to add that even though I choose not to try and become a professional / fulltime blogger, I respect most of those who do. Those that are truly passionate about spending their life that way and willing to give it all, you rock! I’m just not one of you…)

Want to read more Confessions of a Travel Blogger? You may enjoy these:
6 Things I learned at TBEX Athens
The “my fear of flying” edition
Why I’m not so cool and/or adventurous

Thanks for sharing!

34 Comments

  • Ruthi

    Totally agree! I also decided that the whole social media obsession thing was not for me.Of course I am lucky in that I have a pension and I now travel mostly for pleasure (although I do have a small English teaching job) I blog to stay in touch with my friends and family and because I enjoy it.I had fleetingly thought of it as an alternative career but when I saw what was involved I understood that google analytics,instagram and twitter addiction were just not for me.So I just travel and blog and that’s it.
    Good luck and happy travels.

    • anto

      Thanks Ruthi! I think that many people who think travel blogging is their new career, don’t realize how much computer work is actually involved… traveling is one, getting the story on paper is two, but really working it out to become a blog with all its social media and such, is a whole different story. Happy travels to you, too!

  • Patti

    I like what you have to say here in your post. I’ve been writing my blog for just over two years and recently realized that if I don’t stop obsessing over every little thing I’m going to burn out way too quickly. I love writing my blog and of course I love the little bits of money I make from time to time, but I too will never be a professional travel blogger because then it just becomes another job.

    • anto

      Agreed, blogging as a hobby is so much more fun for me than actually making it a job. Some say that turning their hobby into work is their dream, but for me, I don’t want to loose my hobby…

  • Sandra

    Amen. I really love to read posts like these. I feel the same. I have an offline life too. And guess what? That’s more important than having 10.000 followers on Twitter. It feels like a fake world right? With some nice people in it, but mostly crap. Like you, I won’t be a full time travel blogger at all. No way!

    Keep your head up!

    • anto

      You are so right! I’ve heard stories of people who blog that don’t have a social life, better said, their online life is their social life. However, nothing beats a day out with my loved ones, not even a post that goes viral and is read throughout the whole world … so yay for us hobby bloggers!

  • Serena

    Words.
    Really. I totally agree with you, and January has been one very enlightening/shitty month for me as well: I caught the flu which has left me totally drained for more than two weeks, with no energy to do anything more than sleeping, so I waa feeling pretty much “guilty” about neglecting my blogging, exp. now that things are starting to get serious a bit. But then it made me think: do I really want it? Why am I doing this blog stuff? Answer: because I love writing and I wanted my writing to get out of my drawers and be read. But are numbers really that important? Paid opportunities and so on? No, because I would want to make a living out of it. But I love writing and I love doing it the way I want, not caring about what I *should* do to be successful. My artcles are mostly shit in terms of SEO and such, but I love them and I enjoy myself so much writing these things. Twitter has never made much sense to me, and altough I have quite good numbers there now I hardly ever surf it: there’s too much, I just can’t keep up and it doesn’t feel like quality interaction to me. I comment on other blogs bc I love reading them and not to get reciprocation. I just try to enjoy it more as a passion rather than a second job, altough I still try to keep a routine. But readers are encreasing anyway as well as opportunities, so maybe it’s really totally wrong to do it like this!

    • anto

      I knew you’d agree! Just keep on doing what you love and when that isn’t your path anymore, choose another one. Sorry to hear you got the flu, it seems to be going around. I was on the edge of getting sick as well but luckily it were only the first symptoms and by taking it very easy and sleeping lots, they went away before getting serious. Like you, I love writing, but not when I don’t feel like it. So thumbs up for us!

  • Els

    Oh how I agree with you!! Especially about the follow/unfollow thing on Twitter. I discovered the “mechanism” a few months ago and thought just like you: ” Well, if you think I’m going to like your page, just because you liked mine, forget it!” I see so many travel blogs that have heaps of likes or follows who obviously bought them. Why would you want to do that? You’re just cheating yourself!
    And some “professional” travel blogs look more like Tripadvisor than anything else, only reviews of free hotels, trips, gadgets they got, … This isn’t travel blogging for me!
    I know make a habit of enjoying my trip and be totally in the moment, I scribble down my notes in a little café and properly blog when I’m back home and that’s it.
    Anyway, rant over :-), glad to see that someone else thinks like me! 🙂

    • anto

      Thanks for the rant Els, you are allowed to rant as much as you want here … all those comments really made me happy, esp. to know there’s so many more people who actually feel the same and are fed up with how things are going. And so true, some blogs are more like Tripadvisor, with just reviews and such. That’s what I’d rather use Tripadvisor for because 25 reviews seem a lot more reliable than a blogger review who gets to do everything for free … seldom have I read a negative review which does make me wonder. Cheers to scribbling down your notes in a cafe, more of us should do that instead of opening up their laptop and log on to the wifi!

  • Nina Travels

    Reading this is like listening to my thought. I’ve been also totaly drained from blogging. Having a full time job and do blogging in the afternoon and over weekends is killing me. I need holidays and rest, sleep, getmyy social life back. I’ve also decided to do a little break this upcoming week, just to bemy self again and see why I like blogging. Oh and regarding the follow ups – I don’t have any app to see who unfollowed me, but I see this game also without it. I get new titter followers one day and the next I loose them. But honestly, i don’t really care. Less is sometimes more. Enjoy your life and blogging and thanks for writing this post – it is nice to know I am the only one having these thoughts.

    • anto

      Sorry to hear that Nina but I hope this post inspired you that it’s not worth it, and that you are definitely not the only one who feels like this. Combining blogging with a fulltime job is hard enough as it is already and even though there will always be people who are doing it right, the majority will eventually realize that it’s impossible, at least for a longer period of time, to be perfect at both. Happy blogging and traveling to you!

  • Sammi Wanderlustin'

    You’ve taken the words right out of my mouth.

    I just want to write. And travel. And not worry about the rest. I mean I like our little group 😉 but the rest is not for me at all. Like you I was stressed out, and when I went to Lapland I had no WiFi and not one ounce of me missed it. And the thing is, I know we’re not the only ones, other blogger’s have told me much the same.

    • anto

      Yay Sammi! Happy to hear that! I like our little group too, also because there are some really great blogs involved that I love reading, but being without wifi can be such a relief from time to time. I hope you had a blast in Lapland!

  • Jay McGrath

    As someone who’s new to travel blogging, I have to agree with you. I feel like it’s so easy to lose sight of why you started blogging because you become obsessed with tracking/stats. Your blog is awesome, keep writing for you- people will continue to read authentic content.

  • Lauren

    I hear ya!!! Life did seem so much better without social media, really. And while I do love it / use it for blogging / use it for my social life here and there…I really can’t help but think that holidays without having to constantly upload pictures to all of the social media accounts are a little bit better! I don’t want to miss out on the important moments by worrying about all of that stuff. I’d rather live my travels for ME and for US (me & Justin) first, and for everyone else second! That might sound a little bit selfish of me as a travel blogger, but I have lots of living and experiencing to do first…and I’ll write about it all later!

    I’m glad you’re feeling much better and enjoying your travels!! 🙂

    • anto

      Yay Lauren! Yes, in a way, life was better without social media, for sure. I love it too, but it can also totally drain the energy from my body. So taking time off seems the way to do it every now and then. Never ever forget to put you and Justin first, because your loved ones are more important than a blog and once they are gone, you may never get the chance to see them again. Happy traveling to you guys, I hope we’ll meet somewhere across the globe one day!

  • Dana

    Yup, yup, yup and yup again. I absolutely feel ya! I do not play the “follow, unfollow game” and simply follow those that seem INTERESTING to me. Also with Facebook, I use my page to “like” other pages that interest me. I don’t use my personal page for anything but posting photos for my parents 😀 And that’s my choice! If I like your FB page, it means I like what you’re up to and plan to interact/engage with your posts. Isn’t that the most important thing? After liking the page, I sometimes get an email from people requesting I like their page with my personal account or else they won’t get a number registering my like. I’m sorry, but I don’t mind if people like from their page or personal account, what matters to me is the interaction. When I post a photo, I would like to hear what you think/if you’ve experienced something similar or something completely different. That means the most to me. Not the tally. Just my two cents there 😀 Happy travels and glad you enjoyed your little social media vacation. Sometimes that’s really important!!

    • anto

      Thanks Dana! Indeed, the whole Facebook thing has gotten out of hand. I see why they are asking money now but I don’t play that game. And well if they then choose not to display my company page to our followers, their loss, not mine. I mostly hate the automated DMs I get on Twitter after I followed someone new, asking me to like their FB page. Whatever really. If I like them I’ll find it myself, without a clickthrough link …

  • Karlijn Travels

    As you know, I totally agree with you. It’s so easy to get caught up in the whole blogger craziness: views, visitors, social media, retweets, comments…Frankly, it’s exhausting. And I also wonder why I cared about that stuff so much. Because I don’t want to be a professional travel blogger at all. I just want to write, inspire and share my photography. And of course I want people to read my blog and get inspired, but only ‘real’ people. Not ‘followers’ who only follow because you follow them back. And never read one piece I wrote anyway. So, like you, I decided to not care as much about statistics anymore, but mostly care about the content I deliver and the fun I have doing that. I’m glad you’re back to blogging and you’re exciting about traveling again. Because that last point worried me a bit: traveling is what you love most and if you’re not looking forward to that anymore, it’s time to make a change!

    • anto

      I know girl, seems to be one of our fave topics to talk about haha! Like you, writing is the most important and inspiring people is a plus. I’m looking forward to all your posts and pictures from Venice. Happy traveling but uhm, I’m sure you will with such cool plans coming up! xx

  • Sheelagh

    So true. I’ve had phases where I let my ‘online life’ become too big. But I’m much happier just living my normal life 🙂 Real friends, family and experiences are so much more important than statistics and followers, and when you’re not having fun anymore you should focus on other things that do energize you.

  • Evelyn - Style Spy

    So true. I always wondered how people can be on Twitter the whole day so much. I’m working the whole day and after work when I look at it, it’s so full of missed tweets and conversations. I dediced not to be part of it. It’s making me crazy otherwise. And I am glad not to be a fulltime blogger as well. Too much stress I guess. Just let me write about what I like 😀

    • anto

      Yeah, same here. I can’t really do social media at work either and it’s frustrating how some people seem to be online all the time. I tried but I gave up, not my cup of tea… although lunch break is usually spent on my phone … ouch!

  • Natasja

    Interesting post! Social media can definitely cause a lot of stress and pressure, but for me it’s not just a negative thing. I’ve met some great people that I got to know through blogging and social media!

    I certainly do feel the pressure of the whole blogging thing once in a while and usually it’s no good… it makes me worry about stats or feel what I write is not good or interesting enough, creating a writers block ( like I’m experiencing now actually). This was hardly ever the case when I was just writing for fun!

    But it’s true: we certainly don’t have to be a fulltime blogger or travel writer. Write for fun!

  • kim

    Love this post! Although I dont have many followers I am also struggling with the whole social media thing.. it takes way too much time away and too often I found myself scrolling around FB and twitter 🙁

  • Jowetta

    Oh well.. I only started my blog and forced my friends to follow it and I am already obsessed with media… That is really sad…as now I think why my friends do not press ‘like’ on Facebook instead of feeling joy that I wrote something I wanted to say out loud even if no one is reading it. So now, I will check your other posts quickly and will start studying (this is what I really should be doing!!!).
    Thank you

  • Julie Cao

    As a full-time travel blogger that I can attest that social media is exhausting and overwhelming. I used to spend so many hours on social media per day and two weeks ago I am done with it. Not to say I am not on social media at all, but it is better for me to write what I want and deliver valuable content to readers than just spend time tweets and doing Facebook group threads. I also dont have Intagram because I just so hate edit photos and using phones to post everything. I lost one of huge sponsors because I dont have IG, but I really dont care. In fact, even I got 100K IG followers, do I have time to care and engage with every one of them? No I rather comment and engage with those I really want to engage.

    Then I started to work on my content –
    edit the old posts and make sure new posts have high quality. After I cut off my time on social media and better my posts, followers, real followers came in and they told me they love my writing and my post inspires them to travel. That makes me feel more inspired than numbers. So thanks for the honest and insightful post. It totally reminded me of why I am travel blogging at the first place.

    • anto

      Thanks Julie for taking the time to reply to my blog! It can indeed be so overwhelming, I’m finally turning into a fulltime blogger next month and am already sort of dreading the amount of time I will have to spend on social media. You are so right, it’s about content rather than the social media. And indeed when people leave a thoughtful comment, it can be a great motivation much more than big numbers or a ‘freebie’ from someone who wants you to share their product in your blog.

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