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THAT TIME I DECIDED TO ENJOY THE MOMENT INSTEAD OF SHARING IT WITH THE WORLD – Looking back at a year of blogging

That time I decided to enjoy the moment rather than sharing it with the world - Why I needed a break from blogging

We didn’t go to Tegal Wangi beach unprepared. With two backpacks full of camera’s, tripods, filters and whatnot, my friend and I were ready for the perfect sunset shot on that hidden beach in Bali. There was nobody, except for a couple having their wedding pictures taken, and we’d had to walk for over an hour and even face some angry cows to get there. It didn’t take long before I was looking for the perfect angle and trying to find an original title for the blog post. Checking the lighting and thinking about the best hashtags for Instagram.

Let’s sit down for a couple of minutes, we’re too early anyway…

Two hours of non-stop chatting later I realized it was dark. I’d hardly even seen the sunset, let alone taken a picture of it. No article, no perfect Instagram shot, nothing to show to my followers on Facebook and Twitter about what I’d been doing that day.

Then I realized I didn’t give a fuck…

That time I decided to enjoy the moment rather than sharing it with the world - Taking a break from blogging and a holiday from traveling

 

FAST REWIND TO HOW IT ALL STARTED

1st October 2015, the official launch of Lili’s Travel Plans.

Wanna know a secret? I had no idea what I was doing. Not. A. Clue. Before starting my own I hardly ever read blogs and I didn’t know any other bloggers. I knew I wanted to share my stories and maybe meet some like-minded people but I think I didn’t even suspect half of what I was in for…

So it started as a new hobby, but one I was passionate about. One that I wanted to be good at. In order to learn as fast as possible, I threw myself at it. Literally. Every free second was spend on the blog. Whether it was writing, networking, promoting on social media or keeping up with how everybody else did it, I was always busy.

The first three months, that’s what I did. And my blog sucked. Honestly. It wasn’t good.

Then I decided to STOP keeping up with how everybody else did it.

To start writing what I wanted to write about – my stories, my adventures, my journey – and use my own voice. To drop the filters and focus on the reality of travel and how it makes me feel. To stop informing people and start inspiring them instead. To figure out for myself which social media strategy worked best for me and which of my 475 Facebook groups for bloggers were most beneficial rather than follow some crap article about ‘how to gain 400k followers overnight and get rich by blogging just 10 minutes a day Monday to Thursday’.

And it worked. In the next 4 months I multiplied my blog traffic by 5 and my social media followers by 3. I was also counting followers every two days and in the morning before even opening my eyes I was already checking my stats to see how many people had visited my site overnight… 

In the third month I had a complete burnout and had to stop working but simply didn’t know how to actually stop and stand still. I HAD to keep busy, I HAD to have goals, I HAD to make myself and everybody else proud. Because that’s what I’d been doing for the last 10 years. Because I simply had no idea how not to… Because I knew reality was gonna hit me like a bomb as soon as I would stop and I had no idea how to handle it. Blogging became my new focus, it was the perfect distraction.

By the end of month 4 I think it’s safe to say I’d become a blogging nut job!

That time I decided to enjoy the moment rather than sharing it with the world - Taking a break from blogging and a holiday from traveling

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INDONESIA ON A WHIM

Skyscanner – everywhere, part 2.

I was 2 months into my sick leave, it had been a few weeks since my first solo trip to Cinque Terre and I needed another one, a longer one this time. In my search for one of those I-can’t-believe-how-cheap-this-is tickets to somewhere in Europe, suddenly there it was… the I-can’t-believe-how-cheap-this-is ticket to Jakarta. Everybody knows Jakarta is in Europe, right? Right? Guys?! A few clicks later I had booked it, and 2 weeks later I was off on my first real solo adventure in Indonesia.

I’d made plans, and I even had a list of things I definitely didn’t want to miss. It got shorter with every step I took… I was exhausted. From the 40 hours’ journey to get there (you can have cheap or short, but rarely both at the same time…) followed by a 10 hours’ train ride in a third class train, and what I think was my first jetlag ever – I tried to sleep for days after my arrival but I just couldn’t.

But even more so from stuff… From checking my Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, blog stats every morning before my eyes were even fully open and from planning my trip around my online presence. From not knowing what to do next and the feeling of turning in circles. From telling myself I needed at least some kind of life plan and putting way too much pressure on myself. From trying to always stay busy, aiming to do it all and not even having time to breath anymore. From constantly searching for the perfect shot and the most inspiring story instead of enjoying the moment. From missing out. On fun, on friends, on laughter and tears, … on life…

I realized what I needed wasn’t to travel or to add as many things as possible to my been-there-done-that-list. It wasn’t 20.000 extra social media followers or blog readers. What I needed right then was to slow down and take time off. From everything. There was no way around it anymore…

I spent days doing NOTHING. It was the best feeling I’d had in a long time.

Reality didn’t scare me anymore and I was finally ready to make some decisions. Shortly after coming home I ended my relationship of 8,5 years and put my house up for sale. It was time for a new start and this was the only way that was possible.

That time I decided to enjoy the moment rather than sharing it with the world - Taking a break from blogging and a holiday from traveling

 

ROAD TRIPS ARE THE BEST TRIPS

A burnout? But then how come you’re laughing?”

I’ve heard it about 700 times, ever since day one. Apparently you need to actually look miserable for people to believe you’re not doing that great… Apparently, as soon as you’ve had 2 good nights of sleep, you’re considered good to go again.

Let me tell you MY version…

I have a burnout. I’m not ill and I don’t suffer from depression or any other mental or physical condition. Yes, I’m still able to smile. Yes, I still think life is worth living. No, I’m not crying all day every day. I’m not ready to jump in front of a train as soon as you turn your back and I don’t spend my days in bed, hiding. For sure, I’ve waited too long to admit certain situations in my life simply didn’t work for me anymore, but now that I did, I also just want to feel better. How am I supposed to do that if I have to spend my days acting miserable? 

A burnout doesn’t end where fun starts again. It isn’t over as soon as you manage to sleep again or simply don’t feel bad 100% of the time anymore. Being able to have a laugh from time to time doesn’t mean that you’ve got your whole life figured out. Realizing there can be another focus than the one you’ve imposed on yourself for so long is only the start. It’s only the beginning of learning to live your life differently and seeing the amazing effects it has on you.

So in the Balkans I smiled. Hell I even laughed my ass off. And I realized I hadn’t had fun like that in a long time. It made me happy and sad at the same time, but it was enough to convince me I had made the right choice.

That time I decided to enjoy the moment rather than sharing it with the world - Taking a break from blogging and a holiday from traveling

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AND THEN SUDDENLY, I FELT LIKE BLOGGING AGAIN

In those 3,5 months between May and mid-August I have to admit I did NOTHING for my blog. I published a grand total of 3 blog posts in 3 months, buffered up some tweets and pins when I felt like it and that was basically it.

And you know what? My blog traffic DIDN’T suddenly drop to zero. My social media channels kept on growing at almost the same speed as before. Sure, I lost a few monthly visitors, but I definitely realized that all those hours of work put into social media might just have been unnecessary… I realized it was perfectly doable with a lot less effort and stress. My cut-the-crap blogging and social media schedule was born.

A few days later my desire to write came back.

In September my blog traffic went up with 42% again. With not even half the effort I did before… And I was able to just relax about it again. To actually enjoy it. Once the pressure was gone, blogging had become fun again. 

That time I decided to enjoy the moment rather than sharing it with the world - Taking a break from blogging and a holiday from traveling

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WHAT’S UP NEXT

Honestly? I’m still figuring it out. Besides the personal part, there’s a part concerning my work that I won’t be discussing here and for which I don’t have all the answers. All I know is that from now on I’ll be focusing on living the best life possible. On using happiness as a starting point, not what I ‘need’ to do or what society’s expecting. On experiences and adventures, not belongings and job promotions.

So for the personal part and the part considering the blog, I know where I’m headed. All it took was time, dear friends and a couple of trips. And suddenly it came back. The ability to forget about everything, be careless and just feel happy. The inspiration to write and the urge to capture all that beauty. The energy to share my stories and not seeing it as a burden or an obligation anymore. So of course I’m continuing this blog! But maybe a bit differently. I won’t be stressing over page views and follower numbers anymore, I probably won’t be posting twice or three times a week, and I definitely won’t be writing just because ‘I have to’. I’ll write when I have a story to tell. I’ll take pictures when something moves me. And I’ll put my pen and camera away whenever I feel like just enjoying the moment…

Don’t get me wrong, this is not an article about ‘if you want to enjoy the moment, you can’t take a single photo of it’. It’s not about ‘how blogging has ruined travel for me’. It’s not and it hasn’t. They’ve both helped me to see things differently. To appreciate things more. To see new angles and to not only look at the main subject but also notice and fully take in its surroundings and all those tiny details I wouldn’t even have noticed before. Most of the time I don’t need to think for hours about how I’m going to turn an experience into a story, I just need to open my eyes and wait for the story to write itself.

But there’s moments I need to forget about sharing my whole life with the world and just think about me. There’s stories that I just want to keep to myself… I think we’re all entitled to having those little moments – or even more, I think we NEED to have those little moments for ourselves – but in times where things seem to never have really happened unless we post them on some kind of social media for the world to follow along, we tend to forget about that a bit too often…

We tend to forget that sometimes, we are allowed to just have a moment – or a whole week or month or even 3 or 4 – to ourselves without telling everybody everything about it. That sometimes we are allowed to take a break in order to have fun and get our lives sorted out when we need to. That no job or hobby should take up 100% of our time, leaving us no space for ourselves anymore. 

Sometimes perfect sunsets on hidden Balinese beaches aren’t made for taking hundreds of pictures of them… sometimes they’re just made for great fun and long talks with dear friends…

Here’s to new beginnings and happiness! I’m excited to see what year 2 of Lili’s travel plans has to bring. It’s been a hell of a ride so far and I’m sure it’s only gonna get better!

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To all you guys who read my blog, thanks for sticking around while I took my little break from blogging, and for your lovely messages over the past couple of months. To my dearest friends and family – you know who you are – THANK YOU! I don’t know what I would have done without you…

d

Photo credits: Header, pictures 1 and 3: Dan Flying Solo / Pictures 2 and 5: Jones Around the World

That time I decided to enjoy the moment instead of sharing it with the world - Looking back at a year of blogging.That time I decided to enjoy the moment instead of sharing it with the world - Looking back at a year of blogging.That time I decided to enjoy the moment instead of sharing it with the world - Looking back at a year of blogging.

That time I decided to enjoy the moment rather than sharing it with the world – Taking a break from blogging and a holiday from traveling

Leave a Comment

  • Andi 2nd October 2016, 5:00 pm

    Great post! Loved the “….just need to open my eyes and wait for the story to write itself.” I think I’ve been feeling that same pressure you described, totally obsessed and focused. This weekend I stepped away and I think it’s healthy. Balance is necessary but sometimes difficult to find. Welcome back!

    Reply
    • lilistravelplans 7th October 2016, 11:00 am

      Hi Andi, thanks for your lovely comment! Stepping away from time to time is always good, and I think we kinda always know when it’s time to do so, but we should probably listen a bit better to our own bodies and minds 🙂 I’m guilty of this too, I let it go way too far and then it becomes indeed difficult to find that balance again. But I was lucky I could take some time off from everything and and fully ready for another year of blogging now! 🙂

      Reply
  • Shelly 3rd October 2016, 3:24 pm

    Great article hon! We’ve also been feeling the same way. I no longer participate in every FB group share post and surprise surprise, our views are still on the rise. In fact Sept was our best month ever. Good on you for writing about this topic as not many bloggers do.

    Reply
    • lilistravelplans 7th October 2016, 10:56 am

      Thanks dear! 🙂 Indeed there’s lots of things like sharing and commenting groups that seem useful at first but then when you stop doing them, you realize that actually they aren’t. I think it’s also about what you want to focus on. I focus on ‘real’ traffic and ‘forced’ comments from other bloggers just doesn’t fall into that category… Also, yay on your stats, keep up the good work!!

      Reply
  • Sibylle 3rd October 2016, 8:20 pm

    Thank you for sharing! This is how I have felt the last 5 months being on my big trip – the constant pressure to share and take pictures can take the joy of the moment! It’s good to know that someone has felt the exact same way!
    All the best for the future,
    Sibylle

    Reply
    • lilistravelplans 7th October 2016, 10:54 am

      Hi Sibylle, I’m glad you can relate! I guess it all comes down to making choices – and of course if you want to turn a blog into a business then it becomes an actual job and there will be some kind of pressure – but no matter what it shouldn’t start dictating every second of our lives! I know it’s difficult because we work hard to build our following and then we’re afraid to loose it again if we take some time off, but sometimes you just have to put yourself and your health and wellbeing first!! I wish you all the best too!! Liesbeth

      Reply
  • Catia @ A Pulgarita 5th October 2016, 8:56 pm

    Wow! Congrats! I felt really touched by reading this. You were so honest and even though my blog is starting out and sometimes I feel it is not going well I feel some of your pain of trying to write because you “must” to. Somedays I go without putting anything on social media because I’m just too busy with a side of my life I don’t want to let go of. I wish you the best of luck with your new decisions and may your second year of blogging bring you happiness!

    Reply
    • lilistravelplans 7th October 2016, 10:48 am

      Thank you so much Catia! I think we’re all very busy, either combining a full-time job or full-time travels with a travel blog and sometimes it becomes more about what HAS to be done rather than actually enjoying it. It’s too bad because it makes us miss out on a lot of good moments!

      Reply
  • Ria @lifeinbigtent 29th October 2016, 6:10 am

    I feel the same right now! So many thoughts and things what I want to do and sometimes even don’t know where to start 🙂 When all social media accounts takes more time that writing new blog post sometimes really annoying 😀 But I concentrated now on finding out what I want to do next and then I hope it will help me to keep my path and avoid all those gaps that I have in blogging 🙂

    Reply
  • Adam 3rd December 2016, 9:56 am

    I love your honesty in your writing… I’ve started so many projects in my life where I’ve gotten so carried away by doing them, that I burn-out because I stop having fun and enjoying them for what they are. It’s hard to balance finding the joy in something, and developing some level of competency to make it. But I think when you let go out of the outcome, and just enjoy it for what is, you naturally shine.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  • Katie Featherstone 3rd January 2017, 11:03 am

    This is wonderful, thank-you. It’s amazing how much pressure bloggers can put on themselves. I think I’m a bit lazy, but it still works me up some times! Good luck!

    Reply
  • Mei 24th January 2017, 11:07 am

    Wow! What an honest and fun-to-read post! Congratulations Lili for NOT doing what so many other bloggers do! I’ve been browsing through tons of travel blog posts all morning and this is the first one that actually captured my attention right to the last word. And you are absolutely right with “no job or hobby should take up 100% of our time, leaving us no space for ourselves anymore.” We used to blog on OpenUpNow.net (for 3 years), but then last year due to some serious technical problems of our hosting service, we lost everything. It was a disaster for us: we spent every minute we had on trying to “repair” it, and trying not to lose our followers by staying super active on social media platforms. But at a certain point it made us crazy and we decided to STOP. During a couple of months we took time for ourselves, we traveled and enjoyed not having to take pics or immediately post them on Instagram, nor blogging about those new destinations. We then took a few months to create a completely new travel blog from scratch with a new hosting service, a new title, new posts, and a new concept. And from now on we’ll blog whenever we really have a story to tell! And to hell with Facebook group threads, and must-do posts! 🙂

    Reply