12 insider secrets from my first year of travel blogging

Clumsy to confident…

Time flies when you’re having fun. Just a year back, on this day, I was a nervous wreck, biting my nails at the prospect of launching my travel blog. Its been a thrilling ride over 365 days, made sweeter with the support and encouragement of my constant, Vikas, my partner in (life-n-travel) crime, my cheerleader friends and doting family. And here I am today, dishing out 12 insider secrets as 100cobbledroads celebrates its first anniversary. How many of these can you identify with?

1. Blogging has no working hours. Only ‘waking hours’: The moment I launched my literary rocket into virtual space, my life got a brand new speedometer and gears. Brakes? Redundant. I work longer hours than I did when I was publishing my own HR magazine. See, its not ‘work’ the way you call it ‘work’. Blogging is like breakfast. Essential, everyday. And blogging is boundless, unaffected by time, space and geography. My only tool…my mind. Oh, and wifi!

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Paris

2. The brain has a bandwidth: I jumped aboard every online forum possible, started accounts on all social media platforms that could share my content and joined dozens of travel communities, until I was cross-eyed. With knitted brows. And a woozy head. Then I filtered. Deleted. Logged out. Restored sanity. Limiting my interactions with a decent, manageable social presence. Yeah, yeah, they told me so, but it could only be drilled in the hard way 🙂

3. The route goes from clumsy to confident: Last year, my  neighbour’s little boy had just started to learn how to play the flute. Suspecting where the faint strains were drifting from, when I checked with her, she said apologetically, “Hope you’re not getting disturbed, he’s a little rusty.” I was pretty rusty myself then, having just launched my blog. Learning the ropes is a process, and there are no short-cuts. No one is exempt, no matter how brilliant they are. Newbies are newbies, and they do what newbies do. There’s a generous share of ‘oops’ moments, ‘scratch-my-head’ moments and ‘how-do-I-fix-this’ moments. And then, there’s the ‘Eureka’…so it all evens out. Have started churning out book-cover quality Pinterest pins and honing my hashtags skills. Eventually.

4. For every iota of information you have, someone has a pile: Someone discovered a new travel destination (read: lesser known travel destination). Someone has a new way to explore the same destination, or new information about it, or a new perspective to describe it or a new technology to share it. Everyday I see pictures of spots in my own city that I never knew existed. Hey, which roads am I NOT driving on? Stop keeping score. Its futile.

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5. Your growth is directly proportional to your effort: I admit it. I was lured by tantalising headlines that promised recipes on ‘How to crack the code of getting a gazillion followers’. I spent hours poring over mysterious formulae and downloaded tutorials. Until I was cross-eyed again. With the same knitted brows and the woozy head. Let’s face it. Broad guidelines will only get you so far. Theory to practice, people! Make things happen. Count each opportunity you waste, and you can turn into a soothsayer yourself. Enough said.

6. Set your own rules and timelines. Why follow the crowd? Okay, I am not denying it. We all want blog traffic and we all crave followers. In multiple digits. Fast. It’s like gymming…no pain, no gain. Just knowing the rules is not enough, you have to sweat it out. So, I’m being practical for a change. I have my own pace and my own milestones. I get to define my personal parameters of success and celebrate every small victory. That is happiness!

7. Not everything in life is about commerce: So, when are you monetising your blog? That question pops up every once in a while. I will, when I am prepped and ready to offer brands what they want. Hopefully, soon. Meanwhile, I’m reminding myself constantly, that likes and comments are indicators of an engaged audience, not my life’s motto. Staying on track with my passion for writing. Never disappoints.

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Siena

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8. Your blog, your style, your way: 100 countries? 100,000 miles? All UNESCO heritage sites. Every National Park. Each island? Records are great. Numbers impress. But me, I never had a head for numbers. Mountain hiking, bungee-jumping, Disney Parks, deep sea dives. Admirable. Just doesn’t click for me. Blogging, like travel, is about who you are inside…each to his own. So, cheers to us all!

9. No one understands your journey like you do: After all, its your journey to live and experience, not theirs to understand. The first time I read this quote, a bell rang inside me. So, a friend didn’t jump with joy at my little victory. Or someone did an eye-roll when I mentioned another trip to Europe. Or they drew a blank expression when I shared that I’m a history geek. It’s all right…everyone doesn’t need to understand! Except the ones who you believe really care about your feelings. (Is that a contradiction?)

10. All in due time, all in due time: Good things come to those who wait. Focus. Focus. Quality content and distribution in relevant forums. Looking, seeing, learning. Not being pressurised by ‘well-wishers’. Waiting for it. Patience! (Not my middle name, by the way. But trying!) One year and a 20,000-strong engaged audience across social media. A few offers, some proposals, many possibilities. My first article published in a travel tabloid. (DB Post Vibe, http://m.epaper.dbpost.com/bhopal/14/06082017/2/) Getting there…

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11. Travel bloggers are a great tribe: When I started out with Instagram, someone pointed out that my account was ‘private’ and it needed to be ‘public’ to be visible. A fellow member of a travel forum messaged me with an invaluable tip to rename my blog pictures (instead of the camera serial numbers) for improved google search. Incredible. Who does that? What a feeling it is to be part of the online travel community…so deeply collaborative, mutually encouraging and supportive.

12. Blogging itself is the reward: Every time I’m drained to the core from staring at my screen without a break or bogged down with endless promotional agenda on a lazy weekend, I remind myself…this is the life I always wanted. It’s good for my soul. And that, is my intrinsic reward.

 

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100cobbledroads wins the Versatile Blogger Award

When you venture into travel blogging, they tell you its a saturated field. They caution you that its been ‘done to death’. They warn you about the challenges of ‘creating a niche’, of ‘finding your voice’, of ‘making your presence felt’. Not because they want to discourage you, but because they want to see you succeed. They have your best interests at heart. Listen to them, they have a point. But don’t listen to them, follow your heart, be yourself, and everything else will fall into place.

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Tourist, traveller…should you care?

Who you are is how you travel, so just be YOU…

Blame it more on the selective pages I’ve ‘liked’ on my Facebook and Instagram news feed, but everyone seems to be travelling these days. Athirapally Falls to Alaska, Gangotri to Galapagos and That to Tashkent, people are either going, have just been or are in the mood to go. Some more often, some longer, some farther, some to popular destinations, others where no man has gone before, some for passion, others for fun. And some for FOMO.

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