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year 9

There are two dates every year that I use to sit down and to look back at the past 365 days, usually pondering how these two dates have changed the course of my life.

The first date is 1 February, which I’ve been celebrating as my ‘Break Free’ date every year for the past nine years. On 1 February 2010, I walked into my London office and resigned. I quit a job that provided me with a steady paycheck but not much beyond that. I didn’t feel challenged, I didn’t feel fulfilled, I didn’t even feel like I was my authentic self when I was surrounded by ‘suits’ five days a week, in the ‘City’, as they call London’s version of New York’s Wall Street.

To be honest, I was miserable. But I also didn’t really have any idea what else I should do with life. Going to travel the world for a year was supposed to give me the answers I was looking for, as I was heading straight into an early midlife crisis at only 29.

The second date I celebrate every year is 30 April. That’s the date I boarded a plane from London to Las Vegas on a one-way ticket, about to start a 2-month road trip through the Southwestern USA, something I’d been dreaming of for years. That day would become my ‘nomad-versary’, the date I officially became a nomad. No more home in London, no more permanent address. I certainly had no idea what life had in store for me when I watched London get smaller and smaller beneath me from the plane window, and that me quitting my job a couple of months prior actually meant quitting my corporate career for good.

london big ben
London, the city that was my home from 2007 – 2010

I had no idea how much the website, whose domain we’d registered only ten days earlier, would change the entire course of my life.

The decision to start a travel blog was a spontaneous one, nothing that we gave a lot of thought. And initially, we didn’t put a lot of time or effort into the blog, which showed. I still cringe every time I look at the first few posts we published – luckily they’re buried deep in the recesses of the internet. Since both of us (my partner at the time and me) were lucky enough to make money in different ways, we didn’t look at the blog as a way to make money – until we received the first email from someone offering us money for advertising space on the website. That’s when we realized that the blog might actually be more than simply a travelogue for us and decided to up our game.

Looking back now and seeing how many opportunities the blog has offered me over the years, I am beyond grateful that I became a blogger. So instead of looking back on my life of travel like I did in previous years, I decided to dedicate this post to this very website.

I don’t know what made me think of it, but a while ago I suddenly remembered that we were already blogging long before Globetrottergirls – albeit very sporadically and on a basic Blogger account. And I had to dig quite a bit to find it, but it turns out that the chronicles of our life in London are still findable on the internet. I guess the recesses of the internet aren’t that deep after all

When we launched Globetrottergirls nine years ago, ‘travel blogger’ wasn’t something people did for a living, unlike now, when people deliberately start travel blogs to make money and look at travel blogging as a career. It took a few years for us to make a considerable amount of money from blogging, but I still remember how amazed I was when I realized that this little website was able to pay for two people’s travels. I should point out though that it was a frugal travel lifestyle, and by no means luxurious.

We were determined though to use Globetrottergirls to keep us on the road and I wanted to quit my other job, which paid well, but which didn’t excite me very much. The term ‘digital nomad’ started to pop up more around the internet, and traveling the world indefinitely sounded like a dream.

Back in 2010, bloggers were not paid to go on trips, but I remember that we heard of people getting free hotel stays thanks to their blogs, and about a year into our blogging journey, when we felt like we had a significant audience, we started reaching out to hotels and Destination Marketing Organizations with detailed proposals of what we could offer them in return for a stay at their property or other perks such as free city passes, tours or free admission to events. At the time, it felt amazing to be able to stay at places we wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise, and go on excursions that were out of our budget.

pool at temple tree langkawi
We felt like we made it when invites to stay in fancy boutique hotels in return for a mention on the blog started to arrive in our email inbox a few months into our blogging journey

But after a while, the novelty wore off, and we went back to paying for everything out of our own pockets rather than having to write about something we may have not mentioned had we not committed to promoting it.

When paid blogging campaigns became more popular and I got invited on my first paid trip I was thrilled though. Not only would I get to stay in fancy hotels and eat for free throughout my trip, but I got monetary compensation on top of it. While I was on that trip I realized, however, that this wasn’t a route I wanted to go down. Having to deliver a certain amount of social media updates and write a specific number of articles seemed forced, and I wanted to tweet what I wanted and when I wanted it instead of being told which hashtags to use.

I decided that monetizing the website that way, going on paid campaigns, wasn’t for me, but I am still grateful for all the places I got to visit thanks to the blog, and at some point I got invitations to more places than I could possibly accept, and would still join a trip if the itinerary excites me and I really want to visit the destination.

I was ecstatic when, in 2012, we were given free admission to a 5-star spa in Costa Rica. Last year, I returned to the spa (which I loved) and splurged on a stay in the onsite 5* hotel, and paid for it myself (even though I’ll write about it – but without any pressure.)

Over the years, I also got more and more opportunities to work with travel brands on campaigns for content, many of which led to other campaigns and freelance writing opportunities. When I started the blog in 2010, I had no idea how many doors it would open for me and how long it would keep me on the road.

However, I have realized that what I enjoy most is blogging about the places I visit because I want to visit them, the things I want to write about, and not the things I’m being told I need to write about. I want to feel that this is 100% my blog and 100% me, and that I have full reign over what you see on the site. (Side note: I sometimes write sponsored content, but when I get paid to write something, I still decide what I write and have full editorial control over it, and make sure it is something that’s actual useful and helps other people plan their travels, like this article).

And I’ve mentioned this many times before: The best thing about starting the blog is still the number of amazing people I’ve met through it – from the very beginning to this day. Fellow bloggers, readers, the people in the travel industry I’ve worked with and the people who organized trips I was fortunate enough to go on – so many of them have stayed in my life and became good friends, and I will be forever grateful for the connections I’ve made thanks to Globetrottergirls.

The most terrifying thing I did in the nine years of running this blog was continuing it by myself after my relationship fell apart. Even though I’d worked on the blog for years, running it alone is a completely different story – being solely in charge for every single business decision, content that goes on the blog, dealing with everything from tech issues to social media and a never-ending flood of emails.

I said many a time that I never set out to start a blog for myself – I do find that blogging can be quite solitary and lonely, and that’s probably why I took up an endeavor that allows me to work with people again in addition to the blog.

After so many years of living solely off the money the blog made me and freelance work I found thanks to the blog, I am finding it a relief to have other income streams now in addition to it which make it easier for me to blog for fun rather than because I have to in order to make a living.

Of course I appreciate every single business opportunity that the blog provided me with, everything it taught me, every penny I’ve made from it, and every single connection I’ve made through it. I’ve now seen several people who started around the same time I started Globetrottergirls stop blogging or even sell their blogs, but that’s something that is unthinkable for me at the moment (although, admittedly, there was a time when I was seriously considering selling the site). Every time I travel, I find so many things along the way that I want to share with people, from practical travel tips to stories about the destinations I visited and photos of all the beautiful places I saw. I wrote twelve articles while I was in Vietnam and am excited to share them.

For now, I can’t see myself stop blogging any time soon (on the contrary – I hope that by the time my next blog-iversary rolls around, I’ll have finally launched my new blog!), and Globetrottergirls is and will remain a big part of my life and my identity. I am already looking forward to celebrate Globetrottergirls’ tenth anniversary next year – a full decade of blogging is definitely something I couldn’t have foreseen back in April of 2010, and I am starting to feel drawn back to the places that I visited during that first year of travels, just to see how they’ve changed since I first went there, and how I feel about them now, as someone who’s also significantly changed and grown over the past decade.

What’s next for me

I’d like to finish this review of the past nine years of the blog with a little outlook of what’s next for Globetrottergirls.

As I mentioned above – I truly appreciate the opportunities the website has afforded me, and the best opportunity in the past twelve months was an invite to speak at a travel conference about LGBT travel blogging. I had been thinking about public speaking for a while, but hadn’t actively pursued it. I enjoyed both preparing the presentation with my friend Adam as well as being in front of people – and I was thrilled when I was asked to return to Travelcon this summer, for its second conference, to moderate a panel on LGBT travel blogging.

If you are looking to start a blog or to take your blog to the next level, i.e. grow your audience, improve your writing skills, or monetize and turn your blog from a hobby into a business, I can highly recommend this conference. Even I still learned quite a few things in the workshops I visited.

You can buy tickets here and get $50 off with the code is 50off (use at check out.)

I was equally as delighted when I was asked to speak at an LGBT conference in New York City this month – at QueerHustle, a conference geared towards lesbian entrepreneurs, I will speak less about blogging but I’ll talk about how to run your business from the road. Being location independent is something I am beyond grateful for and I am excited every time I get an email from someone who is inspired by my digital nomad lifestyle and wants to travel long-term while working remotely. After ‘coaching’ readers by email and sharing my tips on how to take your business on the road of make a location independent lifestyle work for years now, I am looking forward to sharing my knowledge with fellow queer entrepreneurs next weekend right here in New York City.

If you’re a queer entrepreneur, don’t have any plans for next weekend yet and want to come to New York City: you can still get tickets for Queer Hustle here (and if you need a place to crash, I have a comfy couch).

As for traveling – I’d like to continue to spend the spring and summer months in New York and then take off again as soon as it gets colder. As of now, I haven’t decided yet where I’d like to spend the winter, but I have half a dozen destinations that I shortlisted. Even after all these years of traveling full-time, I still have so many countries on my travel wish list, and my wanderlust isn’t diminishing.

And while I am currently enjoying having a base here in New York – at least for part of the year – I am not ruling out that I’ll take up the digital nomad lifestyle again one day. I loved my trip to Vietnam so much that when it was time for me to board my flight back to the U.S., I was not ready for it at all and would’ve loved to keep traveling. For anyone interested in becoming a digital nomad, or people already traveling while working online and looking to connect with other digital nomads, I want to give a shout-out to Nomad Summit, the biggest conference for digital nomads and location independent professionals, which will take place in Cancun, Mexico in October. I am not affiliated with this conference in any way, I just think that it is a great event for aspiring nomads to learn, and veteran nomads to connect with like-minded people.

If you’d like to read more about my nomadic life, check out these posts:

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for Globetrottergirls 10th anniversary in 2020 – I’ll have to come up with something big for that 😉

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