Ah, blog over Sally. Sorry, that’s a terrible word. But it’s been 10 years since I started blogging and left the UK as a fresh 21-year-old ready to explore the world.
I remember boarding the plane to Hong Kong like it was yesterday.
^Everything is packed and ready! This photo was taken as he said goodbye to his father and mother before leaving Heathrow Airport for London.
It is no exaggeration to say that it was the most exciting day of my life and the day that completely changed my life. (I know I should probably say that the birth of my baby was the most exciting and life-changing day of my life, but I always knew I would have kids and they were already in my subconscious plans.) It was part of!)
I don’t usually realize that important events are this important. After a few years, you will be able to see the big picture and understand how big an impact it will have on your life. But when I got on a plane and flew around the world, I knew this was a big moment.
This flight was the beginning of a two-year backpacking trip through Southeast Asia and Australia. This was a trip I had dreamed of since he was 16 years old. Back when the internet was still a new invention, I recently discovered the art of procrastination through travel planning (which I’m pretty familiar with now!)
While revising for my GCSEs, I somehow came across Gapyear.com, a website for people planning a gap year. Needless to say, I’ve made very little revisions since finding this site (and have some mediocre GCSE results to prove it!), but I’ve discovered a world full of adventure and possibility.
Until then, I didn’t know there was such a thing as “backpacking.” I knew “real adventurers” did it, but I had no idea that regular people like me backpacked.
It breaks my heart just to think about the rush of excitement I felt when I found out that a normal person like me would be traveling the world with a backpack on my back. Finding her website changed my life. I actually started working at GapYear.com, but that was a completely different story and happened 8 years later!
^ Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Five years after my GCSEs, I was sitting next to Sam, my now fiancé, as I boarded a plane to begin the adventure of a lifetime.
^ Visiting “The Beach” in Thailand
It was my father who first suggested I start a website to document my travels. He mentioned it when I was looking at the STA brochure when he was about 17 years old. He suggested that I could be sponsored by a brand and go on a trip. “I could start a website and get a sponsorship from a backpack company… or… or… Coca-Cola or someone!” he enthuses. “And take a picture of yourself drinking coke on a beach in Thailand and put it on your website!’
I am now amazed at my father who suggested this in 2003. Especially since my father was running a pharmaceutical company at the time, so he wasn’t a tech geek or had a job in marketing or anything like that, nor could he have predicted the rise of online influencers.
If only I had taken his advice in 2003!
Obviously, because I was a teenager and my dad was old and embarrassed and didn’t know anything about the world, I was just trying to figure out what he thought, like my dad told me.. well… I laughed it off. The world’s biggest brands will pay me to travel while I post photos online. That was unreasonable.
^First day in Hong Kong!
On the plane to Hong Kong, surrounded by sleeping people who clearly weren’t as excited as I was about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime, I pulled out a new notepad and a new pen from my bag. I did.
I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time. I spent an inordinate amount of time at Paper Chase trying to choose the perfect notepad for this moment. The moment you start writing your travelogue.
The notepad had passport stamps and planes on it, and a plastic pocket inside to store tickets and memories.
I ran my hands over the smooth white pages and was just as excited to write my travel journal as I was to actually travel!
You know, I’ve always been a journalist. At 16 years old, I would never admit it. I wanted to think I was too cool to write childish diaries. But for as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved documenting my day and writing my thoughts between the pages of a cute notepad.
The only problem with my diary was that it lacked excitement. I’m her 21st year, and I’ve been lucky enough to have a perfectly idyllic, but uneventful childhood. Don’t get me wrong. I now realize how lucky this was. My childhood and teenage years were far from boring, but they weren’t exactly adventurous either.
I wanted to write about something exciting. And I wanted to fill the pages of my diary with never-ending adventures, not just drunken nights with friends at local nightclubs or teenage gossip about friends falling out!
^Visiting Angkor Wat in Cambodia
But here I was, on a plane headed for my first real adventure, waiting in anticipation for my new travelogue to be filled out. When I started writing my first diary, I couldn’t have been happier as I sat in my seat, fighting for some elbow room.
Over the next few months, I continued writing in my diary while sitting on various transports throughout Asia. My entry was long and rambling, with no real information about what I had done. Everything seemed “great” and every sentence seemed to be filled with travel clichés. Every scenery is “breathtaking”, every beach is “paradise”, every market is “busy”, everyone you meet is a “friendly local”, and every day there is something “off the beaten path”. ‘I was discovering a place where I was’.
I was backpacking in every sense of the word, traveling with baggy elephant pants, a Chan vest, fake sunglasses, and a sloppy bracelet I’d spent way too much money on at that bustling market.
But I was so happy because every day was a new adventure and every night I sat outside and recorded everything in my diary.
^Somewhere in Bali…I think
The diary pages were then hastily typed using a slow PC in an Internet cafe. The computer was riddled with viruses and my meager backpacker budget only allowed him a 30-minute time slot, so the post was hastily deleted and immediately uploaded to the blog. They were full of typos and meant little to anyone but me, but I loved the process of putting my stories online.
^Visit Moni, Flores Island, Indonesia
At the time, this blog was called “Me and My Backpack.” I actually wanted to keep the name, but the grammatical inaccuracies made me nervous and I ended up having to change it. I loved the idea that just me and my backpack were all I needed to conquer the world. But as you will see, the reality of travel and travel blogging is not so simple….
This blog was my tentative foray into the world of travel blogging, and it was a world that changed my life forever.
Sam and I traveled from Hong Kong to Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam before returning to Thailand and flying to Sydney.
^ Celebrate NYE in Sydney!
We worked in Sydney and Melbourne for a few more months, then bought an old campervan and circled the Australian coast counter-clockwise.
After a year in our trusty old van we returned to Sydney, sold it and headed back to South East Asia. We traveled to Bali, Lombok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Borneo, Thailand and finally flew home.
It was an adventure I never could have imagined.
Unfortunately, I don’t have much of a catalog of posts from this time. It got so bad that I deleted most of it, but I still have the first of many diary entries I wrote back then.
^Australian campervan. I can’t believe we lived in this for so long!
I went home feeling like a different person. Everything was the same as I left it, but I was different.
For a long time, I felt very empty and worried that my “once in a lifetime adventure” was over that’s all.
I now had to settle down, choose a career, and live a 9 to 5 life. This was my life now. This was the taste of adulthood.
That thought scared me.
Then, very sadly, my grandma passed away.
It was a devastating time for my family because she was the matriarch and the glue that held us all together.
But my wonderful grandmother left me a small inheritance. It wasn’t a lot, it wasn’t a life-changing amount for other people, but it was life-changing for me because it was just enough to move to London and get into journalism school.
This is the second time my life has changed dramatically.
I worked for a start-up travel website, did copywriting on the side, and studied NCTJ (National Curriculum for Journalists) part-time in the field of journalism.
It was around this time that I started blogging seriously and started learning what it meant to be a blogger. I had been keeping his diary for 2 years, but now I switched everything to his The Travel Hack and it became a reality!
^I loved my time living in London, but I knew I couldn’t stay forever
I dedicated the next 5-6 years completely to The Travel Hack. I was constantly traveling, writing, editing, coordinating, learning, networking, and planning.
My blog has grown. I have grown. I was actually scared of how happy I was because I had built a career and a life that I loved. I remained happy and as I grew, so did my blog.
I left London and returned to Wales.
Although I continued to travel and loved every minute of every adventure, I began to enjoy my time at home just as much as traveling.
^Photographed during a press trip to St Kitts Island with Time Out Magazine. I’m scared of horses so it wasn’t a particularly fun moment!
Life was the perfect balance of adventure and homely comfort.
Then we got a dog.
And we bought a house.
And then we got George.
And then there was Joseph.
I am currently giving birth to my third child and am 35 weeks pregnant!
And during all of this, I’ve been traveling, writing diaries, and turning them into blog entries.
^Life definitely looks a little different!
And yes, I rushed the last part because I’m very busy. And I don’t know if I really have the mental capacity right now to delve too deeply into what it’s like to have a child and start a family. I might write about it someday!
At times, I would stray away from the diary-style entries that I love so much. I was worried that no one would care. I asked myself, “What’s the point?” Over the years, I stopped writing them all together.
I’ve written travel guides and articles that I know get thousands of page views and ultimately turn into money to pay my mortgage.
But that’s not what I love. I love long, rambling posts with no real meaning or purpose. There is no ROI or sponsorship as it is not intended to “convert into sales”. It’s just me and my notepad and I’m very happy.
This is a very happy blog. Thank you for your hard work during the 10-year journey. And I really, truly, honestly hope to still be here in 10 years. I still write about travel and adventure. I still share it online. There are still a few interested readers!
Who knows what travel blogging will look like in 2029, but I hope I can be a part of it!