The Highs and Lows (+ lessons learned)
When we first started travel blogging 10 years ago, we had no idea what we were doing, nor where it could go.
We just saw potential, possibility and our passion for sharing our personal travel tips and stories!
Travel had already been our life for the 10 years previous to this and the only thing that made sense to us, that made us feel most alive.
After years of searching for ways to create our own business so we could continue to travel and have control over our choices, we eventually discovered travel blogging and knew we had found the ONE.
Step by step, day by day, we got to work on building our site, our content, and our audience.
Slowly, our travel blog grew and bought us a life and opportunities that went way beyond our dreaming.
I don’t even know the exact date of when we started in 2010. All I know is we were living in an apartment in Raleigh, North Carolina, I was teaching elementary school and Craig was working for Delta Air Lines, and it was early April, the most powerful month of our lives.
April was when:
- I first left to travel full time in 1997.
- Craig and I met in 2000.
- Craig and I married in 2002
- Craig and I left for our 5 year honeymoon in 2002
- Started the blog in 2010
- Arrived back in the USA in 2017 – finally to live here permanently.
We believe in this month of positive change and new directions.
Funny that our 10 year anniversary comes in the middle of a great travel catastrophe – the Rona Virus.
It’s hurt all of us, but especially those in the travel industry – an industry that has almost completely disappeared.
We’re digging deep through this time to return to our love of dreaming about travel, connection and community to keep building, growing and giving birth to new direction.
Whilst we wait until we can travel again, we’re focusing on the love of travel and keeping that dream alive for all of us.
We’re producing this type of content on the blog, our YouTube channel, and our new podcast channel – starting soon! Pop your name in the form so we can notify you once it’s live!
On our podcast we’ll be sharing our story over a series of podcast episodes, diving deep into how we’ve made travel a part of our lifestyle for 22 years now. Yes.
We’ve done it as solo travelers, as a couple, expat travelers, family travelers, digital nomad travelers, and now short break travelers.
We want to show you that travel can evolve with you! And don’t miss our other post on 10 key lessons from building a travel blog.
10 Highlights and Turning Points
1. Lifestyle We Love – Together
I’m not sure we intentionally decided to experience life together 24/7 as a family. I can’t say it was a burning desire or value for us.
If we didn’t have this travel blog, we would probably be living a life of work and kids at school.
I’m so glad we didn’t because along the way, we’ve realized spending quality time together and putting family first is a strong value of ours. Sometimes you don’t know until you live it.
We have a tight family unit – many times that goes astray and we have normal breakdowns and challenges.
I’ve often wondered if we did make the right choice and perhaps a normal school/work/home life would be better.
But, then we experience yet another incredible moment and I realize our bond is much stronger because of our travel lifestyle and that’s what matters most.
I am grateful I get to experience life with our beautiful daughters and watch them grow into beautiful young women.
Life’s greatest pleasure is to really know your own children.
Some of our highlights together:
2. Having a Wonderful Community
Previous to blogging, my life was about serving myself – traveling the world and indulging in life’s pleasures.
That’s what your twenties are about.
It taught me a lot about myself, life and others, so I could then put that to good use to help others during this chapter of our lives.
Surprisingly, the greatest joy from our travel blog is the gift of helping others. I never knew it would be that way coming into it.
It’s not the travel lifestyle and opportunities that have kept me in the game. Sure, I love everything about them, but I would have quit long ago if that was my only reason for doing it.
I’ve learned having a purpose beyond yourself is what inspires you to rise each morning.
As we celebrate our achievements over 10 years of travel blogging this month allow us to thank you. Some of you have been reading us for that long.
Some of you we’ve met in person or we know via name or avatar thumbnail. Others we can’t see or hear, but we feel you reading and following.
You’ve watched both of our girls grow up, you’ve supported us and cheered us on. You’ve helped shape our journey, offered many great tips, shared your stories and dreams with us, and with others in our community.
We simply adore you.
3. Qantas Rugby World Cup Trip in New Zealand
This was a major turning point for our blog. When we first started, we wrote a list of our dream companies to work with – Qantas was at the top.
As Australians, we were stunned and overjoyed when our iconic Aussie brand invited us to participate in the Qantas Crusade Rugby World Cup campaign as their official correspondents.
Craig is a sports nut and played professional rugby league back in Australia, so was thrilled to be a part of this.
In the lessons below, I’ll speak of sacrifice. This was one of those.
Savannah was only 10 days old at the time. We made the difficult decision for Craig to go on this tour in New Zealand while I stayed at home with the kids.
Although it was hard to be apart, we don’t regret it, and Savannah is a little joy bunny so we doubt was affected by it.
For two weeks, Craig traveled New Zealand in a convoy of camper vans attending the rugby world cup games and enjoying adventures like sky diving, white water rafting and sailing the Bay of Islands.
4. Our 18 Month Road Trip of Australia
After years of exploring the world, it was a dream to finally see our own country.
Many people say their own country is the best in the world purely because of patriotic pride, not from a place of knowing.
We got to know our country and experience its diversity and beauty as we explored every corner of her.
I don’t like to say “best in the world” as I think that shows arrogance and insecurity, but I can say Australia has an ancient and timeless spirit that speaks of adventure, freedom, joy, and exquisite natural beauty.
While it’s not the place for us to live the remainder of our lives, we love and honor Australia fiercely. She’ll always be a home that lies deep within our hearts.
Our Australian road trip was also instrumental to the growth of our travel blog and its success. It’s when we really started to walk our talk – making travel a priority.
We took off on this trip when we weren’t completely ready and even spent the first three months in a tent until we could afford to finance a tiny Jayco pop up trailer.
Because of it our blog community exploded, we successfully partnered with Nissan, Ford and many of the state tourism boards, and our story was seen on national TV, radio and traditional media.
Thank goodness, it got us out of that tent!
5. Invitation to The White House
Getting an invitation to the White House is not your typical experience! People from small town Woy Woy in Australia don’t get invited to the White House!
We were beyond thrilled to be invited as a top digital influencer to their first Study Abroad Summit in 2014. It was such an honor that we flew all the way from Perth to attend, which is probably the furthest place in the world from it!
Is there a greater accolade to put in your media kit?
Leverage every opportunity that comes your way.
6. Getting our Green Cards
We made the impossible happen.
A Green Card. Granted by the US Government for our extraordinary ability in the art of travel blogging.
It was the realization of a 14 year dream on a journey that involved so much heartache. We never ever saw that the path filled with brambles was actually leading us to the dream.
Always be open to the magic of possibilities. You may not be able to see it, but it doesn’t mean it’s not waiting for you.
7. Our Participate Learning Partnership
The most recent favorite is our partnership with Participate Learning here in North Carolina, a company that recruit teachers from around the world to teach in the USA.
Due to our travel blog and expertise, we have been given the opportunity to create a program that helps those teachers travel more in the US.
It’s an exciting project we can pour our passion and expertise into.
What makes it so memorable is that Participate Learning is the program I originally joined as a foreign teacher back in 2004.
My 4 years of teaching experience here was part of the catalyst for our love for the US and desire to live here permanently.
It provided much of the inspiration for us to realize we had the power and potential to make a difference, and it was our blog that brought us back full circle.
There is so much magic in this opportunity. I revel in it daily.
Be open to the magic of possibility — you never know what the universe has in store for you. Show up and give it all you’ve got.
8. Our Travel Blogging Friends
Our tribe. We love them. We’re spread out all over the globe, and mostly only talk online. Once or twice a year we get to meet up and talk, laugh and play.
They are the highlight moments of my year. These are the people who watch our back, lift us up, understand who we are – our struggles and joy – and celebrate with us in style.
I never knew I needed people like this and it’s one of our favorite gifts of our travel blog.
They affirm for me that the world is full of cool people.
Until we meet again, we have Zoom wine hours!!
9. Giving the Opening Keynote at TBEX
When we were packing up to move back to the US, I came across an old goal list of mine written in 2013. 80% of those goals had come true. One that hadn’t was – opening keynote at TBEX, a major travel blogging conference.
Last year, I made that happen.
It was terrifying, as I chose vulnerability with the intention of helping another. I shared our story and the three principles I followed to create my dream lifestyle.
I was overwhelmed with the kind support and positive response to this talk from my heart. It was a real highlight.
I have it right here for you, in case you missed. You have loads of time now to watch it. It just may be what you need in these trying times.
The things I discuss in my TBEX talk is what got us out of near bankrupt hell to living this travel blogging life.
10. Living in Raleigh
It was the reason we relentlessly pursued our own business and a Green Card.
When Craig and I first moved to Raleigh in 2004, we both instantly felt at home. We knew after years of restlessly wandering the world, living in four other countries and never feeling like we belonged anywhere, we finally found our place.
We have loved living here on and off for six years creating wonderful friendships and diving deeper into an aspect of American culture — one that helped us believe in an entrepreneurial journey of service.
I said to Craig the other day as we were walking and I was gushing once again about how much I love Raleigh and we must be sitting on a vortex to feel such joy over a place,
Imagine our life if we never found this place. I’m sure we would have lived somewhere great, but we never would have experienced this level of euphoria. I wouldn’t have even known it was possible.
I don’t understand it and I don’t have to. We just love everything about our life here and are so happy.
We can’t wait to plant deeper roots, explore it more in-depth and start our new passion project: our This is Raleigh blog and community.
10 Negatives + Challenges
Give up the goal of perfection. It ain’t achievable and serves no purpose.
The sacrifices, negatives and downsides give us pause for reflection and growth.
Having them means you are taking risks, reaching for your dreams, living in accordance to your values, and playing life full out.
Success means knowing and accepting your sacrifices. Some are so much harder than others.
If you agree to, and own your sacrifices, you will commit to doing whatever it takes so the sacrifice is not in vain.
The rewards will be so much more sweeter.
There is great joy in the negatives if you peer deep enough into the blessings. Honoring and loving them, takes away your suffering.
Since I don’t dwell too much on them, I really struggled to list 10 here. It’s just the yin to the yang.
1. Living Away from Family
It’s tough living on the other side of the world away from your family. This is our greatest sacrifice. And an increasing concern for us given the current Rona lock downs and border closures.
Thank goodness for technology so we can regularly connect with them.
We also love when they come visit. We do loads of fun things, like:
2. Kalyra Leaving Her Best Friend
Kalyra and Indie were forever friends.They had a soul based friendship we all seek and need. (I adored her Mum too and miss them terribly.)
We know our decision to leave Australia was best for all of us, and anything could have happened if we stayed – like Indie moving away, but this was a tough sacrifice.
I don’t like seeing the challenges Kalyra has had since to find a similar soul based friendship. And flippin Rona has interrupted our social plans to make this happen.
But once we finally lay our roots here in Raleigh and really get into the community, she will. After 40+ years on this planet, we know she has many special friendships coming!
3. The Financial Investment
When you spend all your money on travel and your business, it leaves little behind for other important things, like a home!
We believe in accumulating memories and moments over possessions, and we will leave this world with many of those, so I have no regrets and am full of gratitude.
But there are still parts of me that yearns for my own beautiful home and a little more financial stability and future security.
We are working hard towards that now!
4. Travel Is No Longer a Vacation
It’s pretty good that one of the main ways your business can exist and thrive is if you travel, but at the same time, I just want to take a vacation.
Go away and do all the things I do now when I travel, except not have to observe deeply, take photos and video, live stream it, social media update it, and create 5,000 word articles on it.
I just want to occasionally eat, play, rest, sleep with no obligations.
I know I can do that. But, the minute I plan out that vacation, my mind starts listing all the great content I can create. How can I go to XYZ and not share it?
So now I vacation at home. And in my retirement I’ll travel just because.
5. Relationship Challenges
We dive more into this in an upcoming video sharing whether we thought our US RV road trip was worth it.
Travel is a beautiful gift for helping to strengthen bonds.
Working full-time with your partner on a business is difficult at the best of times. Combine that with traveling full-time together (especially in a tiny RV travel trailer) and it can be a recipe for disaster.
We can’t say whether difficulties in our relationship have arisen because of the travel blog, or whether they would have been presented if we experienced the stress of life in another form – like going to a job we hate each day and a lifestyle that does not set our hearts on fire.
But, there has been strain and pressure the past few years due to living out of each others pockets, which is easing now we have stability and a home base in a place we love so much.
At least now with Rona, we can find our own separate space in the multiple rooms in our house and our beautiful backyard (with hammocks) and front porch.
Thankfully, our years of travel together as a couple before travel blogging made us strong. As did our 18 month adventure around Australia!
And well, doing this full-time with your kids, is the foundation for insanity. Good thing parenting typically comes with unconditional love. Good thing the kids feel that way about you too!
6. Constant Reinvention
The rules of the game in online business are always changing. Survival is about those who can adapt best.
It’s exhausting keeping up with it all.
Google search traffic was our one constant where the rules didn’t change too much. All we had to do was create outstanding content and we could trust Google would eventually rank it high in their search engines.
Until last year they changed the rules to favor Google traffic and greatly impacted our traffic in a negative way.
It’s been the biggest challenge of our 10 years of travel blogging.
Goonies never say die, Google. You don’t get a say in our success. We do.
So yes, we will reinvent and play by our own rules.
Evolution is how we bring out our best. It’s going to be a rough year as we navigate these new waters, but our ship is sturdy and we have faith in the captains.
The timing was right as we now have a home base and can work on the reinvention strategy.
We love travel. We love for you to travel. We’ll keep doing it!
7. Impact of Others Opinions
I’m pretty stoked with our online community. Most people are kind.
Actually, if they’re not, we don’t let them stay around too long.
It’s been a challenge dealing with the naysayers and haters. I don’t care what anyone says about developing thick skin – you do eventually do that – there is no excuse for bullying or unkindness.
If I say it’s okay within my own space, I’m saying it’s okay for others.
It’s not. You can disagree with others, but you can do it with respect and honor.
When people don’t do that in our community, they are given a polite invitation to leave and close the door quietly on the way out.
Over the years, we’ve had to deal with a lot from others – nastiness, judgements, criticisms, shaming tactics – you name it. We’ve been told our kids should abandon us, and called names from bitch to whore and in between.
It mostly bounces off my thick skin now. Every now and then one still gets to me.
We’re all human and it does get you down.
Just because someone has the courage to share in a public space DOES NOT mean they deserve to be treated in an unkind manner.
In my next post, I’ll talk of the importance of self-work. This is what will help you manage other people. It’s not you, it’s them. As long as you are showing up to be the best you can with kindness and love, it doesn’t matter what they think.
And if you aren’t, well anyone can change.
If something triggers you, use it as an opportunity to dig deep and uncover why. It’s just a calling to heal something within you. Heal and move forward.
Many times, fear of what others think holds me back from sharing something that may help another. I sometimes cower when I hit send or publish, as I wait for the onslaught of criticism and judgement.
I go through such angst each time I look at myself on a video. I want to throw it in the trash because I look so old, or fat, or whatever insult I want to throw my way.
It’s a constant battle to let that go and not care. To just show up, share me and be okay if no one likes it, or they do think I’m old.
Usually, it’s just my mind fearing that and no one says anything bad.
If one person tells me it makes a difference then it’s worth the risk and I become that little more freer as I’ve not let the fear of what others think imprison me.
This shit is hard and if you don’t have tough skin don’t let that be another thing to worry about. If it hurts it shows your human. Thank you for being real.
It takes constant affirmations and pep talks for me to work up the courage to be vulnerable. I speak about the power of it in my TBEX talk.
The world NEEDS you to shine your light. So cower under the table but share it anyway.
Thankfully, I have a lot of people in my world who raise me up, including our online community.
At the moment, Rona is showing us quite clearly how interdependent we all are. Instead of damaging those threads that bind us, strengthen them.
Choose kindness over being right. Do you want to be the person that makes another feel good or feel bad?
If it’s the later what does that say about the sadness and hate living inside of you, and what could you do to possibly change that?
I do have compassion for those who spew forth the anger and hate. We’ve all been there and done it and we know usually it’s in a moment of our own suffering.
So while I have compassion, I also refuse to tolerate it in my world for myself and my loved ones.
I do have thick enough skin to mostly ignore it now as I have faith in who I am as a person. Other people’s opinion of me is none of my business.
Or as Anne with an E would say (written on Kalyra’s white board)
Another person’s opinion of me is not my responsibility.
Your responsibility is to let your light shine to raise another human up.
The other challenge when it comes to dealing with other people, is the damaging effect of comparittus.
Always looking to the person beside you and feeling less than or more important than. One leads to insecurity and devastating loss of self esteem, the other leads to arrogance and indifference.
Neither is good your psyche, the energy you put out into the world, or your ability to achieve great things.
I think more people quit because of this reason than any other.
Stay in your lane and own it.
No one does YOU like YOU. Be YOU. Compare yourself only to how you did yesterday. Use the success of others to inspire and educate you, not make you feel less than.
Only you can control that.
It’s a challenging part of the journey, but only you can control that beast. Self love and Self Worth, is your responsibility. You MATTER.
Lessons and What We’d Do Differently
Stay tuned for our next post as we celebrate 10 years of blogging. I have far too much to share to include it all in one post!
Join our VIP email tribe for all our insider tips, stories, and empowering notes.
Leave me a comment to tell me what you’d like to see us include. I had some great suggestions from Instagram stories already.
The million dollar question no one can answer right now. This is unprecedented times (April 2020) with this global health and economic crisis and currently no end in sight.
We don’t know when anyone will travel again. But we do know the travel industry is resilient. We have faith that people will travel again, that people will search for the things they used to search for.
We’ve never been one to twiddle our thumbs, waiting for questions like this to be answered for us. We’re more the type to get to work and make stuff happen.
We’ve been in this place before – where we lost everything financially and were left standing among the broken rubble of our dreams.
We rebuilt because we believed in ourselves.
Yes. This time is a little different. We have no idea what will happen over the next 12 – 18 months, but we know we are creative, resilient, passionate, and purposeful.
We’re taking this time to give birth to new ideas and passion projects.
Finally, we have time to sit down and film useful videos and start recording for an inspiring podcast.
We’re determined to continue to show you how travel can evolve with your lifestyle. So once we can travel again, we’ll be experiencing it like the majority of you – local travel, short getaways, and 4-6 week vacations.
There will be many more highs, lows and lessons for this coming decade, and despite the chaos and calamity of this moment, I am excited for the potential, possibilities and brave new world we are all about to become part of.
We hope you remain with us for the next 10 years. Tell us how we can best serve you?