My little blog turned ten years old today. TEN! In internet years that’s practically old age!
This was going to be a short post quickly celebrating the milestone and sharing an old bucket list.
But I got a bit emotional and instead wrote a rambling look back at the journey so far and filled it with some old photos of my (much) younger self on past travels.
At this stage, this post is probably only of interest to me – but bear with it. Since it’s my blog’s birthday I feel like I’m entitled to a little nostalgia.
I’ve also dug out an ancient “bucket list” which I wrote not long after first launching this blog. It’s reproduced here in all its adorable, naive glory – with notes and ticks (for the things I’ve actually managed to achieve).
Here’s to a decade of travel blogging. This definitely calls for cake, right?
Ten Years of Travel Blogging
Ten years ago today, just after 10pm after an evening spent working on getting things juuuust right, I took a deep breath and hit publish on the very first post on this blog.
It was about 300 words long and didn’t really say anything, except to share my general excitement about an upcoming trip to Morocco, but it was full of unedited, naive optimism.
I remember how hopeful I was back then, and how desperately I wanted to make my way into a career as a travel journalist. How I read books about “how to be a travel writer”, emailed journalists for advice (one even replied!), and entered writing competitions online.
Back then, it kind of felt like an impossible dream for a working-class girl from a small town, who’d scraped a 2:2 in a useless degree at university whilst plunging herself into thousands of pounds of credit card debt (several thousands). Who had no relevant experience or qualifications and had been working a dead-end job for the past three years with no end in sight.
Ten Years of Travel Blogging – My Journey
In March 2012 I was working on the complaints floor of a gas supplier call centre. I was swamped in credit card debt from a series of poor life choices and struggling to pay it off whilst HATING my job and dreaming of something better.
I started the blog because a friend suggested it, and it sounded like a fun way to practice writing. Never did I suspect it would become my full-time job.
In the beginning, I had no idea what I was doing. Blogging was really just a hobby. My blog posts were like little diary entries about what I’d done on my holiday (“today we got up, we had breakfast, then we got on the bus…” etc).
I used to sit at work and type blog posts in between shouty phone calls from customers who didn’t want to pay their gas bills.
My ex and I moved to London and I took a different, less terrible, call centre job. Slowly, I paid off my debts and started saving… and by 2014 we had enough to go backpacking.
A New Life of Travel
That five-month trip in South America changed my life! It certainly cemented my clearly incurable addiction to travel!
I always say that’s when the blog “started to take off”. In reality, though, it was during the months after that trip, when I refused to go back to a “real” job and instead spent all my time writing blog posts, growing my following, and trying to learn everything about a rapidly evolving industry.
It was NOT an overnight success story. I didn’t make any real money until 2015 – also the year I got my first press trips. And being able to work that hard on my blog was only made possible because my ex’s parents let us live with them rent-free (I’ll be forever grateful to them)… until he and I broke up.
In the years that followed, I slowly built this blog into a business, shaped and re-shaped that business, found new ways of making money from it, and somehow became a full-time blogger.
I’ve travelled to over 50 countries, worked as a contributor on three books, launched a second successful blog (the Dorset Travel Guide), won a few awards, bought a flat, and met some of my best friends… all through blogging.
I honestly think the only reason I was ever successful is simply that I refused to quit. That I just kept on plugging away at it, going to conferences to learn and network, reading online guides and ebooks about SEO (shout-out to the ladies behind Make Traffic Happen), and sharing ideas with other bloggers (another shout-out to my amazing WhatsApp group pals – never coulda done it without you)!
Starting this blog is 100% the best thing I ever did. So today is a VERY happy day for me. Here’s to the next ten years!
My Ten-Year Old Bucket List
While I was rooting through some of those early blog posts, I found one from my 25th birthday that year (god I’m getting old!). I’d written a “reverse bucket list” – detailing 25 things I’d done so far in life that I was proud of – as well as a list of 25 things I’d like to achieve in the future.
Discovering this post at the start of 2022 reminded me that there are still a lot of things left on my travel bucket list. So I made a list of places I’ve always wanted to visit, and things I’ve always wanted to do, and my goal this year is to do as many of them as I can.
But it’s also been nice to realise how many bucket list things I’ve managed to do already in my life – not just from this list, but from the endlessly-updating one at the back of my mind, too. And so many of them were only made possible because of this blog…
The Bucket List – annotated with updates!
- ✔ Climb Mount Fuji to watch the sunrise. DONE – and it was bloody hard work!
- ▢ Cage dive with great white sharks. Gone off this idea a bit since learning that it might not be ethical. Need to do some more research.
- ▢ Get a pet kitten. How sweet was 25 year old me that this made the bucket list?! Can’t until I stop travelling so much I guess.
Learn to scuba dive. Turns out I can’t (bad ears).
- ✔ Live abroad. Done, for short periods at a time. Turns out it’s not for me.
- ✔ Complete my TEFL course. Did it, never used it, never taught English abroad! I think TEFL is great for some people but I’m too flighty to commit to long term teaching posts!
- ▢ Skydive. Fingers crossed for this year.
- ▢ Travel to every country in the world. I’m up to 50-something, but I also don’t care about racking up the numbers anymore. I prefer revisiting places I love, and there are quite a few places I’ve less interest in, so I wouldn’t want to visit them just so I could say I’ve been.
- ▢ Ride the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Someday.
- ✔ Learn to speak another language. My Spanish is probably about as good as it’ll ever get. Managed to read Spanish Harry Potter during lockdown!
- ✔ Jump into a Mexican Cenote. Done this a few times now.
- ▢ Reach a pole. Not sure why I put this on here. I hate being cold. And I don’t even know if it’s possible.
- ▢ Watch the Northern Lights in Iceland. Went to Reykjavik in winter, didn’t see the Northern Lights. Next time.
- ✔ Trek the Inca trail. Semi-done. I opted to do the Inca Jungle Trek when I visited Macchu Picchu, which was less trekking and more adventure stuff like mountain biking and ziplining. Great fun and we did trek a little section of the Inca Trail, which is enough for now.
- ✔ Hitchhike. A few times, in Vietnam, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica (where the couple who picked me up lectured me about how dangerous hitchhiking was).
- ▢ Swim the Great Barrier Reef. STILL haven’t been to Australia. Should probably change that this year.
- ✔ Learn to drive. I FINALY DID IT!!! In my thirties.
- ✔ Take a roadtrip. Taken a few now, including my solo road trip in Alberta, Canada 6 months after passing my driving test!
- Semi-✔ Hang-glide. Not yet, but I have been paragliding twice, which I think is actually what I meant when I wrote this list!
- ▢ Wingwalk. Oooh I forgot this was on the list. I NEED TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN!
- ✔ Become a writer. I reckon I can tick this one off by now ;)
- ▢ Start a family. Still got loadsa time for that!
- ✔ Own a house. Oh HELL yeah I do. Well, it’s a flat. But it’s all mine. And it’s honestly ALL thanks to blogging.
- Semi-✔ Have a book published. Not quite yet, but I’ve worked as a contributor on 3 books now so watch this space!
- ✔ Be happy. Emphatically yes.
Quick Thank You-s
Just wanna use this spot to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has read, watched, liked, shared, commented, and supported over the years.
Special thank you to my friend Sam who gave me the idea to start a blog ten years ago, and to my amazing WhatsApp crew: Chloe, Macca, Vicky, Monica, Dan, and Janet for YEARS of support, love, and entertainment.
MOST importantly thank you to my family, especially my dad, who’s done so much for me over the years, and my mum, who gave me my love of writing and who I bet would be my biggest fan if she was still around. But generally the whole ridiculous Luxton clan. Love you guys.
WHAT a decade it’s been. And what a bloody long blog post! Was only gonna write a few paragraphs so WELL DONE if you made it this far! Scroll down to leave a comment if you did – and feel free to send cake, fizz, gifts, anniversary GIFs, etc.
Here’s to ten more years of travel memories!