Urgh, blogoversary. Sorry, that’s a horrible word isn’t it. But it’s been 10 years since I began blogging and left the UK as a fresh-faced 21 year old, ready to explore the world.
I remember getting on that plane to Hong Kong like it was yesterday.
^All packed and ready to go! This photo was taken as I said goodbye to my mum and dad before travelling to London for our flight from Heathrow.
It’s no exaggeration to say it was the most exciting day of my life and a day that changed my life completely. (I know I should probably say that the births of my babies were the most exciting and life changing days of my life, but I always assumed I’d have children so they were part of a subconscious plan already!)
I usually don’t realise a momentous occasion is as important as it is until a few years later when you can see the bigger picture and appreciate what a huge impact it would have on your life. But as I sat on that plane and flew across the world, I knew this was a big moment.
That flight was the start of a two year backpacking journey through South East Asia and Australia. It was a trip I’d been dreaming about since I was 16, back when the internet was a fairly new invention and I’d recently discovered the art of procrastination through travel planning (something I’m very familiar with now!)
I was revising for my GCSE’s and I somehow stumbled upon GapYear.com, a website for people planning gap years. Needless to say, I did very little revision once I found this site (and I have some mediocre GCSE results to prove it!) but I discovered a whole world of adventure and possibility.
Before then I’d had no idea ‘backpacking’ was a thing. I knew that ‘real adventurers’ did it, but I didn’t know normal people like me went backpacking.
Just thinking about the excited overwhelm I felt when I realised that people, normal people like me, would pack a backpack and travel the world gives me butterflies in my stomach. Finding that website changed my life – and I actually went on to work at gapyear.com but that’s a completely different story and happened eight years later!
^ Halong Bay in Vietnam
Five years after my GCSEs and I was sat next to Sam, my now fiance, as we jetted off to begin our adventure of a lifetime.
^Visiting ‘The Beach’ in Thailand
It was my dad who has first suggested setting up a website to document my travels. He’d mentioned it when I was about 17 while I was pawing over STA brochures. He suggested I could get sponsored by brands to travel. ‘You could set up a website and get sponsored by a backpack company….or….or…Coca Cola or someone!’ he’d said with enthusiasm. ‘And take photos of yourself drinking coke on a beach in Thailand and put it on your website!’
I’m now amazed at my dad for suggesting this in 2003. Especially because my dad owned a pharmaceutical company at the time, it wasn’t like he was a tech geek or worked in marketing or anything and could predict the rise of online influencers.
If only I’d taken his advice in 2003!
Obviously, I was a teenager and my dad was old and embarrassing and he had no idea about the world, so I laughed off his idea as though he’d just told me to…welll….like he’d just told me that the world’s biggest brands would pay me to travel while I posted photos online. It was absurd.
^Our first day in Hong Kong!
As I sat on that plane to Hong Kong, surrounded by sleeping people who clearly weren’t as excited as me and weren’t embarking on an adventure of a lifetime, I pulled a fresh notepad and a new pen from my bag.
I’d been waiting for this moment for a long, long time. I’d spent a ridiculously long time in Paperchase selecting the perfect notepad for this exact moment; the moment I’d begin my travel journal.
The notepad was covered in passport stamps and planes and had plastic pockets inside to store tickets and memories.
I ran my hand across the smooth, white page and felt almost as excited about writing a travel journal as I was about actually travelling!
You see, I’ve always been a journaller. It’s not something I would have admitted to at 16 years old, I liked to think I was far too cool to write a childish diary. But for as long as I can remember I’ve always loved to record my day and scribble down my thoughts between the pages of a pretty notepad.
My only problem with my journal was that it lacked excitement. I was 21 years old and I was lucky enough to have led a perfectly idyllic yet uneventful childhood. Don’t get my wrong, I do now realise how fortunate this was! My childhood and my teenage years were anything but boring, but it wasn’t exactly an adventure.
I longed to write about something exciting and I wanted to fill the pages of my journal with endless adventures – not just drunken nights with my mates in the local nightclub or teenage gossip about which friends had fallen out!
^Visiting Ankor Wat in Cambodia
But here I was, on the plane flying towards my first real adventure with a fresh travel journal expectantly waiting to be filled. I couldn’t have been happier as I sat in my seat, wrestling for a little bit of elbow room, as I began my first journal entry.
Over the next few months I’d continue to write my journal while sat on various modes of transport throughout Asia. My entries were long and rambling with no real information about anything I did. Everything was ‘amazing’ and I seemed to squeeze a travel cliche into every other sentence. Every view ‘took my breath away’, every beach was ‘paradise’, every market was ‘bustling’, everyone I met was a ‘friendly local’, and everyday I discovered something ‘off the beaten track’.
I was a backpacking cliche in every sense of the word as I travelled around in my baggy elephant pants, my Chang vest, my fake sunglasses and my wrist filled with scruffy bracelets I’d paid too much for at that bustling market.
But I was so happy as everyday was a new adventure and every evening I would sit outside and record it all in my journal.
^Somewhere in Bali…I think
The pages of that journal were then hurriedly typed up using slow PCs in internet cafes. The computers were riddled with viruses and my meagre backpacker’s budget only ever allowed me a 30 minute time-slot, so the posts were hastily bashed out and quickly uploaded to a blog. They were riddled with typos and made very little sense to anyone but me but I loved the process of putting my stories online.
^Visiting Moni in Flores, Indonesia
At the time, this blog was called Me and My Backpack. It’s a name I actually wish I’d kept, but the grammatical inaccuracy made me feel uneasy to I had to change it eventually! I liked the idea of it being just me and my backpack, that’s all I needed to conquer the world. But the reality of travelling and travel blogging isn’t quite that simple, as I would later discover….
The blog was my way of tentatively dipping my toes into a world of travel blogging and it was a world that would change my life forever.
Sam and I travelled from Hong Kong to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and then back to Thailand before flying to Sydney.
^ Celebrating NYE in Sydney!
We worked in Sydney and then Melbourne for a few more months before buying an old campervan and driving an anti-clockwise loop around the coast of Australia.
After a year in our trusty old van, we drove back to Sydney and sold it and travelled back to South East Asia. We travelled to Bali, Lombok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Borneo and Thailand before finally flying home.
It was an adventure I couldn’t have possibly imagined.
Unfortunately, I actually don’t have much of a catalogue of posts from this time because they were so awful I deleted most of them, but I still have the first of the many journals I wrote from that time.
^Our campervan in Australia. I can’t believe we lived in this for so long!
I came home feeling like a very different person. Everything was the same, exactly as I’d left it, but I was different.
I felt quite empty for a long time, worried that I’d had my ‘adventure of a lifetime’ and that was it. Over.
I now had to settle down and pick a career and live the 9-5. This was life now. This was adulting.
The thought terrified me.
And then, very sadly, my grandma passed away.
It was a devastating time for my family because she was the matriarch and the glue that held us all together.
But my wonderful grandma had left me a small inheritance. Not a lot, not an amount that anyone else would consider life-changing, but it was life changing for me because it was just enough for me to move to London and enroll in journalism college.
This was the second time my life changed dramatically.
I studied part-time for an NCTJ in Journalism (that’s the National Curriculum of the Training of Journalists) while working for a start-up travel website and doing copywriting work on the side.
It was during this time that I properly started blogging and began to learn what it meant to be a blogger. I’d be journaling for two years but this was when I changed everything over to The Travel Hack and shit just got real!
^I loved my time living in London but I knew I wouldn’t stay forever
I spent the next 5-6 years dedicating everything to The Travel Hack. I was constantly travelling, writing, editing, tweaking, learning, networking and planning.
The blog grew. I grew. I created a career and a life I loved so much it actually scared me how happy I was. The happiness stayed and the blog evolved as I grew up.
I left London and moved back to Wales.
I continued to travel and loved every moment of every adventure, but I began enjoying my time at home just as much as my trips away.
^Taken during a press trip to St Kitts with Time Out Magazine. I’m terrified of horses so this wasn’t a particularly fun moment!
Life was a perfect balance of adventure and homely comfort.
And then we got a dog.
And then we bought a house.
And then we had George.
And then we had Joseph.
And now we’re having a third baby and I’m 35 weeks pregnant!
And throughout all this I’ve travelled and written in my journal and turned it into blog entries.
^Life definitely looks a little different now!
And yes, I rushed that last part because I’m very busy and I’m really not sure I’ve got the mental capacity right now to delve too deeply into what it was like to have children and create a home. Maybe one day I’ll write about that!
At times I’ve strayed away from the journal-style entries I love to write so much. I’ve feared no one will care. I’ve asked myself ‘what’s the point?’ For years I stopped writing them all together.
I’ve written travel guides and listicles that I know will get thousands of pageviews and eventually convert into money that will pay my mortgage.
But that’s not what I love. I love these long, rambly posts that don’t really have a point or a purpose. They’re not intended to ‘convert to sales’, there’s no ROI, there’s no sponsorship. It’s just me and my notepad and that makes me very happy.
So happy blogiversary to me. Happy 10 years of travelling. And I truly, sincerely, honestly hope that I’ll still be in here in 10 years time. Still writing about my travels and my adventures. Still sharing them online. Still with a few readers who care!
Who knows what travel blogging will look like in 2029 but I really hope I’m a part of it!