Reflections on 2014 and What’s Next in the New Year

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   

With my lovely class in Sapa, Vietnam

With my lovely class in Sapa, Vietnam

Bidding goodbye to them was an emotional experience, with tears, notes and little presents involved.

2. Paragliding in Queenstown, New Zealand

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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!

3. Kayaking in the Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

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Fur seals

Fur seals

Split Apple Rock

Split Apple Rock

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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

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Sapa, Vietnam

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Great, Ocean Road, Australia

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Cappadocia, Turkey

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5. Sleeping in a Cave in Cappadocia

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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

Kaymakli

Kaymakli

Ephesus

Ephesus

 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 😉

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!

Best,

Natasha

 

At the Galata Tower in Istanbul

At the Galata Tower in Istanbul

16 Comments

  • Inspiring words. Amazing to know that you’ve found a way to follow your passion! I quit a year ago to see more of his magical country & it has been blissful. Have just started blogging about it, straight from the heart.
    Best, Shubham :))
    Shubham Mansingka recently posted…Soul searching in RishikeshMy Profile

  • You write exceptionally well, Natasha, and with passion and soul. I’m sure the new year will see many of your dreams turning into reality. 🙂 Awesome as your 2014 looks, here’s hoping 2015 would be awesomer! I look forward to following your stories here.

  • It’s really depresing state of affairs that we realize our passions and love (if at all!) very later, till then it’s only about following the herd. Glad that you found your premonition, and I’m happy to have stumbled across your blog. Keep traveling, keep writing. Cheers! 🙂
    Jatin Adlakha recently posted…Flashback 2014 – In Love with IndiaMy Profile

  • Em says:

    Awesome post Natasha. I know exactly how you feel! I’m currently planning on heading to New Zealand next year and loved reading about your trip. I’m hoping on getting a few more trips lined up. I’ve also noticed that I’ve speant too much time on trying to gain following and as a result I’m not always able to write as often as I like. I promise to change this next year 🙂 its great to hear I’m not the only newbie blogger looking forward to getting back into enjoying writing and photography. Keep up the good work! Happy new year to you, all the best for 2015 🙂
    Em recently posted…Brugges Christmas MarketsMy Profile

  • Beautiful posts and I am jealous of your travels! I wish all your goals and dreams come true in 2015.
    Grace @ Sandier Pastures recently posted…Pristine is elevenMy Profile

  • Maria says:

    Keep up the good work, Natasha! I now find myself doing the same – obsessing with numbers, but I see now I am not the only one. As Jazza said, the numbers do really matter, but after all we started blogging because we enjoy wriitng and in our case – travelling, and we shouldn’t back away.
    I wish the New Year to bring you even more success and positive outcomes! Great pictures! I am going to make Collaborative posts every month as well, we should exchange ideas! I will look forward to see yours!
    Happy New Year,
    Maria
    Maria recently posted…My Top 10 Favourite Rising Travel Blogs of 2014My Profile

    • thebohochica says:

      Absolutely Maria! It’s easy to get caught up in numbers and lose sight of what really matters most. It’s important to keep the focus on the right things.
      Here’s to a successful 2015!

  • Emily Ray says:

    Ahh, the bloggers burnout – I know this oh too well! If it’s any consolation, I absolutely love your blog and can’t wait to follow you on all your travels in 2015 and beyond 🙂 x
    Emily Ray recently posted…Old School Glamour at London’s Reform Social & GrillMy Profile

  • What an incredible year for you, Natasha – And great photos, as always! Very interesting to read you have also felt the “bloggers burnout”. If it is any consolation, your writing is beautifully articulated and your images add layers of emphasis to all your stories. I agree you should focus more energy on writing, as opposed to increasing your social media following. Unfortunately for us bloggers, numbers seemingly equal success. To me, this is a false indicator as you can see across the internet that some of the most popular bloggers don’t hold their ground when it comes to writing and photography as many others (such as yourself) out there do. It is more important to have X number of FB fans and write SEO friendly articles instead of letting your voice and soul seep through into your storytelling. This is such a shame.

    Keep up the good work, Natasha. You are meant to be successful in this. I can feel it. Happy travels for 2015!
    Jazza – NOMADasaurus recently posted…Extinguishing Our Travel BurnoutMy Profile

    • thebohochica says:

      Thank you for your encouraging words as always Jazza! I’m hoping to reach greater milestones in 2015 while staying true to my beliefs.
      Happy Travels to Lesh and you!

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