3 Years of The Well-Travelled Postcard and 35 Things I’ve Learnt from Life and Travel Blogging
Today marks three whole years since I pressed publish for the very first time on this WordPress blog back on 13th June 2012. Three whole years! They have flown by in a flash. Back then I was a fresh-faced languages graduate, part-way through a 4-month summer holiday, sad to bid goodbye to the University of Exeter but excited to move to London for the first time. I wanted to see the world, to write, take photos and to “create” something. Since I was a little girl I had been writing profusely: mini novels, even magazines (which funnily enough never made it beyond the first issue…)
My gap year, my languages degree and my Third Year Abroad provided the initial subject matter for the blog, as I wasn’t interested in becoming a lifestyle blogger or fashion blogger. I then started a grad scheme and started going on more and more work trips abroad (Oh the joy of the working world! Free travel!) which gave me ample new postcards and material. By the time my blog celebrated its first birthday in 2013, I’d won my first major travel blogging competition, to cross North America coast-to-coast, I’d won a place at the One Young World summit in Johannesburg through work and I’d apparently been singled out as ‘a Top 10 travel blog to watch‘, which brought with it a host of other opportunities to travel and work with tourist boards, airlines and various other organisations. Things began to get a bit more serious! By my blog’s second birthday in 2014, I was living in Madrid on a 6-month international assignment with the company I work for. I continued to blog, mainly about Spain and expat life. While in Spain I slightly lost touch with the great travel blogging crowd in London but that all changed when I returned to London once again in August 2014. Over last winter I had a torturous four months without leaving the UK, between the Dublin One Young World summit in October 2014 and a weekend in Copenhagen in February 2015. Fast forward to today, I’m living in a beautiful part of London, still working at the same company, having completed the grad scheme and having had three very different roles.
Since beginning this blog three whole years ago, I’ve fitted in a fair amount of travel: 57 trips to 22 different countries (12 of which were new to me) on 4 different continents, using roughly 88 days of annual leave. My beloved passport is unrecognisable from three years ago and is firmly my most valuable possession. As a uni student I had spent all my time in Europe, not leaving the continent for a shocking 5 years between my backpacking trip around Asia in 2008 and my trip to South Africa in 2013, so I’m glad I’ve ventured beyond Europe a bit more. I’ve learnt a huge amount from each of those 57 trips, and the 22-year-old me back in 2012 wouldn’t believe in a million years that my life would take the twists and turns that it has over the past three years.
But I’ve also changed hugely as an individual: I’ve grown up, taken responsibility for my life, become financially independent, learnt a lot of life lessons and the importance of being myself, being satisfied with who I am and being grateful for everything I have. I don’t consider any of those to be easy!
So in three whole years, what have I learnt about life? What have I learnt about travel blogging?
20 things I have learnt about life
- Your twenties are full of options and opportunities, but fraught with uncertainty. Decisiveness is a key skill to develop!
- Stand for things you believe in, make yourself heard, support worthy causes, vote in every election, read/listen/watch the news, have an opinion and be engaged.
- Annual leave is precious, don’t waste it. Seek jobs that offer lots of annual leave.
- You meet the majority of your lifelong friends pre-graduation, so really make an effort to keep in touch with them. Be the one to organise catch-ups, don’t sit around waiting for reunions to materialise out of thin air.
- After university, have an open mind about people you don’t yet know, say yes to every invitation you receive and definitely remember to invite them back (a cardinal rule!).
- Time is more important than money. Everyone is busy with their own lives and has a finite amount of free time. So value your own time and don’t waste anyone else’s – make it count and don’t dawdle through life.
- Practice really does make perfect and you can learn anything you put your mind to (yes, that includes languages).
- Anyone can run their own business or be their own boss if they try, you just need to be passionate.
- Travel will build your confidence, your independence and make you a more interesting and richer person. It will teach you so much, more than any classroom. Try solo travel, at least once. Even if you discover you don’t like it, you’ll learn a lot from it.
- Every incredible trip you take will make your question your life decisions thus far and leave you daydreaming of throwing in the towel and pursuing that dream. The hard part is to not get carried away and to transform those dreams into something realistic.
- Instagram is incredible, Twitter can be powerful, LinkedIn is essential, Facebook is addictive, but social media is only good in moderation.
- It’s important to clean up your online presence, as it could come back to haunt you 10 years down the line when you’ve (hopefully) made it!
- Learn to network, it’s an important skill. Yes, it feels uncomfortable to begin with and you may dread it, but it’s honestly one of the most useful skills you will ever learn. Just bite the bullet and turn up to an event where you know absolutely no one. (You will survive I promise!)
- There is nothing worth watching on TV and it’s a time-waster – anything worth watching is worth living in person and seeing with your own two eyes.
- Your travel style changes with your age, and backpacking is no longer nearly so appealing when you hit mid-twenties and you suddenly have some disposable income within your reach.
- Mentors are invaluable. Friends and family are also good for advice, but an impartial mentor is much more honest with you and has more life experience, as well as a different perspective.
- Be impatient on the inside, polite on the outside and don’t wait around. Go with your instinct, make difficult decisions swiftly and move on quickly. Life is too short to dwell.
- Have a long-term plan and set yourself goals. Even if you deviate from your plan and change it altogether in a few years, at least it serves as a direction and helps silence the niggling voice in the back of every twenty-something.
- Men and women are fundamentally different, in work, in friendships, in relationships – we all know that. Understand why the opposite sex behaves the way they do and try to see things from their perspective and you’ll learn a lot.
- Enjoy yourself and surround yourself with fun, happy people. Be a happy person yourself and you will positively glow. The most attractive trait a person can have is happiness and the ability to make others happy too. Once you find it, be generous with your happiness.
15 things I have learnt about travel blogging
- In the beginning, blogging publicly feels like baring your soul open to the vultures, but it soon becomes incredibly therapeutic and natural.
- At the start, very few people will read your blog, then you’ll reach a happy medium, and then people you actively don’t want to read your blog (ie. colleagues) will discover it, so it had better be good quality!
- Learn to use the English language correctly and punctuate everything you post online. I cannot stand sloppy bloggers who call themselves writers when they don’t even know the correct uses for an apostrophe. That includes bloggers who put kisses at the end of blog posts – not cool.
- Hard work pays off and an ‘overnight success’ takes several years of work in the background. Also important is knowing when to call it a day and invest your hard work in other projects.
- Blogging is phenomenally time-consuming. Learn to be efficient about it or else you’ll fall at the first hurdle!
- Travel blogging will never be a big-earner (at least not for me) and it will remain a hobby I love, and who knows how long I’ll continue?
- Collaborate with other people and other bloggers. Everyone has an interesting story of some sort to tell, and don’t be shy about asking them – it’s very flattering to be asked!
- Do approach tourist boards and travel companies with good ideas. Never be embarrassed about asking the question (the worst they can say is ‘no’), and don’t feel shy about the size of your ‘audience’, as it’s still an audienceand most people on this planet have no audience whatsoever!
- If you’re starting a blog, try to be original and find a unique angle – work out what your USP is and emphasise it. What stands you out from the blogger most similar to you? My USP for example is my languages and my experiences living abroad using those languages – I’m not solely focused on pure travel.
- Enter lots of blogger competitions – you’ll surprise yourself with how many you’ll win!
- My travel wishlist will never be complete, as it only grows and grows with every book I read, every film I watch and every person I meet!
- Travel envy (or envy of any kind) is toxic and really hard to avoid – congratulations to anyone who can honestly say they don’t suffer it sometimes, as I certainly do!
- While I wish travel could be the be-all-and-end-all, working on a career shouldn’t be underestimated, as it gives your life purpose. I believe that everyone needs to feel progress, to give meaning to your day-to-day.
- If you travel lots, then you must offset your carbon footprint. The easy way is to donate to a charity such as The Woodland Trust, which plants trees for you.
- I need a blogging routine to keep me active! It’s been six long months since my last Postcard of the Week, and oh how I have missed them! This blog just hasn’t felt the same, it hasn’t felt very well-travelled… In reality it’s been a busy few months for me travel-wise, with four trips to four new countries in as many months: Denmark, Iceland, Tanzania and Antigua. So what’s happened to the blog? Where’s its energy gone? I retired my Postcards of the Week at the end of 2014, due to a slight shortage of postcards. Well, I’m happy to announce that from next Monday, the postcards are back! Look out for them!
And a big thank you to all you readers for sticking by me and The Well-Travelled Postcard this long! Some of you who have been reading this blog since the beginning will have seen it evolve and change – it’s a pretty accurate reflection of how I myself have evolved and changed in the last three years as well. A blog feels like a very personal thing, an online representation of myself, an online diary of sorts, and I’m still amazed that anyone finds it interesting enough to read! I feel immensely proud and protective of this little space on the internet, and I’m thrilled to see it reach its third birthday, after a whopping 347 posts! A big thank you to you all!