What I’ve learned after five years of blogging

The tiny notification came to my inbox rather unexpected. If I’d been in a hurry as I normally am while browsing through my WordPress Inbox perhaps it would have gone unnoticed. Yet, there it was an indistinguishable little note that said “Happy Anniversary from WordPress” next to a tiny little cake with the number 5 inside. I stopped for a moment and just stared at the screen a bit in disbelief that I’d forgotten this fact. That five years ago, as a stay-at-home mom of a four and six-year-old, I decided to take a chance. I started a blog.

I remember the feeling of utter shyness and apprehension when I wrote that first post. Would anyone even read it or my blog? Was I making a big mistake by opening myself up to the world, to strangers? Would it even be any good? Lots of self-doubt swirled around inside my head but I decided to take a leap of faith and go for it. What did I have to loose? 

Above: A gallery of some of the first photos introduced in my blog.

Fast forward five years and 1,000 posts later, I am still blogging as passionately as ever and consider my blog to be my part-time job. I may not make a dime off my blog however what I get in return with satisfaction, fulfillment, opportunity and friendship has made it one of the best decisions of my life (of course, behind getting married and having children). I love blogging and I believe that because I love what I do so much that my blog will be here to stay for a very long time.

So what is the key to longevity? Why do I continue to spend countless hours on my blog every single day, week after week, month after month and year after year? Simple. Because I am passionate about what I’m doing and believe in it. If I didn’t love blogging, I would have quit long ago.

I’ve sadly seen many of my fellow bloggers come and go. I’ve also learned many tips along the way that have worked for me and have kept me going with my blog. Here are a few of the best things I’ve learned along the way.

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Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

Breathless in Bolivia

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart. – Helen Keller

Almost a year ago today I was climbing up high into the Bolivian Andes in Condoriri Valley with my dad. It was an unforgettable trip in many regards. First and foremost, it was only six months after my father completed chemotherapy. To climb two mountains over 16,000 feet in two days is quite a remarkable recovery to say the least. I am so grateful that we were able to go on another amazing hike together. I don’t seem to have any other hiking partner as adventurous and fit as my dad. Second, for me it was proof that I could mentally and physically climb at high altitude. Landing in La Paz at one of the highest international airports in the world and then promptly driving to our base camp at 15,000 feet proved that my body could adjust and handle the thin air. It was the determining factor in my decision to climb Kilimanjaro this past July.

While I don’t have any climbing trips planned at the moment I still enjoy remembering and reflecting on my trips to the mountains. I have recently decided to revamp my Instagram account and slowly add new photos to my gallery. I feel these two pictures from my trip last November to Bolivia are right up there among my personal best. They inspire me to chase my dreams and never give up. I hope to be climbing again soon somewhere in the world.

If you believe in yourself and have dedication and pride – and never quit, you’ll be a winner. The price of victory is high but so are the rewards. – Paul Bryant

Condoriri Valley, Bolivia

This photo was taken as we were leaving our base camp in Condoriri Valley. In high season there can be hundreds of tents and climbers however we were the only ones there. It was quite cold in November dropping down to 15 degrees farenheit at night. But we had the entire place to ourselves. How lucky!

Adventure Travel Bolivia TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION Trekking/Hiking
Vanoise National Park, France

Behind the Scene: A Virtual Blog Tour

Jaime Perez of My Travelouge kindly nominated me to participate in a virtual blog tour. The challenge asks that I give readers an inside peak at my blog through the framework of answering four questions. What is my workflow process? What am I working on? How does my work differ from others of its genre? Why do I write and create what I do? I thought it was an interesting challenge that would force me to reflect on my blogging and also gain insight into how other bloggers I enjoy reading create and sculpt their blogs.

Workflow

For me, the first thing I need is inspiration. An idea. Something that makes me want to drop everything and write. Since I am a travel blogger, I usually try to organize my blog around an event or a trip. In fact, the concept of thirdeyemom all began because of a memorable trip: My hike along the Annapurna trail in Nepal in 2010. If I am not writing on a specific place, I look for inspiration and ideas through reading books, current events, photo challenges and social good campaigns. For the most part, my blog is organized around series of stories about trips I’ve made and how these experiences have impacted my life.

During a trip, I take tons of notes documenting my journey and snap as many photos as possible. I also research a destination before, during and after my trip by reading travel books, non-fiction and fiction books on the place, and I also search the internet for missing information. I soak up as much as I possibly can while I’m there and then wait until I return home to begin blogging. The most recent series I’ve written on include Ethiopia and Cuba.

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Iceland waterfall

Mantra: Never ever give up

I started the practice of yoga this week and am realizing how much I need this right now in my life to balance my body, heart and soul. Today I’m dedicating my mantra to someone I love very much. My mantra is to never ever give up.

Iceland waterfall

When life kicks and breaks us down, fight back and stay strong. The mind is a powerful thing. It is up to you to decide each and every day whether or not it will make or break you. Stay strong.

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“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any”. – Alice Walker

Iceland

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Tour de Vanoise

When Travel Becomes a Dangerous Escape

“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination or forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.” – August Wilson

Tour de Vanoise France

Like most travel bloggers, I have been completely shocked by the tragic news of the death of fellow travel blogger Anita Mac. Anita Mac, the vibrant face behind the popular travel blog Travel Destination Bucket List took her own life.

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Reflections on TBEX and the Lone Life of a Travel Blogger

The first weekend in June, I was one of 1,200 travel bloggers who packed my bags along with my tangled emotions, and headed to Toronto, Canada for the 3rd Annual TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange) conference. I had no idea what to expect and it was my first time ever attending a travel blogging conference. I went to BlogHer last summer along with 5,000 other blogging hopefuls and felt misplaced as a travel blogger among so many mommy bloggers. When I heard about a TBEX, an event exclusively for travel bloggers, I was thrilled. It was my tribe and the place for me to be. I instantly signed up with high expectations of what I’d learn, who I’d meet and the connections I’d make. My journey as a travel blogger was awash with opportunities.

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Looking down from the CN Tower in Toronto during TBEX.

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What it means to become a global advocate

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All 100+ Shot@Life Champions who left their families behind to travel to our nation’s capital in February to advocate for the millions of parents who don’t have access to life-saving vaccines.

My dear friend Jennifer Burden, mother, wife, advocate and founder of World Mom’s Blog, wrote a beautiful piece today as part of the Shot@Life’s 28 Days of Impact Campaign about her advocacy and recent trip to Uganda as part of Shot@Life delegation.

Please on link below to read her heartfelt post and learn more about the work we are doing for Shot@Life.

Click here to read: Uganda, Shot@Life, Capitol Hill, Champs & Mohammad!

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Jen in Uganda.

Jen came into my life over a year ago through my WordPress blog. As a mother of two young girls living in the suburbs of New Jersey, Jen wanted a way to open up others to  global motherhood and our shared experiences. She had searched the net over and over and found tons of blogs on motherhood yet there were no blogs at all on what it is like to be a global mother. For all mothers, no matter where you live in the world, have a special bond. We may have different lives, cultures and parenting techniques, but we are all mothers. Hence came the dream of starting World Moms Blog, a volunteer-lead blog using mothers from around the world to tell their stories and share their voices.

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Should a woman travel alone?

As a mother, blogger and avid world traveler who annually travels alone, I’ve been following the story on Sarai Sierra, the missing New York mother of two, with interest and fear. I first heard the story from my parents who sent me an email with the link and told me that it concerned them. You see, in some ways I’m like this woman. I’m a mother, a solo traveler to what some would call dangerous places and share my life with thousands of strangers through my blog and other social media outlets like Twitter, Pinterest, Google + and Instagram.

Yet, in other ways I’m different. I have been out of the country many times and whenever I do travel solo, I’m not truly alone. I am always going through a volunteer organization based in the US that organizes the entire trip for me including contacts to meet and greet me at the airport, deliver me safely to a trusted and approved host family where I stay and keep  in regular contact with me throughout my stay.

Sarai Sierra

Sarai Sierra. Photo Credit: AP

Sarai had never been out of the country before and went to Turkey alone (after her friend canceled) to practice her photography skills. She had over 3,000 followers on Instagram, many whom she communicated with on the site.

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How you can make a difference and be an armchair traveler to the 2012 Social Good Conference in NYC!

A screenshot of Mashable’s site on the Social Good Summit.
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I am thrilled to be taking my life and blog one step further in my quest to write and advocate about Social Good, by attending the upcoming 2012 Summit for Social Good being held in NYC this September!  I have heard a number of amazing things about this conference and can hardly wait to hear all the phenomenal speakers that will be talking about innovative ways to use social media to change the world.

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The Power of One Voice

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

I want to give all my readers a huge thank you for all the wonderful, supportive comments I received after my post The Color of Guatemala was Freshly Pressed.  I could not have been more humbled by the beautiful, encouraging comments I received from fellow readers and bloggers.  It was a big pleasure to read each comment and I’m in the process of responding to each and every one. So thank you, everyone! You are why I keep blogging!

What could not be more ironic, however, is the timing of my Freshly Pressed post. I wrote it hurriedly last Friday morning as I was desperately trying to get in one last post done before I left to our nation’s capital to the Results International conference on ending global poverty.

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Goodbye Guatemala!

To my friend Lucy, who showed me her world in Antigua and how to love the art of photography.  I will forever be grateful for your kindness and friendship.  May our paths meet again!

“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.”-  Flavia Weedn

I always find it hard to say goodbye to a place.  I found it especially true with Guatemala.  Over the last week I’d been as immersed as possible with the culture.  I lived with a host family, took intensive spanish courses, climbed a volcano at the crack of dawn, took my first chicken bus and learned to slow everything down and take things as they come.  All in all, you couldn’t ask for a better journey than that.

As Sunday morning came and went, I felt a sadness about leaving so soon.  I could hardly believe how much I’d done and seen in only a week.  Perhaps more than many people ever experience at all.  I honestly believe that immersing oneself as much as possible in the culture you are visiting, is the greatest reward ever when it comes to traveling.  It was no vacation, that is for sure.  Every day I rose exhausted beyond belief and wondering how I’d gather the energy to make it through another long albeit exhilarating day.  But one thing I’ve come to learn and understand about myself over the years is that this is how I like to travel.  I would do it no other way.  A vacation?  No thanks.  Sitting on the beach?  I’d be bored in two minutes.  Running around a country and trying to see and learn as much as possible in only a week with never taking a moment to sit still?  That is what I do.  That is what I crave.  And most importantly, that is what I love.

Sensational, cloudless view of Agua Volcano on Sunday morning, the day of my departure. 

I know that many people find my way of traveling absolutely crazy.  They don’t understand me one bit.

But as I always love to say and quote my parents for reminding me “The world is your oyster”.  With those encouraging, motivating words….there was no time to sit aimlessly in my room checking emails.  I had to take advantage of every moment and opportunity I got to explore, learn and see my surroundings.  For how else would I get a sense of compassion for Guatemala?  It certainly wouldn’t be gained from laying on my bed reading a book.

Adventure Travel Guatemala TRAVEL BY REGION

The big picture: Cerro de la Cruz

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” – Jack Kerouac

I woke up early Sunday morning, my last day in Antigua and in Guatemala itself, to a wonderful gift.  It was sunny.  I laid in bed rubbing my eyes as they slowly adjusted to a beam of light shining through the small, stained glass window above my door.  Other than that beam of light, the room was pitch black.

I slowly rose my tired body out of bed, gently pulled back the heavy, dark drapes and lone behold, there it was….the sun, at last!  I was overjoyed.  It was only half past six in the morning.  I could have slept another hour or so.  I certainly was tired.  My entire week in Guatemala was so intense that I was in desperate need of sleep.  Yet that beam of sun was calling my name.  It was like a beam of hope.  A sign that I would finally get to see the peaks of the three dominant volcanoes that dominate Antigua.

Finally, the clouds had lifted and gave me a gift: An entire, unobstructed view of Volcan de Agua or “Volcano of Water” the most commanding volcano, to the south of Antigua at 3766 meters/12,356 feet which dominants the colorful city of Antigua like an omnipresent God.

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