A year ago today, I was sitting at a table I’d monopolized at the Dfeel Hostel in Patong, Phuket with papers and pens strewn across the table to mark my territory. It was sometime in the early afternoon and I was hard at work on my barely-a-month old Macbook Air creating some graphics for The Next Somewhere Blog, which has eventually grown into this website you are now visiting. Back then, I had no idea what I was doing really and I didn’t even think for as second this would actually become something. What started out as a way to catalog my travels and help curb the social anxieties I was suffering from at the time has now grown into my most prized possession.
The Next Somewhere was not my first attempt at blogging. In 2013, I tried to start up the creative brand Izzy Ink. Then in 2014, I decided to chronicle my time in Korea at Let’s Go Somewhere. I wrote 7 posts in the span of 6 months before calling it quits. It all hit me right about the time I was preparing for the backpacking trip in the summer of 2015 that I hadn’t done any proper documenting of my trips around the world. There were no videos even after countless hours of videoing, no stories about all the [mis]adventures I’d experienced. There was no utilization for all the photos I took. So I promised myself that I’d start this blog up right when I started backpacking. It was the perfect moment to get a blog up and running with all the free time I would have on the road and the content that would be pile up.
(Fun fact: The Next Somewhere title actually came fro my younger brother who was taking a jab at my failed Let’s Go Somewhere project by coming up with different distortions of it.)
My year as a blogger has revolved around a lot of troubleshooting and learning about the digital sphere. Seriously, I never really thought about how much went into a blog until I started building one myself. For starters, there’s the dread SEO aka Search Engine Optimization. Turns out that Google wants you to prove yourself before it’ll even consider listing your website on their search engine. Oh and how about site servers? I first purchased a Squarespace domain and then realized that although its a beautiful platform to work on, it has its limitations when wanting to customize and impossible to load on weak connections so I had to migrate all my content one from server to another. That was a legit nightmare! And then came the onslaught of social media and editorial calendars and editing countless of photos and videos. It seems like my blog related to-do list never stops. So what did I learn from this year of blogging?
Here are the top five things I’ve learned from this year:
1. Growth doesn’t happen overnight
I knew that success didn’t happen on the onset of starting a blog, but I never imagined how hard the start-up process would be in reality. To begin with, I had no idea that Google doesn’t list newly-created blogs that are done off of WordPress.org until it sees a steady stream of writing over a few months. I read that it takes about 9 months for your blog listed so imagine my surprise when my sister sent me a screencap saying the search generated The Next Somewhere for the first time! It was a serious #WIN moment!
2. Having direction is key
The day I got my blog up and running, I was posting things without a real idea about how I wanted the blog to be organized. Immediately, I regretted my lack of direction and started treating the blog like a filing cabinet, categorizing all my ideas. On top of brand uniformity, properly organizing your space allows you to become remembered for certain things. My ‘Whereabouts’ series was recently tweeted about, which felt incredible! Invest in a notebook to get a handle on your thoughts. Trust me, it really helps to take inventory of what’s on your plate.
3. Building relationships with other bloggers is important
In the past, I was a part of the pre-blogging writing community called LiveJournal. The friends I made through that platform are some of the best people I’ve ever met and to this day, we still keep in contact. That was over a decade ago. Now I’ve begun to discover and build those same relationships with some travel bloggers. One of the best ways to find fellow bloggers is through Facebook groups, especially if you can join a niche one. Some of my favorite ones are Bloggers and Travelers and We See The World, We Blog. I prefer joining groups that are centered around comment exchange because you have time build relationships with bloggers by constantly reading what goes on on their blog. Without that community aspect, I think I would feel lost trying to navigate this all on my own.
I’ve collaborated with a few people, done some guest posts, and even met some of the bloggers on the road! Laura of Willful and Wildhearted met up with me in April for a lovely lunch in HCMC this past June with her boyfriend James and she was just as lovely as she is on her blog. And in a month, I’ll be meeting up with super talented Scott and Megan of Bobo and Chichi at The TBEX Asia Pacific Conference ’16 being held in Manila, Philippines. Scott will be one of the guest speakers talking about his hyperlapse videography. If you haven’t seen how awesome they are, here you go. Please check them out!
4. Post content that represents you
It’s advised you post frequently but from what I’ve seen across the internet, there are tons of bloggers who churn out the numbers but compromise quality in the process. It takes me about 2 days to prepare a post and then a full day to complete the related graphics. For my ‘Food Finds’ posts, I’m spending at least 5 days to assemble every component. My blog is a labor of love and an investment in myself first and foremost. I want to do right by me and not rush things all for the sake of readership. I’ve said no to people/companies who have approached me for sponsorships because their vision doesn’t align with mine. I’m not opposed to being discriminate in the name of integrity. I want to attract attention that celebrates my individuality. A few weeks ago, I was surprised to learn that I was chosen as one of Gessell + Lee’s 20 Great Travel Blogs!
5. Most importantly, have fun with it!!!
While I take blogging very seriously, I refuse to ever let it stress me out. I always make sure that everything I post is something fun for me to do and if even for a second I start to feel like it’s more of an obligation and less of an enjoyment, I abandon the idea. Like I said, a major reason why I started this blog was so that it could be an outlet for stress. It’s supposed to be an exercise for self-care and not another task to be completed simply because. I love my blog, I love blogging, and I love the bloggers who I’ve met that treat their own projects with the same type of devotion.
A Final Word
85 posts later since that fateful day in Phuket, this blog has opened so many doors for me and led me to opportunities I never thought possible. One of them being an employment stint with AnyArena.com that I have recently departed from in favor of an even bigger and better opportunity. It’s become an unofficial calling card and time and time again, I’m amazed at what comes knocking at my door because of this gateway. I really wish I could devote all my time to this project but then again, it has taught me the meaning of balance and of hard work and I’m glad that on top of the blog, I’m dedicating my time to other meaningful projects. If you are seriously interested about starting a blog, you should absolutely pursue it but it’s an investment in yourself so make that commitment! You never know what’s waiting for you if you don’t try!
Thank you to everyone who’s been following for the past year! I’m looking forward to seeing what growth happens this year! xoxo Izzy