What I’ve Learned in 2 Months of Blogging

A little history

I wrote the very first post of this blog in 2009. So technically this blog has been around for 1 year. At that time, we were playing around with the idea of moving our departure date earlier than what we’ve planned (which is 2011) because I was unemployed, job market sucks, and my unemployment was running out. So thus, the blog was born. We were getting ready…

Then I got a job. And the blog took the back seat in the ensuing excitement of starting a new job and all that.

Then sometime in October this year (2010), I went — Oh shit, 2011 is just around the corner. We’ve better start planning!

And I remember this blog… the blog who didn’t even have its own domain name back then, and brought it back from its hibernation.

And ever since then I wrote more than I ever did since college, and I learned a lot about blogging, networking, and the travel community. I’m sure I’ll be learning tons more soon, but I thought I’d share some of the more unforeseen things I noticed.

Things I’ve Learned in The Past 2 Months

-- Somewhat Frank

Things I learned about blogging and writing

Blogging is a lot of work. And I’m not even talking about the writing part yet. When we were starting out, there were hundreds of plugins to test and configure. Most end up being discarded because they don’t do what I thought they do. I’m still learning about new plugins or new features I want every day. The blog just never feels ‘done’. There are always tweaks. I’m always thinking about how to re-arrange the pages and layout, try to figure out how to best lay out the widgets and pages to make things easier to find–while struggling with the limitation of the plugins and slow server. Then there are plugin updates. And sometimes a new plugin will cause other plugins to freak out. It’s never ending.

And then there’s the writing. 20% of the reason I became an engineer is because I hate writing papers. Given the option of writing 10 papers a semester and solving thermal equations, I’d opt for the latter. I’m not bad at putting random sentences together. But if the thing needs to be coherent, or even worse, has a thesis *shivers* — I’m screwed. Writing is hard. Really hard for me. Writing a post almost every day pretty much takes up most of my spare time.

Writing is cathartic. That’s why even though it’s hard, I keep doing it. There are many posts that will remain drafts and will eventually be deleted (or not). Posts that are rants of pent up emotions that are not suitable for the public eyes :). But some, like this one, will be polished and become published. Writing forces me to put my emotions in words. To help me understand my own emotions better. Heck, even writing down a list of things to do as opposed to just thinking about them is helpful. Writing can be fun. Especially if you can lay it out as bullet points. Or in separate, not-quite-flowing paragraphs like this post. Hey, ma… Look, I’m writing!

Blogging is an field of study in itself. There are countless of articles that came to my attention about the art of writing a blogpost. How often you should post, how to write a blog title, how long it needs to be, etc, etc. Sometimes they conflict with each other. And omg, you can make money off blogging?! As in enough to pay for my daily coffee supply? But I realized that I’ve barely dipped my toes into this world of blogging and blogosphere. So much to learn…

Stuff you publish goes to a black hole. You never know where it ends up. I’ve noticed that some CNN news even use a person’s tweets or Facebook’s comments as ‘sources’. Now that’s just plain alarming. That’s why I almost never publish anything I have just finished writing. Everything has to be run through “If I were to become a politician, would this come back and haunt me” filter. Maybe that’s why it takes me a long time to write a single post?

Things I learned about social media and networking

Twitter is a world on its own. I’m still grappling with the idea of what it is, how others use it, and how best to use it. It has its own weird language, clique, and etiquette. I’m learning as fast as I can about all there is to it but I can’t help but feeling that it really shouldn’t be this complicated and I’m missing a big piece of the puzzle. And today, I just learned that there are things like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, and I was like – Whoa, this is bigger than I had imagined.

Networking can be a full time job. There’s Twitter, and Facebook — which I’m sorta literate in. But I’m still not sure how to use StumbleUpon and what the heck is Tehcnorati? Who’s Alexa and how does she find time to rank people’s blogs? And there’s this black, white, and blue icon on my post that I never click. It’s only there because I kinda like the look of it (update: I have now learned what it is and use it a lot actually). Not to mention: Ning, Mister Wong, Reddit, and friends. Gosh, it will take me forever to learn what they are and how to use them.

How do people find time to blog, network, work side jobs to fund their travel, and actually doing the traveling itself and travel related activities (you know like finding accommodations, researching transport, etc)? It’s mind-boggling.

Networking is scary. It’s against my inner instinct to go “Hey, look at my blog” (imagine my joy when I found out that I can delegate this job to a bot). So it’s been a very scary experience to go and put myself out there to the world to judge. This definitely takes some getting used to. I think being anonymous helps as well as the realization that I’m slowly learning a skill that I can use in real life. Especially if I ever want to start my own business someday. But even then sometimes I wonder why I bother…then I realized that…

I enjoy connecting with other people online. When I started the blog, I never realized that I’d be able to meet people this way. I commented on others blogs then I noticed that some of them would come to my blog and comment. And I thought — Hey, that’s cool. I’m making friends. And then you see them again on Twitter and you go — Hey, we meet again! What a small world! There’s this whole community of travel bloggers and being in this particular community does something to your psyche. For example, it helped me realized that…

I’m not that crazy. Finding myself among like-minded people helped confirm what I’ve always known about myself — I’m not crazy. You read about people who’ve been on the road for a long time, about others who are just starting out, and those who have come back reliving their experience. And you go — “Hey, everyone else is doing this. So… I can’t be crazy for wanting to do this too.” It’s validating and inspiring at the same time.

I love being part of it. Even though writing often can be tough, and putting myself out there to the world is scary… I see it all as part of the journey. I feel like I’m learning something new everyday, challenging myself, and getting inspired. What’s not to love about it?

What’s next?

I think the next big challenge is not getting burned out while keeping this blog updated once we’re on the road. Any tips on how to do this? Learning to write faster would be useful too so I can start dedicating more time on getting rid of our stuff and preparing for our trip.

What have YOU learned in the past 2 months, blog or non-blog related?

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