My friends and family often ask me why I write my blog. They question why I dedicate so much time and effort to it. Why I at times, stress myself out finding the time to write it. In their eyes, it is not my job, I do not get paid for it, so why? The answer is simply that I love it. It has become so much more to me than just documenting my travels. It has become my haven. My escape in the darker days of Nik’s cancer. My way of trying to encourage people to experience as much of life as is possible for their circumstances. To create memories. Reflecting on my blog year for this post made me realise, it just brings me joy. It truly does and unless that changes, I will continue to find the time to write it. I am so grateful that you take the time to read it, thank you!
I have already given you a little look back and reflection on my life in general. This post is purely blog! I would absolutely love any feedback on what I talk about in this post. If you think something is a rubbish idea, just say. You know I cherish honesty! The same as if you think there is something I should do more of, let me know! I really would love to understand why you visit me here……
Reflecting on My Blog Year
A Quick Overview
- My blog traffic almost doubled from last year
- I earnt more on affiliate links this year than last year
- Google was my biggest traffic source
- I finally made a media kit!
- I ditched a few subjects I used to write about
- I was picked and featured as one of the travel editor of Blogosphere magazine, favourite travel blogs for the year…..not sure if I’v mentioned it….
What didn’t go to plan
At the start of this year I had a plan. If I compare what I planned, to what I actually did, it would be an epic fail. In fact, the failure of all failures. Nothing that I said I would do, has happened. I still have no blog schedule. I still struggle to post with any real consistency. I am still shocking at SEO, Instagram and Pinterest. My photography ability still need’s a lot of work and I still have no photo editing programmes. I do not earn on a regular basis from my blog, I have not found the confidence (or maybe desire) to pitch to brands, and I do not attend fancy-schmanzy blog events on the regular. Some of these things are by choice. Some by procrastination!
I also had a lightbulb moment of realisation this year too. I attended World Travel Market in November. This is a huge event for all areas of the travel industry, held in London. I have attended before, but this year I actually set up meetings with tourist boards. Travel writers do this in order to secure press trips and work for the following year. That is what all travel bloggers are after right? They all want to secure places on the coverted press trips surely? Well, it occurred to me after my second meeting, that press trips are actually, not really what I am after. Let me explain.
Travel for me, is freedom. Since leaving the UK with the bare necessities in a back pack at 17, I have seen it as a way to escape and experience. No schedules. No demands. Just making memories with my loved ones. Just going where the wind blows me and dancing to my own tune. Press trips, on most occasions, are not like that. They have a schedule/itinerary they want you to follow. They of course, have an agenda of what they want covered. They have deliverables and expectations. You are also not making memories with your loved ones, but with strangers or other travel writers (bonus if they are your friends too). All of a sudden it is work, not travel. (Remember, my blog is not my job)
Twins that Travel (two of my fave people), recently spoke about pulling back on the press trips they do, and I totally got why. Writing about a press trip is often writing someone else’s agenda and idea of what should be covered on that trip. I have started to notice on other peoples blogs when they are writing up a press trip as opposed to their own chosen trip. The passion and soul can become a little diluted with “professionalism” and “key points”. I decided that this is not for me. That is not personally, my idea of travel and I know many bloggers that would deliver on those trips far better than me.
Don’t get me wrong, if I were to be offered a press trip that allows me freedom still, I will be all over it! The press trip that I did to Portugal last year was perfect. No agenda, nothing was asked of me. I was just reviewing accommodation. I would also jump at the chance to be offered a press trip which I could take a loved one on. I was able to take my Mum to Portugal with me. I want to build memories with “my people” so that would be amazing. From speaking to other travel writers, that is not the norm though so I got very lucky! It was a huge revelation to me to realise that I am not chasing those group press trips. But it has left me questioning my blog direction. Am I a travel blog, or a lifestyle blog? Can you really do both well? What is my ultimate goal with my blog? I am not sure I have figured that out yet!
My plans Going Forward
There seems to be this trend at the moment to see as many countries as possible, in a short space of time. Almost a competition to have every country ticked off a list! I want to slow my travels down. I want to immerse myself in a place. In it’s culture. Get lost in its streets and feel its history. I think in my life I struggle and rebel against having routine and order, (but know there has to be some in life), so travel can be my little bit of disorder! Nik and I have both said we want to change up a little how we travel next year.
Kerry Life and Loves is a Travel and Lifestyle blog. In some ways, that gives me free rein to write what I like! I do try to keep my topics as narrow as possible though! Otherwise I would literally be like the blog of surprises. You just wouldn’t know what you were tuning in for! Currently I write;
- Travel, (including staycations, hotel reviews etc)
- Days out and Experiences
- London Restaurants, (especially vegan)
- Cuppa and a Chat discussion posts
In my head, I would love to niche down further still. In reality, I am far to much of an over sharer, so would struggle to do that! In fact, I want to bring more of my journey into sustainability onto the blog. I am about three years in to trying to live more sustainably now, and would love to share that side of my life more. I asked on Instagram if that would be something of interest, and it was a 98% yes answer! I plan on doing a monthly series on the blog around sustainability and planet friendly topics. I have lots of ideas. Im excited. So perhaps, I am more of a Lifestyle blog, plain and simple? Travel is and will always be my main focus, but I feel a little hemmed in by a title sometimes. What do you think?
Ok, I will start here with an apology. Those of you already signed up to my newsletter, I know I was sh**. I think I sent out three in total last year. I’m sorry! I have made a vow to get better. For me, I want my newsletter to be an extension of the blog, not just a catch up from it. I want the newsletter to be a bit more community based, written more with my subscribers in mind. So I plan on it being a bit more eclectic and informative than just travel! It will of course still have any travel deals etc that I find, but I want to include other things that I don’t really feel fit the blog, like;
- Books I have read
- Eco tips
- Eco brands I have discovered
- Wellbeing tips
- Any fabulous blog posts I have read from other bloggers
- Fantastic Netflix finds
- Updates on my no spending year that I am starting in January
What are your thoughts? I would love to hear your feed back on this? You can of course sign up to the Newsletter-that-I-must-Do-Better-With by clicking here. There is a sign up form on that page.
Brand and Paid Work
Always a tough one for me! Reflecting on my blogging year this year, it is no different! It is something I really struggle with as, and I have said this many times before, I do not want to be a sales platform. Nor do I want to lose my passion for writing my blog. I am scared that if I start needing or seeking out blog work, it will become a stress. But, at the same time, blogs are not free to run! For the last two years I have kept my blog “free” to run, by doing a few sponsored posts throughout the year. The fee I get paid covers the hosting, photo storage etc that I pay out for my blog. I will continue to do these kind of posts if I get the opportunity.
I would also absolutely love to do a little more work with “experiences”. So as an example, be invited to a review a vegan restaurant, or an afternoon tea. Things that I know my readers will love. Want a hotel in London reviewed? Call me. Got a little Shepherds hut you want someone to give opinions on, I’ll grab my sheep. What I am saying is I am HERE for you brands. Vegan cake eater required? Plant based burger eater needed? I am ya gal!
My lovely blogging friends tell me I have to pitch to brands etc, but I am not sure that it’s me. I do not know why I have such a block with this! I was brought up by parents with a very strong view that you always pay your own way. I know that me writing a blog post on xyz IS paying my own way, I am providing a service, so I do not know what my flipping issue is. Confidence? Self doubt? Embarrassment? I am not sure but I need to get over it if I want to secure this sort of work for my blog! Get over yourself Hawkins!
Learning and Courses
Oh my goodness I have been rubbish with this! I vowed to do a photography course as I would LOVE to take better photos. Fail. I wanted to do and SEO course as I don’t really understand it. I started one, never finished. Fail. I need to do a Pinterest course as I am not great at Pinterest. Fail. I wanted to attend more workshops and events to really understand “blogging”. I did none. To be fair to me on that point though, I was scheduled do do a couple. Life had other plans and I was dealing with family stuff.
I am sure I will do all of these courses and things in 2020 right……….??????
So, writing this reflection on my blog year makes me realise I must try harder hahahaha! I really sucked at sticking to my plans. But, I have had a brilliant year with my blog. I have met some truly wonderful people. I have attended some amazing events. I had some amazing opportunities offered to me. I have pushed myself to do things that three years ago, I had no confidence to do. I love writing it, I mean really love writing it. I have made new friends and learnt new skills out of this little blogging bubble, and I could not be happier. So yep, on paper, epic fail. In my eyes, success beyond all success. Its been amazing!