How did I accidentally miss my 4th year blogging anniversary?! It’s been 4 years (and two weeks) since I published my very first post on this blog. I still remember it like it was yesterday: sitting on my bed dreaming of what it might be like to live in Beijing. If you had told me I’d be living in Beijing again four years later I probably would’ve laughed in your face.
It’s actually crazy I have such a detailed chronicle of my life and adventures for the last four years! While I feel like I need to go back and re-write ALL my old posts, I also kind of like having them there to see how far I’ve come.
In celebration of these last four years of blogging, I’d like to talk a little bit about how much my blog, my travels and my life has changed since I wrote my first post four years ago.
1. I’m no longer ashamed of talking about my blog
I used to feel weird discussing my blog with people who aren’t bloggers. I found it awkward that people I actually know read what I have to say, especially if I’m talking about my love life. Now all my friends in China know about my blog, and I have no qualms mentioning my blog to people I meet on my travels. I love Adventures Around Asia, and I’ve put a lot of hard work and effort into this space for four years now. I knew I needed to own it, and now I finally have!
2. I view my blog as a business
I’ve invested a lot of money into this blog. Hosting fees, a new theme and redesign, advertising my blog on other sites… the list goes on and on. While I’m definitely not making a living off this place, I’ve been working on ways to promote myself and improve my business. I’ve been doing a lot of work with affiliate programs, and finding partners on the road. It’s crazy to think that about this time last year I was just beginning to think about working with partners… now I pitch with no problem!
Recommended Reading: How to Become a Travel Blogger
3. I have blogger friends
In the last year I’ve somehow managed to become friends with a lot of really amazing bloggers. Attending TBEX in Bangkok was a great way to finally meet all of these bloggers I’ve been talking to online forever! I also realized that a lot of “famous” bloggers are extremely down to earth and incredibly nice. It’s been great to form all these friendships with other creative bloggers who can actually relate to me on all this blogging nonsense.
Fun fact, my blogger friend Justine from Travel Lush is actually moving to Beijing in February! Get excited for our blogger adventures together.
4. People actually know who I am?
One thing I was shocked to discover at TBEX is that people have actually heard of me. Who knew? I had people coming up to me the whole weekend telling me they loved reading my blog and I was honestly shocked. Wait… people actually read this?
I’m equally surprised when looking at the amount of views I get on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s hard not to get down on myself when I see the stats of other bloggers who’ve only been blogging for a year and they have twice as many views as me. But then I remember the good old days when the only people reading my blog were my family and a few Facebook friends. I still get just as excited when I get a comment today as I did back then. It’s incredible to know people actually read what I have to say, and it keeps me inspired to keep writing more.
5. I’ve finally found my niche
Finally, after four years I’m kind of sort of figuring out what my niche is. Apparently I should probably just own the whole China thing since not many people write about this crazy country and I’m going to live here for another two years. I used to be a bit nervous about my blog name and limiting myself to Asia, but then I realized that being known as an area expert can be a good thing. I’m also not planning on leaving the region anytime soon, so if for some unknown reason I move to Europe in a few years, I’ll figure that problem out later.
1. China’s my second home now
Before I started this blog, I was petrified of living in China for seven months. What if I didn’t like it? What if I wanted to come home early?! I almost wish I could go back in time and tell myself that I’ll still be living in China four years later just to see the look on my face. Over the years I went from study abroad student, to countryside English teacher, to Master’s student, to college counselor. I’ve lived in a small village town and one of China’s largest cities. I’ve traveled to the far reaches of Xinjiang and Tibet, and become fluent in Mandarin along the way. I crave Sichuan food when I leave China, and feel out of place when I can’t speak Chinese for too long.
Who knew China would become such a second home to me?
2. I’m not scared of solo travel
I can’t believe I used to be the girl who was scared of staying in a fancy hostel in South Korea by herself. Going on my first solo trip to Taiwan was a big step for me. To be honest, Taiwan probably wasn’t the easiest first solo destination. While I speak Chinese, there isn’t a huge backpacker community there, which made traveling solo a little bit lonely. While I desperately want to move to Taipei forever, traveling around Taiwan made the SE Asia backpacker trail a piece of cake.
Last year I showed up in Cambodia with two nights booked at a hostel and absolutely no plan. I knew I wanted to see Phnom Penh and the temples of Angkor. In the process I ended up discovering the most beautiful beach in the world, and the hidden gems Kampot and Kep.
After four years of travel, I now prefer to travel solo, especially if I’m heading to a destination with an established community of travelers. I don’t know why I was ever so scared!
3. I love slow travel
Over the years I’ve learned I enjoy super slow travel. I hate feeling rushed, and I like to spend a few extra days in each place soaking up the culture outside of the normal touristy sites. One of my favorite memories of Cambodia was wandering around Siem Reap outside of the backpacker area. We were exhausted from exploring the Angkor temples the previous day, so we decided to relax at one of the coolest outdoor cafes I’ve ever seen. We stumbled on random temples, and saw areas of the city most backpackers never see.
I honestly think being an expat is the ultimate form of slow travel. The only problem is that as an expat with a full-time job, I often feel rushed whenever I go to new places. I want to take my time in each place, rather than jumping from one spot to the next because I only have two weeks off (or ONE week in the case of my trip to Vietnam this March).
4. I want to travel long-term
I think it’s safe to say that the travel bug is not out of my system. While I definitely don’t think the nomadic life is right for me permanently (I want a community and an apartment), I would love to travel for an extended period of time.
I want to be able to take my time in each country without feeling rushed, and I don’t want to shell out a few hundred dollars for round-trip plane tickets every time I want to travel outside China. I want the flexibility to meet up with other bloggers in India (like Rachel and Anna), or stay with a friend in Japan. I want to be able to go on blogging press trips or explore a country after TBEX finishes.
Basically I just want to travel until I’m sick of it, settle down, get an apartment, live somewhere I like for a few months, and then pick up again when I’m ready to travel someplace new. I want to be able to go home to Seattle without feeling rushed and worrying about vacation days, so I can see my family more than once every year and a half. I know eventually I’ll want to create a home base (looking at you Taipei…) but I’m only 24 so I can’t tell you exactly when that will be.
1. I’ve realized I need work-life balance
After three small panic attacks this fall, losing my sense of hunger for a solid two weeks, and not having any friends outside work for months on end, I realized that I can’t let Chinese work culture and my passion for this blog completely ruin my health and sanity.
Trying to manage this blog with a full-time job and a social life is extremely stressful. I almost decided not to go anywhere for the Chinese New Year just to get caught up on blog posts! Can you imagine being a travel blogger and choosing not to travel during your limited holidays because you need time to write about travel?! That’s where I’ve landed myself.
I’ve realized that at this point, the majority of my income is not coming from blogging, and I need to chill the F out. It’s not a catastrophe if I only publish one blog post a week. I won’t be blacklisted for taking a few days to respond to an email, and it’s okay to turn down partnerships if I just don’t have the time.
I just really don’t want to look back on my two years in Beijing and think the only thing I did the entire time was work. I want to remember those nights out in the hutong bars. I want to remember the friends I made salsa dancing in Sanlitun. I want to remember ice skating on the frozen Hohai lake, taking a trip to the part of the Great Wall that meets the sea, and sampling the best local restaurants Beijing has to offer.
2. I’ve embraced feminism
While I’d like to think I’ve always been a bit of a feminist (I want to an all-girls high school), I’ve gotten much more serious about it as I grow older. I used to worry writing about “women’s issues” on my travel blog would scare away my male readers. Now I’ve realized… I don’t care.
Any guy that decides to stop reading my blog because I talk about feminism, sexual harassment and periods every once and a while isn’t a guy that needs to be reading my blog in the first place. Feminism affects everyone, and I think men need to be aware of issues that affect half the human population.
I’ve realized there is a place for feminism on my travel blog. Being a woman affects my travels and my life, therefore, I shouldn’t be ashamed to write about issues that affect me and other women. Many of you have expressed interest in hearing more about menstrual cups and period panties for travel. Well I can tell you now that I’ve tested the Diva Cup and my THINX just arrived in the mail today(!!) so look out for those posts in the near future.
3. I’ve embraced living in China
While I was excited about the prospect of moving to Beijing, I was also a bit reluctant to live in China for another two years. While certain things have been a bit worse than expected (the pollution), other aspects of Beijing life have become a bit easier for me to handle.
For example, the internet censorship used to frustrate me to no end, but now that I have high-speed internet in my apartment, I haven’t had many issues with my VPN. The biggest issues I’ve been having are with Snapchat videos not uploading, but even Snapchat works most of the time.
Beijing also has a bigger expat community and many more foreign restaurants and bars I can enjoy. While I sometimes feel a bit guilty for eating so much Western food and hanging out with so many expats, I know it’s necessary for my sanity after two years of living in Ningbo, which has approximately zero Mexican restaurants and the best burger I could find was McDonald’s.
What’s Next for Me and My Blog?
I’ll be living in China for the next year and a half
Unless something big goes down, the plan is to still finish out my contract working as a college counselor in Beijing. This means you’ll be seeing a lot of China and Beijing-centered content, in addition to my other travel posts.
I’ve really come to terms with the fact that I’m a “travel and expat lifestyle” blogger for the time being. I also realized how few travel bloggers have actually spent any sort of significant time in China. Many Asia-based travel bloggers have never even been to China at all! I might as well take ownership of my China knowledge and experience, while also keeping things entertaining for those of you who aren’t planning on visiting anytime soon.
I want to travel slowly, long-term
Like I mentioned before, I want the opportunity to travel slowly, long-term. There is absolutely no way this will work out in my current profession, so this probably won’t happen for another year and a half. I need to get my student loans out of the way and come up with a sustainable business plan before I embark on my quest to see more of the world. What can I say, I’m responsible.
While a part of me is jealous of all you Europeans without huge amounts of student loans, another part of me knows that I will really appreciate my life and opportunities once I do have the freedom to live and work wherever I want. I will also never take my Master’s degree for granted, that’s for sure!
I don’t want to be a freelance writer…
I realized this year at TBEX Asia that I definitely do not want to be a freelance writer. This is how the majority of travel bloggers make their income, and frankly, the idea of freelance writing for a living just to live nomadically makes me want to stay in my current office job.
While I love writing this blog, freelance writing stresses me out. I put a lot of time and creative energy into each blog post I write, and by the time I publish one post I’m not able to do any writing for a few days. Trying to crank out piece after piece for clients is not my idea of a dream job.
It wasn’t until I went to TBEX Asia in Bangkok this October that I actually realized I shouldn’t try to force myself to be a freelance writer if it’s not my passion. I met so many other talented girls that just love writing, that it made me realize that I don’t share that same passion… at all.
…But that’s okay!
It was my first session of the conference with Evo Terra that I realized I have other life skills I can use. In his session, Dare to Be Different, he had us write down what we’re good at and what comes naturally to us. I realized at that moment, that I don’t love writing, I love communicating. I like sharing my stories. I love talking about issues that are important to me. I don’t really want to write for anyone else but myself.
So what am I good at? Working with other people. Getting other people excited and passionate. Leading tours, public speaking, teaching, and talking in front of the camera… and Pinterest? I’m not 100% sure where these skills will take me, but I know I should focus on what I’m good at, rather than trying to make myself fit into the typical travel blogger mold.
I want a passive income that allows me to do what I love
Another thing I realized at TBEX was how little of a technology addiction I have compared to everyone else. I don’t want to be glued to my computer or phone every moment of my waking life. I don’t want to have a panic attack because I can’t access the internet for a few days. I don’t want to live my life behind a screen.
This is why I think I might not be cut out to be a “professional travel blogger”. I don’t want to forgo travel and amazing experiences because I need to write my millionth blog post. I might use my blog as a platform for other work instead: leading backpacker tours around China, or creating online classes or digital material.
I might also try my hand at online college counseling. I can edit essays from anywhere in the world, and use the skills I’ll have gained to work with either Chinese or American clients. Hopefully, once I get enough kids I can even outsource the essay editing to other talented writers, and own a business with a somewhat passive income.
At 24 years old, I’m still figuring everything out. I’m just glad I know what I don’t want so I can focus on what’s right for me.
Is there anything you’d love to see more of on Adventures Around Asia? Do you like the direction my blog has headed in the last four years? Let me know!