It’s Time For A Change

It was New Year’s Eve last night. I didn’t do much, really — certainly less than in previous years. I’m not big on this particular celebration as it is, and it’s cold here in Guanajuato at the moment. The thought of shivering in city plazas while not understanding the drunken Spanish flowing around me just wasn’t enough to drag me out of the house. Things might have been different if I’d had a warm jacket.

I didn’t have a warm jacket.

So instead, I stayed at home with Lauren. We gorged ourselves on cheese and ham, drank one bottle of wine, then another. We watched New Zealand play an epic game of cricket half a world away, one of us caring rather more than the other. As midnight struck we went up to stand on the roof, kissing in the darkness as church bells tolled nearby and fireworks exploded overhead.

And I had an epiphany.

The change of year is supposed to invoke reflection as well as hangovers. We should always be thinking about what the future looks like, but New Year’s Eve forces the issue.

It certainly forced it for me.

On Travel Blogging

Laptop, Lake Como
I’ve been a travel blogger of some kind for over four years now. That’s an age in internet time, although barely the blink of an eye for anybody else. I’ve learned all about Wordpress and web design, social media and search engines. I’ve documented my journeys through countries and life, from cubicle to beach and back again, before making the final break to travel permanently, sinking or swimming on my own merits.

In that time I’ve written somewhere north of 500 blog posts. I don’t know how many words that is, but I’d guess somewhere around half a million. Half a million words. It seems a lot when you put it like that.

I’ve had hundreds of lovely emails from people, telling me how they love what I’m doing or asking for advice, and I’ve happily replied to every one. I’ve enjoyed being able to help, and I’ve enjoyed the ego stroke that goes with it. Who wouldn’t?

In the last year or two, though, I’ve noticed my enthusiasm starting to wane. It’s a strange thing, but the more time I’ve had to write about travel, the less I’ve really wanted to do so. What the hell? I’m apparently someone who blogs about travel for a living and yet, month by month, I’ve felt my desire to do so quietly slipping away.

I think the thing that I’ve now realised that I don’t actually want to be a “professional travel blogger”. Well, that’s perhaps not entirely true. I just don’t want to do what many professional travel bloggers do. Head along to any travel blogging conference (take your pick, they’re all much the same) and — in between the free drinks, fancy canapés and schmoozing — you’ll be delivered a pretty consistent message.

To succeed, apparently, you need to be focused on “building a brand”, getting as many followers on social media as possible. Hell, buy them if you have to. When you’ve been doing that for a while, you’re told, you should then start pitching travel companies and tourism boards for free trips, and go on as many of them as possible. It’s a common refrain, both from those on stage at these conferences and in the innumerable “things I learned” blog posts that follow.

It’s Not You, It’s Me

Not knowing any better, I bought into this idea myself for a short while, before realising that it’s not who I am and it’s not why I travel. If I wanted to deliver happy corporate messages to an unsuspecting public, filling social media with hashtags and overly-enthusiastic tweets along the way, I would have got into PR or marketing. There’s a reason why I didn’t.

Others will argue until they’re blue in the face that being shuttled around from attraction to attraction, eating fancy meals and staying in expensive hotels on someone else’s dime doesn’t affect their objectivity. They’ll tell you the same thing even when they’re taking money from that same company on top of their free trip.

Personally I don’t believe a word of it, but it doesn’t really matter one way or the other. This approach might work for other people, but it doesn’t work for me. It never will.

I travel because I love to do so, because I love the freedom, excitement and fear of the unknown. I did so long before blogs were even a thing, and I’d happily continue to travel even if every single one of them — including mine — got deleted tomorrow.

So, if I’m not interested in the things that supposedly define “success” as a travel blogger, why the hell am I trying to succeed as one? It doesn’t make much sense.

Killing Babies

Mother and baby macaque
As well as all of that, though, there’s something else. The fact is that travel blogs are notoriously difficult to make a real income from. Sure, you can make a few bucks from advertising and affiliate sales, but — with a few exceptions — most individual travel blogs will never get the kind of traffic that allows those approaches to do more than cover expenses. This site is not one of the exceptions.

For some people, again, that might be fine — but for me it’s not. I didn’t chuck in a six figure job to work twice as long earning a quarter of the money doing things that don’t inspire me, no matter how good the view is while I do so.

If I’m going to spend all day writing, in other words, it needs to either be something that I’m completely passionate about, or something that is going to do more than put food on the table. Ideally it’d be both, but lately it often hasn’t really been either.

There’s a saying in the world of entrepreneurs about “killing your babies.” This unpleasant turn of phrase relates to the difficulty that founders have from walking away from their business, the emotional pain of ending something that they started, built and are so heavily invested in.

Does this baby need to be killed?

 

What Does All This Mean?

Is this the end of the blog?

I don’t think it is, but the site definitely needs a fresh focus. It needs more of a reason to exist than to simply document my movement around the world. The title of this site is What’s Dave Doing? — though from reading through my last hundred-odd posts it seems that all Dave ever does is travel.

I’m travelling full-time. When I’m not doing that, I’m thinking about travel and planning for future travels. When I’m not doing that I’m writing about travelling.

But I’m about so much more than travel.

I’m passionate about encouraging others to follow their dreams, about not giving a crap about the status quo, about breaking free from the shackles that are holding them back. I’m passionate about building businesses and doing meaningful work, about forming connections and seeking new opportunities. I love technology, innovation, business, entrepreneurship and helping others. I live for freedom and fulfillment, self-expression and joy.

Much like the corporate life I worked so hard to escape from, I’ve recently felt chained to my routine and life as a “travel blogger.” That’s not why I left my cubicle.

It’s time to unshackle myself once more.
Falling Dave

Over the coming weeks and months, you can expect to see a few changes around here. Of course, I’ll still be writing about travel — it’s too big a part of my life for me to just brush over it — but I’ll be writing about all the other things I’m passionate about as well.

I’ll be writing about the joys and struggles that come with running a business from the road. I’ll do my best to help guide you towards living a life you love, too — whether that involves travel or not. We’re all different, after all.

I’ll be writing about fitness, as I start my quest to train for and run my first marathon in 2015. I’ll be writing about friendships and connections and love and happiness. I’ll be writing about, well, whatever it is that I’m doing. That is the name of my site, after all.

Even as a full-time traveller, there’s more to talk about than full-time travel.

A lot more.

It’s time to start talking about it.

 

Many thanks to my friend Dave Ursillo, whose 2013 summary helped set me on the right path for 2014. Thanks also to Lauren, for helping get this post out of me today.

67 Responses to “It’s Time For A Change

  • How refreshing, follow your dreams man, we’ll all love reading your thoughts about whatever it is you are doing. Travel blogging is so much more than writing about what you ate for lunch and down what hidden alley. Its about life changes, momentum, lulls, inspirations, motivations and emotions. Forge ahead, excited to see what 2014 has in store for you.

    ps. What marathon you running in 2015? I ran the Phuket half this last June, would love to set my sights on a full.

    Cheers!

    • Thanks Jeff — and you’re quite right, travel blogging is about a lot more than that!

      I’m hoping to get accepted for the London marathon in 2015 — if I can’t get an entry slot there, I’ll look elsewhere in Europe during that year. I ran a couple of half’s a few years ago, but continual travel has ruined my running schedule the last couple of years. I need a big and scary goal to force me to stop somewhere and make the training happen!

  • Best of luck with whatever adventure you decide to undertake. We’ll still be here to enjoy your perspective and occasionally live vicariously through your travels. Thanks for everything so far, I look forward to whatever is next.

  • Good for you, Dave. At the end of the day, it’s your life, your story, your website. I’m sure whatever you decide to do will be awesome!

    • Thanks Amanda — and yeah, I think that was the thing that I needed to remind myself of. It’s my life and my story, and there’s a lot more to both of those things than just writing about travel.

  • And this, my friend, is why I love you. Congrats on your epiphany and heaps of awesome for you and Lauren in 2014. Hopefully, we will get to cheers to this new chapter in person! <3

    • I really hope so! It’s been too long since we shared a bottle of wine already 🙁

  • Great post, Understand your new focus completely, perfect way to start 2014 : )

  • I’m super excited for you Dave! Living life authentically is what I’m striving for too. Thanks for sharing.

  • Great post – even though I’m not a full-time traveler, I’ve struggled with the whole question of why I am blogging if I have no desire to be “successful” as so many define it. Best of luck with whatever you do next and looking forward to reading about it.

    What marathon are you training for in 2015?

    • Hey Katie — I’m hoping for the London marathon, but if I can’t get a spot for 2015, it’ll probably be somewhere else in Europe around the same time. I’ve got a big birthday coming up in September that year, and it needs to happen before that!

  • Hey Dave, I am totally with you and not been doing it as long. I escaped the cubicle for many similar reasons as you it seems. What a lot of bloggers do is a really shit job to have – so many more rewarding things to do and less compromises, like being stuck to social media and as you say, being a corporate megaphone.

    All the things ‘becoming a pro blogger’ (or a full-time blogger I usually say) teaches you on the way tho are really useful in so many other spheres. I’m glad to be on this path, but ditto, plans for a more encompassing daily existence abound. Look forward to seeing what you choose! 🙂

    • Thanks mate. Yup, there are a lot of travel bloggers out there who seem to be more about being a corporate megaphone than a traveller, and it’s been getting worse in the last year or so. As I said, that’s fine if that’s your thing, but it’s not what I’m interested in. Time for a change.

      Agree too about the value of the experience so far — I’ve learned a lot, and have been able to use those skills on other sites and in other ways as well, so it’s definitely been a worthwhile journey.

  • I appreciate this post so much! A little over a year in blogging and I am still unsure of what to categorize myself as, I have no idea what it means to brand yourself, if I had the money to go to conferences I wouldn’t be back living with my parents, and I am very aware that I have more than just travel on my mind. I don’t want to be defined by a cubicle or any other boxes. I’ve read many blogs with the same sentiment and it makes me feel a little less lost in the world of travel and blogging. Thanks for your honesty!

    • You’re welcome, Jessica! If I can give any advice from my experience so far, it would be to do one of two things with your blog: go niche on something you’re expert in, so you can appeal to a specific group of people and provide them with information they can’t get elsewhere (and give them a way to pay you for that!), or make it about you and all of the things you’re interested in, and write about all of it so that you can stay interested and motivated over the long haul and attract a wider audience.

      A blog solely about your travels falls into a middle ground that’s unlikely to satisfy your creative side or your bank balance in the long term. You can use a travel blog as a portfolio to gain paying work (both Lauren and I do a bit of that) — but you can use any other site to do that as well, so there’s still no need to restrict yourself.

  • Wow Dave, way to give me a heart attack early in the new year! I thought you were going to end this blog, which would have been a disaster for my reading habits, because I love reading what you write. Note: what you write. Whether that’s about travel or something else, it doesn’t really matter to me, because you have a way of engaging my interest, so please don’t stop writing!

    That said, I know exactly how you feel about the whole professional travel blogger business thing, which was also not for me and why my own blog has taken a distinct turn towards the casual. If it’s no longer fun, then why do it?

    Anyways, happy new year to you and Lauren, and I look forward to reading a lot more about what Dave’s doing 🙂

    • Sorry about the heart attack! 😉 I did briefly consider shutting the site down to focus on other things, but realised I still have a lot of things that I want to write about, and this is a good place to write about them.

      I really appreciate the support — you’ve been there reading my stuff since the very early days, so I’m thrilled that you’d still like to keep reading it even as I change direction for 2014. Thanks! 🙂

  • Isn’t New Year weird for making you think and reflect – and for giving you the courage to change things you know you need to change. We blog because we like blogging and have never done the freebie thing or gone to conventions and the like – not because we don’t agree with it but because, like what’s happened with you, we feel it would change how we write about things. Maybe that’s just not us. The thought of us falling out of love with blogging doesn’t bear thinking about and if we felt we had to blog to make money, that might just happen. 🙂
    Best of luck to you in your new direction and happy new year! 🙂
    Julia

    • I guess any excuse is a good one for thinking about the future, right? 😉

  • I can totally relate. As much as travel is a huge part of my life it’s not everything. There’s more to me than travel yet I rarely discuss my other passions. I can also relate to not wanting to follow the current ‘professional travel blogger’ route of press trips and marketing. That’s not how I want to travel and it’s not what I want to write about, plus it’s so, so boring! I look forward to seeing the direction you take in the coming months.

    • Yup, totally agree — writing that stuff is incredibly dull, and (for me at least) lacks credibility. If it’s boring to write, I can only imagine how dull it is to read!

  • I think about routines and ruts a fair amount. I am realizing that it is much much harder to get out of a rut than I had expected. Most of us come from some sort of corporate job where long hours (even if that just means 40 a week) are the norm. I wonder if that seeps into our lives and how we see the world when we leave them.

    I have left the corporate world 3-4 times now depending on how you count. It doesn’t really get easier to avoid going back or avoid slipping back into those patterns. Though the first step seems to recognizing that those patterns are there and trying to decide which bits are ok and which aren’t.

    I like these kinds of posts if nothing more than to see people acknowledge that there is more to their life than travel. See, I didn’t know you liked building businesses. That is pretty cool. 🙂 Good on you for looking to do something better.

    • Totally agree — I quit to travel, and then returned to the cubicle, at least half a dozen times over the years. Admittedly, up until this last time, I never quit with the expectation of never going back, but that still didn’t make it any easier.

  • Excellent post! Thankfully, I never fell into the concept that I had to do all these press trips, etc., to be a “professional blogger.” I can be one without all that other utter nonsense.

    I so hear you about doing more than just earning enough to put food on the table. It’s something I’m looking at as well, especially if we do want to do a base at some point.

    • Yeah — working hard is one thing, but pounding away at a business model for years with minimal financial success doesn’t really make much sense for me, especially spending several dozen hours a week doing it when my heart isn’t really in it and there’s no obvious upside or change on the horizon.

  • A very interesting article particularly for bloggers like me who are just starting out on the journey. Being stuck in cubicle life, blogging provides me with an essential escape from the monotonous routine of the 9-5 where every day is exactly the same and completely unmemorable. While I can appreciate that full-time blogging has its down sides, I know which I would rather be doing! Good luck with your new direction.

    • Blogging — even travel blogging — is definitely better than being stuck in a cubicle. It’s just that there are better ways to make a living, that (for me at least) are more enjoyable and provide more time travelling and trying new things / less time in front of a laptop. That’s the reason I got into this in the first place, after all.

  • Ah, yes, there it is. The moment of truth many of us have gone through before and many will go through after you. Being a ‘professional travel blogger’ doesn’t really sound too great. Don’t worry, I’m here from the future to tell you that the water is fine on this side and you’ll be great.

    • You’re right, of course — and it hasn’t sounded great for years. It’s just taken me this long to realise that the landscape has changed from when I started, and the direction the ‘industry’ is going is not one that I want to be a part of. Not to mention that there are many other interesting things to talk about as well!

  • Gillian @GlobalBookshelf
    5 years ago

    Hear, hear! 🙂

  • Great post!! Our main goal when we left our corporate jobs was to create a location independent lifestyle vs. travel forever! The blog definitely doesn’t bring back that full time salary so we’ve found our energy being put to creating other businesses around what we are passionate about (so far it’s working)! Good Luck – looking forward to following your updates!

  • Yup–I get it. Excited for ya!

  • Good luck with the new direction for WDD. Also, I never knew Lauren was such a cricket fan: I hope you earned plenty of brownie points for sitting through the game on New Year’s Eve.

    • Haha! Yeah, I kept trying to get away from the cricket but she just kept forcing me back to watch it, you know? 😉

  • Well said, Mr Dean.

    You’re also approaching the 5 year mark….and 5 years doing anything is usually the point at which an entrepreneur starts to get bored and wants to try something new.

    Happy 2014!!

    • I hadn’t thought about it like that, but you’re quite right. Whatever the reason, I guess, it’s time for a change!

  • Michelle
    5 years ago

    If your not enjoying what your doing, then change it ( I’m pretty that is what you told me a few years ago!) Well done Dave for making the change

  • Love this post, partly because I agree with a lot of the things you said re: travel blogging, but also because you put some of my thoughts about my own blog and life more eloquently than I’ve been able to in my head and that’s really helpful. I’m excited to see what you write about in 2014.

  • I lost my enthusiasm about 2 years ago. It just got too much especially when travelling to so many places that deserve their own story. So I just stopped writing. Now I pop up a post every few months and I feel good about that. Of course that means the blog has gone to shit and all the other who were just starting back then overtook me in terms of free stuff.

    But like you… Who cares? Focussing on projects that make real money, make you passionate and aren’t forced are what this lifestyle is all about. Couldn’t agree with this post more.

    • Thanks Adam! It’s all about knowing what your endgame is, I think… and my endgame is not free travel, nor 80 hours a week in a front of a laptop doing things I’m not super-excited about. Passion projects that make real money, on the other hand? Now that’s more like it!

  • Great reflection Dave and may I say awareness, especially re: “the more time I’ve had to write about travel, the less I’ve really wanted to do so.” It’s def time to take some time off from travel blogging. All the best for 2014 my friend.

  • Dave,
    It appears that you have struck a nerve with this post and I think it is because most people who are blogging feel the same way…love the travel & hate the business model. Glad you came to the realization sooner rather than later. Live your life on your terms and have a fabulous 2014.

  • Hi Dave, I am so glad our paths crossed last year. You really do have an innate sense to help others. I am still really grateful for your support and kind comments which helped me so much with moving forward with my dream (one of them…:)).
    I love the way you have written this post and I am so happy for you that you are finding more meaningful ‘paths’ to travel down 🙂 It takes a lot of courage to change your direction and I congratulate you. You will definitely still have me as a follower 🙂

    • Awww, thanks Jacqui — so pleased I could help, even in my own little way!

  • Love this. I’m looking forward to seeing the changed on What’s Dave Doing?

    I agree with everything you’ve said here and plan to change my focus too. I found I was getting bored of talking about travel, travel, travel. Travel is the biggest part of my life but there’s more to me than just travel and I think most readers want to know more than just travel so it will be nice to see some variety.

    Happy New Year!!

  • Dave my brother, this is great. I’m stoked for you. Congratulations on realigning to your purpose, vision and everything that makes you feel alive. It’s a never-ending process, and there are moments like this when we need to question what we want (after having told ourselves the same thing for so long). Here’s to 2014!

    DU

    • Thanks man — and thanks for publishing your year in review post that started this whole change. Sometimes all it takes is a little push in the right direction… and a bottle of wine. 😉

  • Nathan Agin
    5 years ago

    Great stuff, Dave. Really admire your courage to “re-claim” your life; I’ve been thinking about similar things lately (is this really the path I want to be on?) Excited to see what’s next! 🙂

    • I think a few of us are having these sorts of thoughts at the moment. Continual evaluation of what you’re doing and where you’re going is a good thing, I reckon.

  • great post! I always love reading what you have to say so im looking forward to the future articles be it about travel, life, love or looking at life, whatever it may be

  • Good luck in your new tangent Dave – I’m sure we’ll all keep listening!

  • I look forward to seeing you leap into your new direction. You have a good URL to cover anything you want to do, so the refocus won’t need a rebrand.

    I’ve also been wrestling with a similar re-focus about on my site. My problem is that the name is so tied to travel. I think I’ll have to abandon the old domain to shake the travel/digital nomad focus.

    Good luck in 2014!

    • It’s a funny thing — for the longest time I didn’t like my domain name, because it wasn’t travel-focused. Now, I’m incredibly glad that it isn’t!

  • Thanks very much, Dave. Looking forward to reading future posts.

  • It’s awesome that you realized this because I, and probably other people too, don’t come here to only read what you write about travel. In fact, when things started to get a little too travel-oriented I stopped reading for a while. You are so talented at inspiring people and your passion for doing so is so genuine… I really hope you continue to write on this site; I just wanted to let you know that if you write about what truly inspires you, I think you will still have a very eager audience. Thanks for all that you’ve given us so far!

    • Thank you!! I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who felt that things were getting dull with the travel writing. Writing about what inspires me (travel, sure, but everything else as well) is much more interesting to me, and hopefully to everyone else as well!

  • One gets tired by any job after five years. And a full-time traveller is just like any other job in that respect, especially with a blog to keep as (possible) financial income base. I’ve been travelling (“touristing”) for 30 years while having a full-time job on the side. I never tire of seeing new places this way, but I don’t think I would last many years without having a home base, doing something else for most of the year. On the other hand, the human being is extremely flexible. Gypsies have been travelling for generations and know of nothing else.

  • Good on you! I totally agree with that sort of philosophy. There are heaps of travel blogs I have completely stopped following because they have bought into the commercial travel blog delusion and completely lost the passion that they started off with. Since you aren’t making squillions from it why not make your blog about your passions rather than attempting to fit into a narrow travel blog niche, you’ll enjoy writing it more, and us readers will definitely enjoy reading it more. And no, you probably won’t make any more money, but at least you’ll be happier.

    • Yep, I’m much the same — in fact, there are very few purely travel-focused blogs that I read at all these days that aren’t written by personal friends, for that very reason.

      I think that many of the commercially focused travel bloggers (the ones that are on press trips every other week) don’t quite realise how much they alienate their long time readers by doing that. If you’ve followed someone for years because of their honest stories about independent travel, you’re unlikely to keep doing so when they start staying in high-end hotels that somebody else is paying for and then writing gushingly-uncritical “reviews” of them, right? Not to mention the ones that actually get paid (by hotels, tourism boards etc) as well as getting everything for free, and then neglect to mention that fact. Bleurgh.

      Nope, I’ll write honestly about what I’m truly passionate about, and if anything, use the site as a portfoilo to get work that actually pays. It feels like a more interesting and sustainable way of doing it, at least to me.

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