We’re almost at the end of 2014 and there couldn’t be a better time for reflection on a year that has been especially eventful for me, full of unexpected decisions and life changes. In February, I quit my full time job in corporate finance and headed off to Vietnam for a month to volunteer with a wonderful organization, clear my head and think about what I really wanted to do. Talk about a quarter life crisis.
On returning home to Dubai, I resolved to put all of my efforts and focus into my blog, a labor of love that had been receiving only my leftover time (hardly any really) for most of its life and transition to a career of travel writing, something that I enjoyed working tirelessly at. For the past seven months, all of my time has been spent on making my blog a worthwhile read for an audience that enjoys reading about travel, cultures, adventures, letting go of our fears and living our own stories by getting out into the world.
As I wrote about my travels and the invaluable lessons they taught me, I realized that perhaps I had waited too long to listen to my heart and do exactly as I please, a quality that’s often under-rated. It’s a shame really, that nobody ever advises us to do exactly as we please, instead reminding us that we need to conform to society’s idea of stability and amassing materialistic possessions in the hope that these things will bring us happiness. While this may hold true for some, this year I finally learnt how to stand up and say ‘Not for me!’ and the joy of creating something, even when you don’t make a lot of money out of it. I’m happy to share that the end of this year sees me as a freelance travel writer contributing to publications other than this blog.
Fortunately for me, I found support and encouragement in my loved ones, the wonderful and welcoming community of fellow travel bloggers and most of all you, my readers. Some of you reached out to me in the last few months to share that you enjoy my writing and can relate to my stories and feelings. I am humbled by your kind words and I couldn’t be more grateful to every one of you who reads my articles on the blog or elsewhere or who voted for me in one of the contests I participated in recently.
My travels this year took me to Vietnam, a place that’s dear to my heart for the warmth of the people I met there, New Zealand, that blew me away with its drop dead gorgeous looks, Australia whose cool artistic cities I loved visiting and Turkey, a country whose historical sites hold the power to take you into a time warp, where I also celebrated my 27th birthday (yes, I just gave my age away) with the person whom I can never thank enough for his unconditional love and support. These trips were full of memorable moments and I’d like to share the most special ones with you:
1. Teaching this wonderful class of young ladies at Sapa O’Chau, Vietnam
Bidding goodbye to them was an emotional experience, with tears, notes and little presents involved.
This is hands down one of the scariest things I’ve done and I came away with a heart that no longer fears heights as much!
Kayaking here and watching colonies of fur seals was almost therapeutic.
4. Hiking in places like these:
This year was a hiker’s dream come true as I got to hike in some truly jaw dropping places!
Fox Glacier Valley, New Zealand
Great, Ocean Road, Australia
5. Sleeping in a Cave in Cappadocia
As if Cappadocia wasn’t already fairytale like, I spent the nights sleeping in a cave room at the Kelebek Cave Hotel, complete with a T.V. and a fireplace!
6. Visiting the underground city of Kaymakli and the ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey
7. Trying to get me some Dondurma in Istanbul
Dondurma or Turkish Ice Cream is even better in winter, even if you do end up looking like an idiot when trying to get one. Here’s a video of me trying to get a scoop, hope it makes you laugh! Oh, and watch out for the guy behind me, his expressions are priceless 😉
What’s next in 2015?
Just before I left for Turkey this month, I’d gotten to a point of burnout. ‘Blogger burnout’ is a term that’s being increasingly discussed in many blogging and particularly travel blogging circles and it became a term I found myself relating to. The pressure to gain more likes and followers and build networks took away my focus from the two things I love most, travel and telling stories. I began to miss the times when travel was just about the experiences and my time back home would be spent in writing about these. Here I was spending most of my time on scheduling posts across my social networks and finding ways to gain more followers. Naturally, that made me unhappier as I didn’t have enough time to write quality content as often as I liked. I was afraid I’d let you, my readers down and wouldn’t be hold to your interest and this led to many a sleepless night. I returned from Turkey, with the following resolutions that I intend to stay true to:
- Writing is No.1 on the Priority List for the blog. Organic growth on social networks is a slow process and that’s something I must accept. I will never put off writing another post just so I can spend an extra few hours to build a following on social media.
- Every month, there will be a collaborative post with other talented travel bloggers and writers, some of whom I’m lucky to call friends. I’d love to share their thoughts and stories with you.
- I plan to start a new bi-weekly photo series on the blog sharing a photo story from my travels, one post each on Sunday and Thursday every week. I hope you’ll enjoy these images as much as I enjoy taking them.
The new year will also see me putting in more hours on developing my skills at both travel writing and photography. I hope to see my writing published in higher quality online and print magazines in 2015 and I’m ready to commit to the hard work that is needed to fuel this dream. I also hope to travel a lot more in the next year and have more stories to share with you.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about the blog; things you’d like to see more or less of, things that tickle your fancy or bore you so much that they help you sleep at night 😉 There’s no way you can get me down in December and this is the best time of the year to give me your most critical feedback. If there’s something you like or would like to see on the blog, please share this with me and I’ll work on creating content that you enjoy most.
I’d also love to hear about your hopes, dreams and ambitions for the new year and any travels that are on the cards for you. Travel plans always get me excited, even if they aren’t mine! Whether it’s adventures on the road or those that result from the crazy life changes we decide to make, I’d love to know what’s making you excited or nervous for 2015.
As a parting note, I wish you the courage to follow your heart, take as many leaps of faith as you need to and chase relentlessly after your craziest dreams in the new year and the years after. Here’s to many more mind blowing adventures for all of us!
Wishing your loved ones and you a very Happy New Year!