From Listicles to Storytelling: The Wrong Way to Start a Blog

From Listicles to Storytelling: The Wrong Way to Start a Blog

Hey Explorers, Remember me? I’m that girl that started a travel blog a month ago and fell off the edge of the earth for two weeks. Yea, that’s me. Hi, How ya doin’?

I have been MIA due to a few different things these past few weeks. We’ve been dealing with sickness and a parent’s hospitalization among other things. Don’t worry, everyone is now on the mend, but there is something else that I really want to share with you.

I’m sure you noticed some changes surrounding the blog. It is no longer A

Just call me Robin Hood! I discovered I was a pretty good shot at the Louisiana Renaissance Festival.

ccessible Exploration as you can see. It is now Spirited Exploration. There’s kind of a long story behind that and I would really love to share it with you. So, let’s get sappy for a minute.

About two weeks ago, I read an incredibly thought provoking article by This Battered Suitcase which led me to reevaluate my own views on writing and travel blogging and what it means to me as a new blogger who is finding her voice. In the article When Did Travel Blogging Get So Boring, Brenna discusses how she began travel blogging and how over the years the travel blogging industry has morphed into this spectacle of “become a blogger” e-courses and bikini-filled Instagram pages. Where are the stories? Where is the passion to seek the unknown instead of the passion to get the next social media like?

Without even meaning to, Brenna, along with a few other awesome people in my life, gave me the good swift kick in the rear that I so desperately needed.

Views of London from The London Eye.

See, I’ve always wanted to be a travel writer. I had this weird desire to be some sort of mutated offspring combination of Ann Curry, Anthony Bourdain, and Indiana Jones. It’s the do-all, see-all personality, I guess. I had this adventurous spirit that wanted to tell stories while seeing every inch of the planet, and maybe just maybe, leave a small mark on the world. In an insane twist of events, I went from being on the path to becoming a photojournalist to becoming a nurse, instead of being true to who I was. Don’t get me wrong, I have grown to love nursing but there was always a piece of me that wanted more. It’s incredibly hard for young girls to pursue dreams of that magnitude without going through a period of second-guessing yourself. Why did I want to be trekking through the damp, insect-infested Amazon to meet some ancient medicine man with the secret to life, or freezing my tail off in the Himalayas for the perfect shot of the reclusive snow leopard? It’s not a dream most little girls are encouraged to pursue. I do, however, blame my daddy for my obnoxious love affair with travel. He always added fuel to the fire with late night pancakes and Rick Steves marathons. Whatever the reason, I had a moment of weakness, and changed my major. I became a nurse, worked hard, fell in love, and that was all she wrote. I have always written off and on simply for enjoyment for years, but it took a trip to the Ireland and United Kingdom last year for the switch to flip.

Blarney Castle, Ireland

That trip occurred in May and from the time we got back, I began researching how to get back into my first love. Writing. How, though? Go back to college? Well, I could… Do freelance work? Who’s going to hire a writer with no experience? I wanted to write and I wanted to see the world. I would stare at a computer screen for hours. Have you ever googled, “How to be a travel writer”? Don’t do it. You’ll buy the courses. You’ll read the books. Then you’ll spend months agonizing over your “niche” because the travel writing community is so saturated you can’t possibly get into it without some special trademark.

Well, If I’m going to do something. I want to “do it right.” I did all those things. It took me from August to December just to come up with a niche and a name. I thought, “Well, I’m a nurse. I have a brother with Down Syndrome and other family members with different conditions ranging from diabetes to hereditary neuropathy. I can write about accessible travel.” Thus, I started Accessible Exploration in January. It was only February and I was already struggling to turn on the computer. I was writing from someone else’s perspective and not my own.

Where was the desire and drive, I had only a few months ago? I was writing the “listicles” and “how to tips” articles that I thought would do well by the standards of any other travel blogger who I admired. I did everything I read or was told by the “authorities” on the subject but once again, I lost myself. I wanted to be a storyteller, not some blogging machine spitting out half-loved articles left and right. Now don’t read that and think I’m bad mouthing blogging courses or anything because I couldn’t have told you what a widget was a month ago. I have learned so much from other bloggers, but you have to always retain your voice in your writing otherwise, what makes you more appealing than any other blogger with a passport? It took a fellow blogger on a Facebook group to essentially say, “where are YOU in your writing?” “We want to know about YOU.” Right after that, I read Brenna’s post. If that wasn’t a sign from God, I don’t know what is.

Waiting at the gate to get on the first flight either of us had ever been on at Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans.

I went boohooing into my husband’s office. “I want this so badly. This is my dream.” Seriously, it was that “Elle Woods eating chocolate in bed after her breakup” ugly cry. It wasn’t a good look. Without missing a beat, in true Christopher fashion he said, “Baby if this is what you want, get out of my office and go write.” You just got to love that man. The wisdom of Buddha and the eloquence of John Wayne. *sigh* He had a point, though. Instead of reading “how to write”, I should have simply been writing. It was the best advice I have received as a writer to date.

Being a new blogger brings so much uncertainty. You essentially make the decision to metaphorically stand naked in the street with your heart in your hands saying, “Here’s my soul. Hope you like it.” So here I am, pale white and needing a tan so bad it hurts, hoping you will like the direction Spirited Exploration will grow from now on. From this point, it will be an outpouring of the love of travel that I have and hope to show you. It won’t always be pretty, but it will be real. I won’t be in Fiji taking half-naked photos for likes. I’ll likely be in Paris stuffing my face instead. In fact, I’ll probably be everywhere stuffing my face if I’m honest.

Having a slice at JFK in New York.

I wasted a long time worrying about stats and algorithms. I worried that the market was overpopulated with would-be travel writers and I was just another passing through. Never again. I will simply learn, write, and grow; and hopefully, there will be a few amazing people who will love it as much as I do. Welcome to the new Spirited Exploration.

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