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4 Years of Travel Blogging!

4 years of Travel Blogging - The Well-Travelled Postcard

Today marks 4 years of blogging on The Well-Travelled Postcard and each year it amazes me that I’ve kept with it for so long. My production has slowly decreased in quantity over the years, replacing short informative snippets twice a week with much longer, more personal pieces and lots of photos – almost “chapters” rather than individual blog posts. I know that that’s against the blogging rule book, and that people generally only read short and concise blog posts of 500 or so words, but I just prefer to write long articles, getting into the detail, illustrating each post with up to 50 photos even.

As the blog posts grow in length, their number and frequency of course looks less, but overall my word count is probably similar, and this style of blogging fits better around my life. As you all well know, travel blogging is a side hobby for me alongside my work. So therefore, today not only marks the 4th anniversary of my blog, but also the 4th anniversary of my entry into the big wide world after university. To recognise that my life is not solely focused on blogging, here I’ve reflected on the A-Z of my life since beginning The Well-Travelled Postcard way back on 13th June 2012.

imageA is for… Ambassador for Plan UK (and the Athens Marathon) Last year I was thrilled to become a Digital Ambassador for the global children’s charity Plan UK and since then I’ve helped to raise awareness of their campaigns and their work in developing countries, by blogging, fundraising £1,400 by running the Athens Marathon, sponsoring a young girl in Honduras and visiting a Plan project site in Nepal. This came about after meeting the charity’s CEO at a One Young World summit and I’m really proud to be supporting such an important cause, as their current campaign Because I am a Girl focuses on protecting young girls from injustices like child marriage & FGM.

imageB is for… Blogging Over the last four years I’ve written 408 blog posts on this website, publishing 1,680 photos and I’ve seen my readership grow beyond anything I expected, reaching 191 countries, and with that came some fantastic opportunities to see the world, learn new skills, try out new experiences and open my eyes. It’s allowed me to travel either free or at press rates on 24 different occasions, to places far beyond what my salary would allow. It has also taken up an extraordinary amount of my time and I regularly find myself up until 2am typing away, editing photos and formatting posts. But I can’t now imagine myself not writing a travel blog – what else would I be doing with my time I wonder?

imageC is for… Courses Exactly four years ago I was in post-final exams bliss. I had finished my exams a month beforehand and I was waving goodbye to university. But I really loved studying and learning, investing in my brain. So since then I’ve taken short courses in Portuguese, Russian, Cultural Diplomacy, Travel Writing, Crime Writing and I’ve studied for and passed my RYA Day Skipper and PADI Open Water Diver courses. Other friends have studied more serious and useful things like law, accountancy and finance since leaving university, my academic pursuits since graduation have been a fair bit more leisurely!

imageD is for… Day Skipper I grew up on the south coast of England, right next to the Solent, the hub of sailing in the UK. I’d only really sailed my father’s dinghies until I was 18, but over the last four years I’ve really developed a taste for yachts and have sailed in the Solent, Greece, Turkey and Antigua, the last of which is where my sister and I finally qualified to skipper a yacht ourselves.

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imageE is for… European Identity A relevant topic given the upcoming referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, which I’m finding incredibly stressful! Europe is a big part of my identity. I grew up in the EU, I studied European languages at university, I spent an Erasmus year living in two European countries, I took part in a 2-year grad scheme named ‘European Leadership Graduate Programme’, 36 of my 47 international trips over the last 4 years have been within Europe. I’ve become more and more interested in the concept of national identity and its links to integration and migration, and in the context of Europe I feel very strongly that the UK should remain a part of the EU. I adore Europe, and as much as I love exploring and experiencing the rest of the world, there’s no continent I’d want to belong to more than Europe. In a global context, we Brits are phenomenally lucky to have free access to visit, live, work, study or retire in any country in Europe, and the thought of throwing that all away gives me shudders. Ask anyone from outside the EU whether they’d like to be a part of it, and 99% will say yes. We are so, so fortunate and we mustn’t let the rants and ravings of certain extreme politicians exclude us from the rest of Europe…

imageF is for… Family Our family is very small but has become much closer over recent years. My wonderful grandmother was my blog’s biggest fan and it was she who helped me choose the name ‘The Well-Travelled Postcard’ and who read every single post. Her death three months later had a really profound effect on me, changing my whole attitude towards life. In other news, my sister and I overcame our teenage battles to move in together, and my parents are back together after 17 years of divorce!

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imageG is for… Grad Scheme By a fortunate combination of factors, four years ago when I started this blog, I had a 2-year graduate scheme lined up to start 3 months later. And I loved it to bits. Jetting all over Europe with the graduates, working with my company’s CEO, presenting to the Executive Committee, doing a 6-month rotation to the company HQ in Madrid, receiving more training, mentors and networking than I knew how to handle – I revelled in this newfound professional life and all the wonderful perks it brought. Having since entered normal working life, I now appreciate how exceptionally lucky I was with that grad scheme, just how much my company invested in me.

imageH is for… Homeowner Last August my sister and I made it onto the property ladder in London, which after months of negotiations, paperwork and mortgages was a flipping relief! Buying a house is a torturous process, and no sooner have you finished that, then you have to move in, furnish, decorate and (in our case) convert your loft, with all the expense and hassle that involves. As I write, our loft is being installed and we got to spend our Sunday afternoon choosing bathroom fittings… Home owning is not all as exciting as it sounds, but we are both relieved we managed it!

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I is for… Interviews with Inspiring Individuals Writing a travel blog has given me a great excuse to talk to amazing people I otherwise wouldn’t get to meet. Through the annual Adventure Travel Show in London, I’ve interviewed inspirational women who’ve rowed solo across oceans and skied solo across Antarctica, and men who have run 800 marathons and cycled for four years around the world. These interviews have inspired me to aim higher and pursue my own (much tamer!) goals, and that’s all down to this blog.

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imageJ is for… July Birthdays I’m a summer baby and have spent the last few birthdays having picnics at London’s outdoor cinemas, in San Sebastián, on a spa day in the New Forest and next month I’ll be turning 27 on an island I’ve always wanted to visit: Santorini!

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imageK is for… Kruger Cowne’s Competition to Fly into Space To my amazement, last year I was shortlisted in the top 30 of a worldwide competition to fly into space. Space! My fellow shortlisters were incrediblely impressive young people so I felt not only honoured to be chosen among them, but also very realistic about my likelihood of winning. I obviously didn’t win, but through the competition I did become a Huffington Post blogger and I received a lot of publicity for my blog.

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imageL is for… London My home base for three of the last four years. I had always wanted to move to London and there’s nowhere else like it: almost all my friends are here, the best jobs in the country are here, the best culture, entertainment, opportunity and energy is here. But it’s a love-hate relationship: in summer I adore it, in winter I despise it. So I find myself needing to leave and come back every 12-18 months to get some fresh air. I’ve always lived in the south-west (from Hammersmith to Parsons Green to Wandsworth) which by now feels like a home and a familiar community, rather than a 10-million-strong metropolis. Here’s my list of 80 things every true Londoner has done.

imageM is for… Madrid In 2014 I spent 6 months living near the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid and I adored it. I’d succeeded in doing that impossible thing: using my languages in my work and I parachuted into a new team and a new city, where the quality of life beats anything we have in the UK. The pace is more relaxed, the atmosphere more healthy, the cost of living cheaper, the weather better, the food and wine tastier, the people more welcoming, and on the abundant bank holidays and at weekends I travelled to Spain, Portugal, France and Italy. I even squeezed in a 2-week trip to Hong Kong and Bali. It was honestly the European dream…

imageN is for… Northern Lights Spotted twice in 2015, both on separate trips to Iceland! But don’t just go for the colourful skies, as Iceland has so, so much more to see and do.

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imageO is for… One Young World Courtesy of my employer, I attended the OYW summits in Johannesburg (2013) and Dublin (2014) and they were honestly life-changing. I listened to, met and was inspired by young leaders from over 180 countries, I truly appreciated my own fortunate background for the first time in my life, I chaired a panel debate on Intrapreneurship and I even met a boyfriend at OYW.

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imageP is for… Postcards It’s in the name, so it had to feature in my A-Z! These four years of blog posts have replaced my traditional postcards that I used to send back in the stone age, but I carry on buying them everywhere I travel, putting them up in every room I live in to remind me of places I’ve loved, and inspire me to venture to places I haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting.

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Q is for… Quarter-Life Crisis
 2015 basically equated to my quarter-life crisis, which I’ve mentioned before on this blog. Daunted by reaching my mid-twenties and terrified by the passing of time, coupled with some big changes going on in my life, I started over-thinking my purpose, my direction and my ambitions, and I felt thoroughly stressed and unsettled for several months. Then in August on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I sat down in King George’s Park and I finally wrote down a plan and committed to it. Oh my god what a revolutionary day that was. I called up both my parents that evening to tell them the plan, and ever since that day I’ve felt infinitely happier and I gradually returned to my former optimistic self. The first part of that plan was my 6-month sabbatical, and the second part of the plan is still under wraps…

imageR is for… Raleigh ICS Volunteering in Nepal The main part of my recent sabbatical was a 3.5 month volunteering project in rural Nepal, run by the sustainable development charity Raleigh International. Under the ICS programme, it was entirely funded by the UK government and I travelled out there as a Team Leader, responsible for 13 volunteers from both the UK and Nepal. One of the biggest challenges of my life but also one of the best experiences of my life. Another one I’d really recommend people under 35 look into doing.

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imageS is for… Sabbatical 6.5 months’ unpaid leave from my job from November 2015 to May 2016, in which I travelled, studied and volunteered, spent in 7 different countries: France, Iceland, the UK (a little bit), Germany, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Russia. Take a look at my blog post that sums up the entire experience.

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imageT is for… Travel Wishlist I just love a to-do list. On my 25th birthday I wrote a travel wishlist of things I wanted to accomplish before I turn 30. I’m nearly 2 years into my 5-year wishlist however I’ve only ticked off 5 of my original 14 wishes, as they’re all pretty time-consuming things, like running a marathon (1 year’s prep), getting my Day Skipper (3 months’ study) and volunteering abroad (3.5 months in Nepal). And since then I’ve actually added 6 more new wishes… Humph. But a further 5 wishes are within reach (such as skiing the Inferno race next January, learning to surf and visiting 50 countries) and it’s exciting to work towards each of them.

imageU is for… USA trip with DTour Winning the DTour competition was the turning point for my blog. After about a year of blogging I won a competition with DoubleTree by Hilton to travel coast-to-coast across North America for 3 weeks – all expenses paid. Not only did I experience my first ever blogger trip, but I gained a big readership, I got onto the radar of the travel industry’s PR firms and it set me up for all future press trips and blogging. It was also my first ever experience of solo travel – a useful skill to gain and something that everyone should try at least once in their life.

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imageV is for… Videos and Photos I had always been a bit snap-happy, but blogging gave me a whole new excuse to take photos and to actually do something with them, other than just languishing on a hard drive or in the depths of my Facebook photo albums. I had to teach myself to edit videos in order to enter competitions for One Young World, the DTour and the Kruger Cowne Rising Star Space Expedition. My photography is slowly improving, my videos are very poor, but they seem to have done the job and I’ve enjoyed trying at least!

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imageW is for… Worldly Minded An abandoned venture of mine that I set up in 2013 before attending One Young World. I felt (and still do feel) passionate about the low level of intercultural skills and language learning in the UK – simply not enough young people in the UK are gaining experience abroad or equipping themselves for the global workplace. I started this project with a little website and I initially saw great momentum, working with ThirdYearAbroad.com, the European Commission and the British Council. The issue just hasn’t budged over the last four years and it remains just as much of a problem now as then. My failure is for not dedicating the time and effort required to keep it alive. But everyone falters or fails at something.

imageX is for… eXeter Graduation I adored my four years at Exeter University and my Graduation Day on 16th July 2012 was honestly the happiest day of my life up to that point! Possibly even still! I’d worked so hard to get a First class degree and I was surrounded by family, friends and my then boyfriend for one big celebration of all that hard work. I was ecstatic. I returned to Exeter last November to give a talk to current second years about the Third Year Abroad, I met up with former lecturers and it warmed my heart. I’m now on the committee of the Exeter Alumnae Group, which organises events for female grads, and I’m so pleased to see Exeter to go from strength to strength since I left four years ago.

imageY is for… Youth The most important thing I’ve learned over the last four years is that time is finite, and that youth is precious and not to be squandered. Treasure your youth and get the absolute most you can out of it, even if it exhausts you. Go after that grad scheme, ask for that international assignment, request that sabbatical, apply for that summit or that competition, set yourself goals to strive for, and don’t be afraid to take a risk. The worst thing that can happen is they say ‘no’, so don’t be afraid to just ask. In our youth we have an free ticket to experiment and get things wrong, to try something else and see what happens, to backtrack and start over if we don’t at first succeed. That luxury starts to disappear as we get older and assume responsibilities, so don’t squander your youth.

imageZ is for… Zero exectations when I started this blog Last but not least, I honestly did not expect that creating The Well-Travelled Postcard would open so many doors for me. I’ve travelled the world, I’ve been paid to advise tourist boards on their social media strategy, I’ve delivered talks, I’ve been interviewed on TV and in the national press, I’ve met some truly incredible people, I’ve even been offered jobs off the back of my blog. And it has exhausted me at times. But I cannot imagine my life without this little blog of mine, and it’s up there with one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

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Thank you so much for reading, following and supporting my blog over the last four years – it really does mean so, so much to me. Especially to anyone who actually made it through 3,000 words all the way from A to Z! Who knows how long I’ll manage to keep going with The Well-Travelled Postcard, but the fact that four years have already passed still stuns me! If there are any topics you’d like to hear more about or to see covered more on my blog, please do comment below!

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