Sometime in February, I passed the five-year anniversary of this blog. I thought of writing something about it then, but never got around to it, in large part because I just didn’t have the motivation to do so – a feeling that has plagued me quite a bit recently. It’s not that I don’t have things I want to write about; I do. I go for a run or I’m walking home from work and I am dictating blog posts in my head, but when I get back home and in front of my laptop, other things capture my attention.
As I write this, I am on an airplane heading back to Washington, D.C. from Los Angeles. I spent much of the last week traveling all over southern California for my new job before spending a couple nights in Irvine, attending and speaking at the Women in Travel Summit. While I had a wonderful time at WITS in Chicago back in 2014, this year I found myself feeling a bit lost. WITS isn’t just a conference for women travelers, it is a conference for women travel bloggers and entrepreneurs. While I certainly identify as the former (a traveler) and I was there to speak about travel (career break and long term travel, to be exact), I have never identified as an entrepreneur and I am not so sure I even identify as a travel blogger anymore. I found myself wondering frequently what on earth I was doing there.
But let’s take a step back.
I started this blog back in 2011 leading up to my departure on a 13-month career break. At its height, I was publishing four posts a week chronicling my travels through Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia. In some ways, I was ahead of my time – I was writing about those areas when not many people were interested in reading about them. I had a niche but it was hard to embrace it when I felt like no one cared. I made a half-hearted attempt at monetizing, but did just about everything wrong. I spent little time on search engine optimization or figuring out the “right” key words to sprinkle throughout my posts. I shared on Twitter and Facebook but balked at doing the whole “follow me, I’ll follow you back” thing and soon got tired of the Facebook groups where everyone promises to share each other’s posts.
While my traffic grew steadily from 1,000 views a month in 2011 to 15,000 a month in early 2015, I never got beyond that. And that was fine because I never got into this to make money off ads or affiliate links or even to go on a gazillion press trips. Besides stoking my ego, what did it really matter how many people were reading?
And then life happened and other things started to take priority. I wanted to write, but when I got home from my day job at 9 p.m. and still had to cook dinner, writing a blog post just wasn’t a priority. Even now that I am settled into a new job in D.C. and have hours more free time than I’ve had in the last couple years, I find myself with a never ending case of writer’s block. So it should come as no surprise that my traffic has started to plummet.
Attending WITS this past weekend was a bit of a wake up call for me. Travel blogging has changed a lot in the last five years (and I have written in the past about how I don’t really like what it has become). Now people spend hours on a single post, not just writing but editing photos, optimizing for search engines, resizing pictures and captions to display just right when they share on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram (and don’t even get me started on Instagram, which I realized I have pretty much been doing completely wrong since the start!), and then scheduling all of that social media sharing. Bloggers aren’t just getting comped trips, they’re getting day rates and they’re making money by posting to Instagram and Snapchat. Travel blogging has truly become a business and it makes me wonder where someone like me fits when I really only see it as a hobby? All weekend, I struggled with how to even introduce myself because I don’t really feel like a travel blogger anymore. And I found myself wishing I was at a travel conference, not a travel blogging conference.
So what do I want?
I want to inspire and motivate people to travel and to chase their dreams. I want to serve as a resource for people who want to travel off the beaten path and experience something new. I still get emails or messages on Facebook or Twitter from readers and friends who tell me I have done just that – and it is that feedback that makes me want to keep going in some way. I still want to write a book about my career break travels and I would love to get published in a magazine – again, not to make money, but because I feel like I have a story worth sharing.
And I would love to do more public speaking – about taking a career break to travel, about traveling solo as a woman and about getting off the beaten path. But I don’t even really know where to start. I feel like those gigs are reserved for the professionals, the bloggers that are on every top ten list and are bringing in thousands of readers a day, not thousands a month.
My friend Saya recently wrote a post about walking away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you or makes you happy. She made the decision to walk away from a couple of pretty major things in her life that she had been doing for years but that she felt no longer had a place. I feel like I am close to that point with this blog, but I am not quite ready to pull the plug just yet.
Instead, I’m taking a hiatus.
I am not going to publish another post until I really want to (as opposed to feeling like I have to because I haven’t posted in two weeks). It may be a month, it may be two months. Or it may only be two weeks. I really have no idea. I just know I need to let go of the feeling that this is something I have to do so I can get back to the feeling of wanting to do it.
And if I don’t recapture that feeling – if I realize this just isn’t something that serves me, grows me or makes me happy – I’ll walk away.
Thank you to everyone who has been reading, whether you have been following me from the beginning or you just discovered me last month. I hope you’ll check me out on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat (@katieaune on all platforms) as I’ll continue to share real-time pictures and thoughts from my new life in D.C. and my upcoming trip to Hong Kong and China, even if I’m not writing about it all here.