They grow up so fast sometimes, don’t they? Lost Boy Memoirs has officially turned 1 year old, and after a year that was light on travel, huge on mis-adventure, and slow on stories, there are big things to come in 2016!
Welcome to the first ever State of the Blog Address! Since the blog has just turned 1 year old, I wanted to look back on how 2015 went, while sharing some blogger woes I need to overcome, and what to look forward to in 2016.
Lost Boy Memoirs launched at the end of January 2015, and though I’ve been travel blogging now for 4 years on and off, I’ve learned a lot this year. During my second trip to Haiti in December 2014, the desire to run a travel blog again popped into my mind.
It had been almost a year since I wrote on my previous blog, Just Chuckin’ it, and I had all but given up travel blogging while back in the United States working and saving. Just Chuckin’ it was my first foray into travel blogging and I had run it on and off since 2011, but over time I became increasingly burned out, and unfortunately was investing more time into waiting tables than writing.
Flash forward to the end of 2014 and my trip to Haiti and I began falling back in love with travel blogging. And especially video blogging. Even though I had kept up with Instagram and Facebook posts about travel, and had dived head first into Vine which hit 2 million views in Haiti, I was a bit lost as to what I wanted my travel blog and my traveling in general to be about.
My previous blog was started as a way to share my adventures and create inspiration for others, but eventually I became obsessed with statistics and schemes to make money on ads and only writing sponsored articles. As well as measuring my blog against successful ones. That’s never a good combination. What I so loved about travel blogging had become tainted, and since it wasn’t fulfilling any more in the creative purity, of course I wouldn’t do it in my free time. I all but gave up.
Of course Haiti can change that, because I always become inspired while I’m there.
I was ready to hop back on the saddle and share more stories, but I needed a fresh start. After exploring Haiti for 10 days and being around mountains and waterfalls and beaches and the rich Haitian culture, I knew what my blog had to be — pure, natural, inspired, honest, and personal. So I began thinking of a new name, and as always with my graphic-obsessed mind was tinkering with a new design.
Just before Haiti, I had started my book which has been a work in progress since, but it is a memoir of the events from my childhood to adulthood, tracing through a history of a violent and broken home, alcoholism, and depression — to eventually building a purposeful and positive lifestyle. The book was originally called “Memoirs of a Lost Boy” so I thought I’d roll with it and continue the theme here.
So, Memoirs of a Lost Boy was born! As is the theme of the book, this blog was started to not only tell travel stories and adventures from current travels, but to dive back into my past as I still wrestle with overcoming certain parts of it, as well as the intense personal and emotional journeys that you experience while traveling. I wanted this blog to be different, one that not only shares with you the incredible sights from around the world, but is also a true insight into how I feel about places I go and snuggles I have coping with certain aspects.
Little did I know, these memoirs would have a really profound connection with many readers, which was so humbling and fulfilling. Therapy and counseling never worked for me growing up, but writing for me has been the best form of dealing with personal demons. It also helped to empower me and lead me toward a more positive path.
As I told these stories of my past, like moments where I felt that everything in my life was lost and had no meaning, or present stories of how I’m still haunted by the effects of holidays especially when I’m alone, you all spoke out and shared your struggles too. That makes everything worthwhile. And together through comments we help each other out.
I thank you — my friends, readers, dreamers, fellow adventurers, and rebel rousers for coming along this journey with and joining the tribe of Lost Ones. Not all who are lost need to be found.
<< Struggles & Lessons >>
This year was one where I learned a lot about travel blogging, freelancing, and mis-steps that I’ve taken past and present. For those who have a travel blog, you know that running a travel blog that you want to turn into a sustainable income isn’t easy. It’s not just taking a few photos and posting it, but nearly a 24 hour a day gig where you have to think about timing of posts, trends, SEO, analytics, audience, and more.
That part isn’t fun, but it’s necessary.
To have what some might consider a “successful” travel blog, it becomes less about the actual writings oddly enough, and more about becoming a social media expert and marketing expert. You have to be omnipresent on every social media outlet because your influence is measured by such if a company wants to work with you.
And that bit always frazzles me.
For a good part of this year, I allowed myself to get distracted most of the time by browsing and posting on these social media outlets instead of maturing my writing, building a consistent habit of writing, and focusing more on creating videos. You have to have a balance with it all, and that was my first struggle.
My second struggle, and one that I’ve always had, is staying consistent.
Consistency is one of the most important aspects when turning a creative endeavor like writing into a career. You have to build a habit of doing it every day, pushing forward, not letting anything get in the way. Since 2011, unfortunately the only consistent thing about my travel blogs have been the inconsistency in posting.
I’ll have a couple of great months where I post every couple of days, and then for some reason I disappear for a couple. Given that I write more short stories and memoirs and not stumble-centric or buzzfeed-tastic posts about best beaches and the like, when I don’t post new content my stats tank. Though I grew out of the obsession over statistics, the growth is still important if I want to have a career in this.
Much of this is due to my sporadic stints in travel and work.
Since I have yet to find a way to travel full-time while making income remotely, I make money to travel the same way I’ve always made money — waiting tables. If you’ve ever been a waiter/waitress, you know how mentally and physically taxing this kind of work is. At the end of a 16-hour shift you just want to go to sleep. As much as I try to write while working, those long hours spent waiting tables drains any creative energy I have.
So during that time, I see the momentum that I’ve gained writing dissipate, and it’s demoralizing. That’s when I start questioning whether or not travel and writing can be a full-time reality or will I always return to waiting tables. In the end, I always have because I lose the traction I’ve gained by doing just that. What a terrible duality that is.
The third struggle is keeping present with the adventures.
When you’re traveling from one place to another and taking in all the experiences and sights and culture, you have so many stories to tell. So many, in fact, that you begin to not be able to keep up with posting all the stories as more are made. And at least for me, I’ve struggled to keep up with posting about trips as they happen or soon after, and after a few weeks I begin to worry about which story I should tell. So I write about a past one usually to play catch up, but then get further and further behind present stories. I have 4 years and 18 different countries of stories to tell, but most I haven’t.
I need to get over this, and lately I have been revisiting old stories while telling new ones.
Things I need to do to overcome these hurdles:
1. Create a balance between writing and social media.
2. Stay consistent with posting articles, and other aspects like newsletters.
3. Tell current stories as they happen, and revisit old stories as well.
<< Lost Boy Memoirs 2.0 >>
If you’re a regular visitor to this blog, you may have noticed a few changes to the layout and design. When I first started this blog in January 2015, I let my artistic ideas flourish in every aspect. Post photos were Polaroids, and most headers and footers and sidebar graphics were collage style. I loved and, and many of you did too.
But as I obsessed over the look of things, the blog began to look too busy. Even when I’d read over an article, my eyes were distracted by some of the graphics. The Polaroid idea was cool, but by making every photo like an old-school polaroid, I was actually degrading the quality of the image. You could barely see the beautiful landscapes or fascinating architecture in most because of the faded or scratched or flared filters.
So I’ve taken it upon myself to clean things up a bit, make it a little more minimalistic, and changed the design around to make it easier to find things on the blog. Overall, I’ve decided on a consistent design and posting ethos to mimic my desire to make the content more consistent as well. It’s still an on-going process but let me know what changes and features you like.
<< Blog Changes >>
New Logo: I’ve changed the Lost Boy Memoirs logo around a bit, now to something more geometrical instead of hand-drawn.
New Colors: Before, the main color for headers and links was red, but it’s a bit distracting on the blog. I chose this turquoise-like color for the main color scheme because it’s always been one of my favorite colors, and to me resembles the ocean on the horizon. Turquoise, if you believe in energy and such, is a stone known for protection against bad luck and evil, and a stone I’ve always loved.
New Fonts: I’ve changed the font in articles to Lato, something a bit easier on the eyes, as well as changed the header fonts from hand-drawn scribble, to something cleaner. My favorite is the font I use on occasion you’ll see around the blog called “Nimoy“. The hand-writing font looked cool but it was a bit hard to read, this new one I use only a little. Here it is in it’s geometric glory.
New Homepage Layout: When you originally visited the homepage, it was just the 10 most recent articles, but discovering other past articles was a bit difficult. So I decided to add grids for things like favorite articles and best travel videos to make it easier to explore and get to know me. Some inspirations for this clean grid look were Dangerous Business and That Backpacker.
New Travel Maps: Ever since I began blogging, I’ve always been obsessed with maps. And one of the things I’ve always done was create either hand-drawn maps or collages to show where I’ve been. I’ve always wanted to create interactive maps too, and used to use ThingLink to do this. But it was branded and clunky. Now that blogs are getting more feature-rich, this ability is now possible. After seeing the interactive maps on Be My Travel Muse and Getting Stamped, I fell in love with that feature and started doing research on interactive maps. Besides the homepage map which allows you to click on a country, I’ll be using these in guides as well.
New Travel Guides: For the past year I’ve been thinking about starting guides. With all of the experiences I’ve had, it’s a given I want to pass on information and help you if I can. Now I’ve begun developing how these guides will look like and work. Besides summaries about my time there, I’ll be providing basic information and quick tips to get you familiar with the country, and sharing articles that are related to the country. I’ve only completed the United States (and not even the map part) but check out my United States Travel Guide for a feel. Some of my layout and design for these guides were inspired by Kristin at Be My Travel Muse and Keep Calm and Travel.
New Article Ethos: For the sake of consistency and minimizing the distractions, I’ve taken away a lot of the sidebar elements in articles, or made them retractable. Also, I eliminated the massive collage header you see on the homepage — I love that graphic, but for articles I wanted you to get right into the reading. I also now upload larger and cleaner travel photos. Gone are the Polaroids for beautiful and vibrant images. Some of these article ethos were inspired by some of my favorite travel blogs like Anglo Italian Follow Us, because I loved the flow of their articles with the enlarged summary and sub-headers.
<< What’s to Come >>
I’m proud to be different. Though some of the longer 5,000 word short stories or memoirs don’t get as many views as say, a photo essay about a treehouse hotel in Haiti, the effect it has on myself and others is worthwhile. And I’m making a promise to keep the blog not just a representation of places through sight, but also through all of the other senses and the emotions felt on these journeys.
Keeping this travel blog about the short stories and memoirs will continue, but I’ll also be posting different content as well. This year I’ll be doing many more destination guides from places I’ve been, but also doing more photo essays and travel videos. Sometimes you need quick inspiration, or something awe-inspiring to quickly digest instead of a long and detailed read. I have 4 years of travel photos and videos, which some have never seen the light outside of the hard drive.
<< Win A Prize >>
As a thank you to all who read the blog, I want to give you the opportunity to win an awesome prize. Courtney over at Speechlust, sent me a pendant which had the word “Fernweh” on it. This word, which in German means “Farsickness, or a longing for a place you’ve never been” is tattooed on my wrist and is the reason I travel. So, I’m also giving you the chance to win one of these as well!
Follow them on Instagram @Speechlust to see more!
How to win: Comment below and tell me which article/photo essay/video was your favorite last year, and what you would like to see more of. That’s all! I’ll announce the winner mid-February.
<< Blog Stats >>
Though I mentioned I try to stay away from statistics obsession for this blog, here are my stats for last year which show the trend of rises and falls in viewership based on my consistency struggles. But this year has started off with a bang, because January I had more than a third of last years views in one month! You can see when I first began the blog, February and March grew, but then when I was on the Rickshaw Run and struggled with health issues the following months, viewership tanked.
This tells me that posting more often, even the memoirs and short stories, is one of the main ways I can grow this blog going forward. Hopefully that will bring awesome opportunities to work with great companies, help fund my travels, and allow me to go to more countries this year to show you more!
Instagram: Almost 4,000 (follow me @LostBoyMemoirs)
Facebook: 2,100 (Like it HERE)
Twitter: 4,900 (follow me @LostBoyMemoirs)
Vine: 3,000 followers/ 3.2 Million Views
Youtube: 400 (Subscribe HERE)
<< Ending Note >>
I want to thank you all again for coming along this journey and sticking around through all the bumps and lulls as I experienced a lot of bumps and bruises this year. It means a lot when you comment and share your opinions or own stories, and I’m grateful that I can connect and share with so many of you around the world. This year, I’m excited to sharpen my focus, get into better writing habits, and for the upcoming adventures in 2016!
Make sure to check back this week because I’ll be revealing my upcoming travel plans which are packed with awesomeness, and subscribe to my travel newsletter that I’ll be starting again this week.
Thank you Lost Ones,