“Two years ago I quit my corporate job to travel the world and I never looked back!”
is what I wish could write because it sounds so badass. Unlike many travel bloggers, I didn’t quit a job, didn’t jump into abyss without knowing what’s going to happen to me, and didn’t travel to some remote village in Asia to find myself.
Here’s the truth. Two years ago, when I started this blog, I lived in a small town of Nashua, New Hampshire, didn’t have a job that I could quit with aplomb, and wasn’t planning on moving anywhere. What a great start for an aspiring food and travel blogger, isn’t it?
Looking at all the people who juggle a full-time job, taking care of kids, and working on a blog, I always think how easy I had it. My blog was born out of necessity to do something, anything. I had so much free time on my hands that I felt the need to do something useful. So I became a blogger. Because there are enough and more doctors, teachers, and humanitarians around. The world needs another blogger. Preferably, one who can post pictures of what he eats.
Hustle Till It Hurts
Before starting the blog I doubted myself and hesitated for about half a year. I wrote all about my fears and overcoming them in the first-year-anniversary post. What I didn’t write is that I wasted the whole first year because I didn’t take my blog seriously. To be fair to myself, at the moment I didn’t realize it. I was naïve enough to think that if I write well and be awesome, people will somehow find my blog, fall in love with it, and share it. Not that I wrote that well, by the way (again, you don’t realize how much you suck until sometime later, when you become better).
In my second year, I realized that if I want the blog to become a full-time job one day, I need to hustle. The best decision I ever made until now was buying Travel Blog Success membership. It was a big investment given that I make zero dollars from The Foodie Miles (Update: The Foodie Miles is the former name of my blog, I did rebranding in 2018), but it was one I never regretted. Learning from people who have been in the market of travel blogging for years and, more importantly, connecting with other travel bloggers is priceless.
I invested more time in social media, took online photography and the business of blogging courses, tried to understand the basics of SEO (tried is the keyword here), and made connections offline.
On Growing the Numbers and Finding My Voice
The numbers in Google Analytics are looking up. Page views have grown 160% in comparison with last year, and the amount of users increased by 240%. My actual numbers are not so high, so I use percentages to make them look impressive. Is it desperate? I don’t care. Once a year, on my blog’s birthday, I have the right to make myself look good and not feel bad about it.
I started getting occasional comments on the blog, and if you only knew how exciting it is. How good it feels to know that I am not talking to myself, but there’s someone out there listening.
More importantly, I started to hear my own voice on these pages. Developing a unique style of writing has always been my concern. I can’t say that I have fully developed it yet, but I am definitely onto something. It feels very much like stumbling upon an object in the dark and trying to figure out what it is. I am holding it, running my hands around its shape, taking guesses, but it is still a mystery to me.
A big help in improving my writing this year has been working for a local blog about the city of Austin where I live. Along with writing for The Foodie Miles, I’ve been submitting two articles per month for Austinot that were then reviewed by Austinot’s creator and editor Brittany Highland. I’ve never worked with editors before, so it was hard to see my words chopped and rearranged at first. But in the long run, having such an amazing editor as Brittany had an immense impact on my writing skills.
There are a few posts from the past year that I feel proud about or at least don’t want to hide under the bed after rereading them months later. Like this one about the culture of making coconut milk in Sri Lanka or this one about Russian habit of gathering in the kitchen or this one about my husband and bananas.
Getting Recognition Feels Freaking Amazing
But the biggest accomplishment of my second year of blogging, without a doubt, has been Saveur Blog Awards nomination in Best Travel Blog category. My blog has been chosen out of a pool of 30 000 submissions which still seems unbelievable to me. Thank you for all my wonderful readers who nominated The Foodie Miles. I can’t express with words how much your support means to me.
I traveled to Charleston, SC, for the award ceremony and spent three amazing days with food and travel bloggers from around the world, all the while learning about Southern cooking, food blogging, and storytelling. Although I didn’t win the award, it was one amazing experience to meet incredibly talented people who share my love for food and travel and be inspired by their work.
In my first-year-anniversary post I wrote how you don’t need anyone’s approval of or even interest in your work to be creative. You have to create for your own sake. I still stand by those words. But I have to say that getting appreciation is nice. It should not be the driving power behind creative process, but it’s definitely nice to know that something you do has an impact. Everyone loves a pat on the back and a kind word. Getting the nomination was such a pat on the back for me. For the longest time I’ve been writing one this blog without getting as much as a single comment. It can feel lonely here. The nomination gave me the push I needed to persevere.
All in all, I feel like my blog that, like a rock, was sitting in one spot for the whole first year has finally budged. It didn’t move very far, but it started rolling. In my third year of blogging I want to gain momentum and grow it into a business. Now that I actually wrote it, the idea seems crazy. But, as we say in Russia, those who don’t risk, don’t drink champagne! Here’s to taking leaps, being adventurous and a little crazy, making people around nod their heads in disbelief, and being silly happy!