I have never shared my blog on social media.
I don’t have Twitter, I don’t understand Bloglovin’, I don’t have a blog-specific Facebook page and the site address isn’t featured in my Instagram bio.
In fact, with the exception of a handful of close friends and my brother, nobody even knows this blog exists. And other than one particular friend (hey Jess James!), nobody I know IRL actually reads it. And that’s okay.
In fact, I kind of like it.
You see, when I first started blogging all those decades ago (jk, it was 2013) it was because I was on my Erasmus Year Abroad and a few people had suggested maybe I should start a blog to document it, to keep people back home up-to-date with what’s going on. Because of course everyone back in rainy Wales wants to see updates of all the pizza, pasta and bloody nice weather I was enjoying over in Italy. Of course all the other third-year Uni students drowning in dissertations and stress-eating their way through the Domino’s 2-for-Tuesdays menu want to see what their BA language counterparts are getting up to scattered across the world.
Except no. Nobody wants that.
To this date, my best ever day for blog stats is way back in November 2013.
The blog had only really been “active” for a few weeks, I hadn’t published anything particularly good and nothing went viral. It just happens to be the day that I told my brother, my then-boyfriend and my friends “Hey, look, I’ve got a blog full of crappy photography and really awful writing but you’re my people so you must read and you must enjoy”. And in all fairness to them, they looked! Some of them… most of them.
But only one came back (hey again Jess James!) and kept coming back, even being the one to push me to get myself together and get back on the blogging horse all those times I’ve fallen off. Thanks for that JAJ!
I didn’t ever start this blog to be a blogger.
I started blogging to keep people updated, and on realising that nobody actually wanted to be kept updated, I kept it going to have something to look back on myself in the future and remember that time I ate pizza with actual leaves on.
Then real, actual online people started to take an interest in what I was doing, and I kind of thought “Oh hey, maybe there is something to this after all!” And as my followers increased and my stats grew, I started to feel really damn proud of myself. Because these people – the ones who have never met me in real life but still are kind and funny and care about what I say and share – read my posts because they want to, not because they have an obligation to as my real life friend, or because I have them in a headlock, forcing their face against my computer screen (that never happened, I swear!), and THAT is something to be proud of.
I think it’s because of that weird feeling of contentment you get when a stranger likes your stuff.
Like when you post a picture on Instagram and it gets, say, 30 likes but more than half are from people who you don’t know, who don’t follow you, but who have found you through hashtags or Geotagging or something. It makes you wanna do a top-notch impression of the sand-eating baby. You know – the one from the meme!
It’s the same with blogging.
My posts are liked and read and commented on by people who don’t actually know me. They don’t really know what I actually look like in real life. They don’t know where I live or which pub I go to for the pub quiz when I’m home. They don’t know that my accent makes me sound dull as a doorknob but actually was once a child genius. Well, I guess that cat’s out of the bag now!
They don’t know me, but they still want to read about my life, about my travels, about my opinions and about what I’m up to.
For a while I was kind of ashamed of this blog.
Actually, ashamed is the wrong word. Embarrassed maybe? Shy?
I kind of didn’t want real people who actually know the physical me as opposed to the cyber me to read what I write, because more often than not what I write is a load of tripe.
I didn’t want the people who only see my current life through shiny Instagram photos and the occasional happy-go-lucky Facebook status to see that sometimes? Full-time travel just ain’t all that.
I didn’t want people to think I blog for any reason other than I want to blog and I want to write. I didn’t want them to think I was trying to be all “la-di-da, look how great my life is”.
I didn’t want to be judged. Judged on what I do, what I write and how I write.
Because I’m not a writer.
I type as I speak, my grammar is all over the place and sometimes I’m pretty sure words don’t actually mean what I think they mean but I use them anyway. Much to my own annoyance, half the time I don’t even spell-check my posts because who notices that kind of thing, right?? Well, as a freelance proof-reader and translator I’ll tell you who notices them: me. Always check your spelling. I repeatedly find myself googling the correct use of a semi-colon and I’m almost certain I still use them incorrectly. Sometimes I drift into using American spelling instead of British (because most of my freelance work is in “American” English) and want to punch myself repeatedly in the face.
But despite all of the above, people who don’t know me still want to read what I write. And that kind of makes it worthwhile; it makes me really enjoy what I do.
It makes me enjoy writing advice posts and tips on how to get places and generally just sharing what I’ve been doing. Even though nobody who reads this (except Jess James, hi Jess James!) knows me, they care what I have to say.
And that kind of makes me think I’m doing something right here. That maybe I should tell more people about the blog. Maybe I shouldn’t keep it all hush-hush anymore.
There has been a few occasions where, on recounting one of those hilarious ‘can only happen to me’ travel moments with friends, someone has suggested I should write a blog. And the little narrator man in my head shouts “I HAVE A BLOG, IT’S CALLED WALES TO WHEREVER, GO AND READ IT!” but in reality I just smile and nod and say maybe one day.
I don’t know why I don’t just blurt it out.
Perhaps because for a while the blog was a kind of messy chaos, with no real direction and just a random array of things I wanted to write, and if I want IRL people other than Jess James to see it, I want it to be shiny and clean and polished and organised. I want all the posts to be neatly categorised and I want the menu to be easily navigable (is that a word?) and I want everything to be up-to-date.
Because whereas the majority of my last few posts have featured Ecuador, I’ve actually travelled through four countries since then. And IRL people know where I am, they know where I’ve been, so if they were to follow my blog, there’d be no WOW LOOK, SHE WENT TO THIS REALLY COOL PLACE, it’d be more of a confused “Um, wasn’t she there two weeks ago? I thought she was in Mexico now?”
The reason my posts and countries seem so all over the place at the moment, though, is because over the past few weeks I have been working, bit by bit, to clean it up a little. To make it more presentable to the masses. And by masses I mean myself.
Irrelevant and badly written posts about eating pizza with leaves on it from the “early days” are gone. Pointless blurred photos of the sky taken on my Sony Xperia have been obliterated. All of the above replaced with pretty decent – if I do say so myself – photos of beautiful places and posts written with a lot of thought and even some big words (hey, I have a Degree now so may as well use it!).
Recently I’ve kind of been feeling confined by the restraints of what I should be as a travel blogger.
I’ve had SO many ideas for original posts recently – posts that seem bloody fantastic in my head – but have stopped myself from writing and/or publishing them because I figured nobody wants to read anything on a travel blog that isn’t strictly travel-related.
But that’s wrong.
Other than blogging about travel, I also read blogs about travel. And sometimes my favourite posts are the ones that aren’t about where someone went on holiday or how they got there or how they only spent £50 in 75 weeks in Beijing, but about simple, everyday things like what they wore on a hike or what they ate. Or maybe the first thing they did when they arrived home after six million years travelling the Outback.
Recently I’ve started branching out from the regulatory “I did this in this place” posts, and have started to slide in a few much more personal posts such as 4 Months Gone: The Good, The Bad and the WTF and The Next 4 Months and What’s to Come. Still travel-related but also kind of not, and they have actually done really well stats-wise! More people read them – both regular followers and random strangers who like to do that sneaky hiding and stalking from the shadows thing we all do from time to time online – and what’s more, I actually enjoyed writing them quite a bit more than anything else I’ve written ever on this blog.
I don’t want to put myself in the “travel blog” box anymore.
Because what happens when I eventually go home and the furthest afield I venture is the mountain behind my house or the pub down the road? Nobody cares about how many packets of salted peanuts I can eat in 5 minutes or where my friends and I place in the quiz (FYI, it’s almost always last). Yeah, I could keep posting about past trips and experiences. And to be honest, I probably will. But I also want to have the freedom and the elasticity to be able to just write about mundane things like what books I read that week or what films I went to see in the cinema or the most eventful ways in which I made my Sims die, or how to make Welsh cakes. For the record, I do not know how to make Welsh cakes. SOMEBODY TEACH ME YOUR WAYS!
But on the other hand, I don’t want to become a What I Wore Today, What I Ate Today, Outfit of the Day, Primark Haul, How to Do Smoky Eyes lifestyle blogger. Not that there’s anything wrong with those bloggers – I mean, there are some that I am obsessed with reading. But it’s just not me. Forget smoky eyes – the last time I wore eyeshadow I think I was 10 years old going to the Halloween school disco, what I wore today is almost always jeans and a t-shirt, my version of a Primark haul would consist of pyjamas and fluffy socks and I only ever eat fajitas or pasta, or my favourite dish ever fajita pasta!
Although, if I were to become one of those bloggers, I would definitely write a whole post about THE BEST T-SHIRT I HAVE EVER BOUGHT IN MY WHOLE LIFE.
Except I’d probably try harder to take a better picture.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say I want to be like the little creature thingies on Hercules (you know the ones!); I want the best of both worlds without being confined to just one. Moving forward, I want to be a lifestyle-travel hybrid blogger. I don’t know if such a thing exists, but if it didn’t before, it does now!
Yeah, so. With all the tweaking and adjustment and theme changes etc, etc, the blog is something I’m quietly proud of these days, and something that I kind of want people to see, something that does bring in a bit of income. So I’m not going to be all READ MY BLOG DO IT NOW, but those who have expressed interest in the past (here’s looking at you Miege!), I’ll send them the link. I’ll add it to my Instagram bio. I’ll slightly nudge the friends who aren’t Jess James that hey, this thing still exists.
But even if I move forward in my new travel-lifestyle hybrid-like state with nobody but Jess James and my current readers following along, that’s okay.