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30 Things I've Learned after 3 Years of Travel Blogging

30 Things I've Learned after 3 Years of Travel Blogging | CosmosMariners.com

Unlike many bloggers, I don't have a hard and fast blog birthday. I've been blogging (sometimes seriously, sometimes not so much) since September 2010, I rebranded in December 2013, and refocused in May 2014. Given those options, I usually pick May 2014 as the moment that everything changed for me since that's when I went on my first press trip, fell in love with the world of travel blogging, and decided to focus solely on travel.

Since then, I've had plenty of ups and more than my fair share of downs. I've walked away from the blog twice (once for more than 4 months). I've stressed myself out instead of focusing on the positive. I've compared myself to other travel bloggers and felt this small when I didn't measure up.

Three years into this journey, I still learn a little more every day. Yet, I have gained some valuable lessons in the process: here are the 30 things I've learned after 3 years of being a travel blogger.

Monthly Blog Goals: November 2016

Monthly Blog Goals: November 2016 | CosmosMariners.com

October's Goals: A Recap

I went into October with some huge goals and the need to get as much blog love in as possible before baby #2 makes his arrival on or before the 11th of this month.

How did I do? Let's see!

How to Come Back in a Big Way after a Blogging Break

How to Come Back in a Big Way after a Blogging Break | CosmosMariners.com

Blogging breaks are essential from time to time. Sometimes, you'll have a big moment in life you want to focus on (like a wedding, honeymoon, or birth), while other times blogging breaks just happen when life speeds along faster than you can keep up.

As someone who took a much-longer-than-was-prudent blogging break earlier this year, I am in the midst of cranking my blog back up. Thanks to a combination of my daughter's preschool letting out, early pregnancy woes, and general blog burnout, I stopped working on the blog back in May and left it to its own devices until about 6 weeks ago. (Oops!)

Monthly Blog Goals: October 2016

Monthly Blog Goals: October 2016 | CosmosMariners.com

While the months-long blog break that I inadvertently took this summer was nice, I'm now remembering why it's often a good thing to push through those times when you want to quit blogging. 

Over the last month that I've been at blogging again, I've felt as if I'm running in slow motion as I try to get this thing (and all of its associated social media) going again. Although my blog was on autopilot for a while, I can see where my pageviews and reader interaction dropped (and understandably!), and it's tough not to obsess over the numbers. I know they're going to go back up, but I have to restrain myself from checking Google Analytics multiple times a day. 

That Time When I Disappeared for Months

Hello, readers (if any of you are still out there)!

I have been a bad blog friend. I haven't updated this blog since late April...and, to be honest, I have even forgotten that I had a blog at times.

Did I intend to take such a long hiatus? Not at all. As with so many things in life, it just happened. And the longer I stayed away from it all, the harder it seemed to jump back into the swing of things.

A Blogging Break (Just a Short One!)

A Blogging Break (Just a Short One!) | CosmosMariners.com

There's seriously SO much going on right now in my life, which is equally exhausting and exhilarating.

This week, my sister (and only sibling and BFF) is getting married--and yours truly is the matron of honor! Since I definitely don't want anything to get in the way of her perfect day, I've decided to focus on that this week instead of stressing about what needs to be posted on the blog and my social media channels.

10 Things You'll Think after Becoming a Travel Blogger

10 Things You'll Think after Becoming a Travel Blogger | CosmosMariners.com
Travel blogging means views like this while you're working!
{Cozumel, Mexico}
I've been blogging for over five years, and exclusively travel blogging for nearly two...and it has been one crazy, wonderful, magnificent experience.

Over the last 24 months, my relationship with my blog has gone from we're-just-aquaintances to my other child. I plan what I'm doing around my posts and what I need to do for it. And like, a small child that needs constant attention and nourishment, the blog has slowly grown and--dare I say?--started to thrive.

10 Things You'll Think after Becoming a Travel Blogger | CosmosMariners.com

Also, like a child, the blog has caused me many, many days of stress and sleepless nights as I try to fix technical problems that are way beyond my comprehension, juggle social media marketing with hanging out with my family, and the overwhelming feeling that I will never, ever, ever get everything done on this thing that needs to be done.

If you're thinking about starting a travel blog, here's what to expect after you've picked your travel blog name, set up your website, and opened those social media accounts.

Be prepared: it's one heck of a ride!  If you're the happy current owner of a travel blog, these blog phases are probably the story of your life, too.

What's in Store for 2016

What's in Store for 2016 | CosmosMariners.com

Happy New Year, y'all! I hope that this year will be fantastic for us all and will be filled with learning, travel, and wonder.

After many anxiety-filled nights stressing over my low page numbers and getting back many, many rejected pitch letters, I finally started seeing some actual progress in my blog: more readers, more social media engagement, and more partnership opportunities. Growing a blog can feel about as exciting as watching paint dry most of the time, so getting a return (however small!) on your time investment is so sweet.

What's Next?: Slowing Down A Little and Our Next Big Adventure

Things around here on Cosmos Mariners have been quiet lately.

And, believe it or not, it has been completely by choice.

I absolutely adore this website. In the five years that I've written about my life and my travels, I have learned incredible things about blogging, marketing, and writing, and I've met some wonderful, wonderful people.

I adore it, and I always will. I wouldn't change anything.

However, after many, many talks with my husband, I've decided to slow down on blogging. Why?

1) Time with family
If you've read this blog for any length of time, you'll know that I have a very enthusiastic and adventurous toddler. When she was a baby--and stayed where I put her--updating the blog was fairly easy. She'd kick on her playmat while I wrote, and we were both happy.

However, she can now climb, open doors, throw things, and generally wreak havoc if I stop watching her for more than a second or two. Since she's so much more active now, the time that I had to work on the blog dwindled to her naptime and whatever time I had between her bedtime and mine.

Those few precious hours had to be divided between blogging, my husband (who most of the time got ignored while I worked), marketing the blog, finding new places to travel, and my freelance writing.

Since taking a break from the blog, I've had time to breathe, talk to my husband (oh, hey, there!), take my kid to the playground after dinner, and generally enjoy the summer. I can't say I hate the extra time.

2) My freelance writing
While blogging is my first writing love, freelance writing is what brings home the bacon for me. While I could absolutely make money off this blog (in amounts that exceeded my freelance writing), I just don't have the time or energy to devote to making that process happen right now (see reason #1). At least for now, I'm focusing my extra time on my freelance writing, and blogging will take a backseat.

3) Travel demands
Running a travel blog requires that you travel (duh). Preferably a lot. In the 18 months since I became a travel blogger, I have done an incredible amount of traveling, considering that I had an infant-to-toddler in tow, and I had to work around the schedules of my full-time-working family members. I'm not a full-time traveler: I can't be, and I honestly am not interested in that lifestyle. It definitely works for other people--and I LOVE reading about their adventures--but leaving my house and life here in Charleston wasn't ever in the plans.

I traveled when I had the time and the budget, and I'm quickly discovering that the budget for travel shrinks exponentially as your kid gets older. Which brings me to reason #4....

4) My daughter
Parenting news flash: if you feed your kid, she'll get bigger. I know--mind blown.

Now that Britton is moving and grooving (and telling us about it every minute of the way), she needs more stuff. She needs lots of shoes and clothes and all that, but there's more to it than that.

She's starting preschool this year (my baby! Cue Mom sobbing.), so my time with my favorite little travel buddy has just gotten much more restricted. She needs to be with other kids her age right now, and traveling solo with a toddler is far more difficult than it was when she was smaller.

Plus, there's the whole preschool tuition thing. The majority of our travel money is now going towards the Britton Education Fund.

5) My new baby (!!!!)
Ah, to save the best for last.

Yes, our family will welcome the newest little Cosmos Mariner in early 2016. I've been crazy exhausted and sick throughout my first trimester, and I've had no inclination to travel or write...or really do anything than take a nap. I've actually canceled two trips because of how I felt recently, something I had to do with a sad heart. But you've got to do what you've got to do.

We're incredibly excited to meet our new little one, but that addition means even less time for my blogging and traveling. I'm the kids' primary caregiver since my freelance writing is far more flexible than my husband's finance job, so what the two of them need supersedes what I want to do.

Traveling, marketing, maintaining a blog, and keeping up with my freelance writing career with one small kid is tough but doable. Doing all of the above with two under the age of three is going to be nearly impossible.

One thing that I did with Britton as an infant that really set me up for disappointment was my desire to do everything. I quickly realized that I couldn't--no one is Super Parent--and that was an incredibly hard time in my life.

This time around, I'm streamlining my life, and I'm getting help. Unfortunately, "streamlining" in this case means taking the focus away from my blog and putting it elsewhere, but my family is worth a little bit of short term sacrifice.


So, what does this mean for the blog?

I'm not totally sure yet. It's not going away--you'll have to pry the computer out of my cold, dead hands to get me to give it up completely--but it will be slowing down. 

I do have a few bigger trips coming up later this fall now that I feel a bit better, and I'm looking forward to those. I'll definitely be sharing those on the blog and my social media, as well as any smaller or day trips that we take before the little one comes next year. 

I won't be posting three times a week anymore as I have done in the past. It's just too much on me right now. 

As my family and life evolve, so too will the blog. I thank each and every one of my readers for accompanying me on this journey, and I hope that you'll stick with me as I traverse this new and uncharted territory!

Climbing Out of a Dark Hole: How Blogging Helped Me Find Myself Again

Climbing out of a Dark Hole: How My Blog Helped Me Find Myself Again | CosmosMariners.com

In June 2013, I gave birth to my daughter during an emergency c-section. She wasn't breathing well, so she was rushed to the Level II nursery at the hospital, the first of many tumbling dominos that ended with a four day trip to a Level III NICU and many touch and go moments.

Five days after she was born, we brought our beautiful daughter home. She'd been cleared by the doctors, and we were assured that there was no long term effects from those scary days.

During the first few weeks of parenthood, I floated through diaper changes and 2 a.m. feedings thanks to a combination of very strong pain medications and very little sleep. My husband and I were tired, but that's to be expected with a small baby.

He went back to work, and I began to struggle. So many other moms I knew were back up and at it just a few weeks after giving birth. But I could barely get up and dressed even in those weeks after I stopped taking my pain medication. I tried to present a brave face to the world, but inside, something felt broken, forgotten, empty, irreparable.

I was terrified that I would do something wrong with my daughter. That I would harm her in some way. That she would be better off if I just left forever. That I would never feel like myself again. That I had lost something of myself in the process of becoming a parent.

Before having my daughter, I was a happy-go-lucky, glass-half-full kind of person. I lived my life with joy, determination, and excitement.

But afterwards, I was a different person. I stopped writing in my blog. From June to November of 2013, there are no posts here. I didn't have anything to say to anyone, and I didn't care that I'd lost my voice. I stopped reading, which was one of my favorite things in the world. I stopped caring about traveling, another of my favorite things. I was convinced that I was stupid, overweight, and failing at everything that I was doing. Mostly, I just wanted to hide in my closet and cry.

In November 2013, I found out that my grandfather had inoperable, terminal lung cancer. I was at his side when he passed away five days after the diagnosis. You can imagine what this did to my already fragile psyche.

My husband struggled with how to support me: he encouraged me. He reminded me how healthy our daughter was. He reminded me how hard I was trying at everything. He tried the tough love approach. He argued with me.

Nothing seemed to get through.

Until one day, when he suggested that I start blogging again. He knew how much I loved journaling and blogging, and he'd been sad to see me push that part of my life aside. He told me to set small goals: publishing one or two posts a week.

So, I did. I wrote about whatever was going on with me that day. Those posts, with their lack of focus and irratic desperation, make me cringe from a writing perspective. But, when I go back and read them, I can remember the desperation I had. Sometimes, those blog posts were all that were keeping me from laying on the floor and sobbing.

From November 2013 to May 2014, I felt as if I were taking two steps backwards to every one step I took forward. I loved my blog and would often go to sleep thinking about my next posts. I was pouring my heart and soul into my blog and writing 5 posts a day, but I didn't have many readers. That, in my mind, justified my lack of self-worth.

Then, in May 2014, I found out that I'd won a press trip to St. Petersburg, Florida. Landon and I went on that trip, the first vacation we'd had in almost two years, and it was as if the clouds were parting again. I came back home and wrote with a fury that I didn't know I had anymore. I loved travel blogging. I LOVED it.

And slowly, slowly, slowly, since then, I've come back to my old self again, one post, one trip, one day at a time.

I've been a better parent and a better spouse since then. Blogging may seem a silly way to overcome such a soul-crushing experience, but it combines so many of the things that I love into one package, and I feel lucky to have this space.

I still have moments of doubt in myself, but they're nothing like I used to have. Looking back, I now know that I had some form of postpartum anxiety or depression. But I didn't know enough to seek help: I'd never had issues like that before, so I assumed that they were just caused by my lack of ability as a first time parent.

No matter where you are in your blogging, parenting, or life journey, I hope you know that you are good enough. And if you're having doubts about your self-worth, let me tell you this: you are an amazing person, and the world is lucky to have you. And if you're feeling depressed or alone, reach out for help. Find that person or thing that gives you a reason to get up in the morning.

Hello, 2015! I Have Big Plans for You.

Happy New Year, everyone! I brought in 2015 by reading and watching college football before grumpily going to bed at 12:02 a.m.

I bet you're a little jealous that your NYE wasn't as cool as mine. Right?!

As I look forward to what 2015 has in store for me, I'm excited about the possibilities. 2013 was a rough year for so many reasons (tough pregnancy, my unexpected hospitalization, a trip to the NICU for my newborn, a house flood, the death of my grandfather), and 2014 felt like a transition year (we got a new house, I refocused my blog, I started traveling more regularly again).

All of this can only mean that 2015 is going to be PHENOMENAL.

So, without further ado, here are a few things I've got swirling around in my little ol' head for the big '15.

Behind the Blog: What's in a Name?

Naming a blog is really hard.

Much like naming a baby, you have to pick something that will stand the test of time.