2019 – The quietest year on the blog, the busiest year in our personal lives.
In the last two and a half years working on the travel blog and Instagram account has been a huge focus. It started off easy. We had years of travel under our belts, masses of information just waiting to be shared, and motivation to keep working – it seemed that the more we posted, the more followers joined us, the more genuine interactions we received, and it was amazing chatting to travellers and others about what we loved. We posted three times a day on Instagram (21 photographs shared a week), and twice a week on the blog. After a while, I noticed that genuine comments were suddenly quite rare. Instagram seemed to be full of bots, making comments on our photographs that made no sense at all. There were travel Instagram accounts that liked the same old picture of me (Rachel) holding a cake repeatedly. After one search, I found that one person (well – bot, based on a person) had over thirty accounts, all the same. Despite reporting them to Instagram, nothing seemed to happen. We went from personal account to business, and saw huge declines in our interaction. Our follower numbers stagnated at 3,000, and likes on our photographs and blog posts dropped by a whopping 70%. The fact was, that despite trying our best, posting and interacting, engaging and enjoying, we were just treading water in the vast algorithm of Instagram. What was happening wasn’t clear until one night in Bulgaria. We went for a meal at our favourite restaurant in Sofia. Strangely enough, I must have eaten something that didn’t agree with me, and we went back to our room so that I could spend the night throwing up. After the mayhem of the evening, I logged onto our Instagram account and found that a photograph of a salad eaten earlier had suddenly received an increased interaction of 140%. We had genuine, interested comments on the post. I spoke to people about where the salad was eaten. Amusingly, I didn’t mention that it may have been the reason I had spent the last few hours in the bathroom.
Anyway. This was odd. Because the photograph of a plate of colourful salad was just that – it wasn’t more special than the unbelievable views of Angthong Marine Park, or the Great Wall of China. The hashtags I used were not that different. It was like a lightbulb moment – we are not suffering from a lack of popularity. People do care about what we are doing, and how hard we are working. But the Instagram algorithm is shoving us to the back of the room, and despite having had our hands raised for years and doing the ‘me me me’ thing like a kid in class, we can’t get a word in. After the salad moment, we lost that visibility immediately.
This is, at least partly, why our blog and Instagram has been so quiet recently. Put it down to exhaustion – if went into work every day and kept doing your best, only to find that your boss ignored you and your colleagues quite literally couldn’t see you, you’d probably stop going in.
So, there’s the above. As the year started I was tired of shouting into an empty room. We were also saving our money hard, which meant that travel was not high on the list of possibilities. Well, we say that, perhaps our friends and family disagree – we still made it to Lithuania and Turkey. We were saving for something very exciting – a year of travel. This particular dream was something we have talked about for a long time, moving the goalpost back, and back again, until suddenly it’s less than a month away and I can hardly believe that it’s finally going to happen.
Then, as our blog post writing motivation dipped, Daniel proposed. I love a good project – and wedding planning has to have been one of the most fun projects I’d ever embarked on. My writing days, usually reserved for blogging, novel writing and work, turned into wedding planning days. We got married in June, almost four months to the day of the proposal. Yep – that’s some fast planning!
The year of travel was now a definite. We had told our employers, and got the ball moving quickly on renting our house out. Things threatened to delay the trip again, namely a potential operation on my hip (I opted for physio instead, determined to make myself better).
Now, we are in those final sweet stages – jabs (actually quite a painful stage), packing, prepping. We leave on the 8th October. There’s still a lot to do, but we finally have a date.
This means a few things for the travel blog. I assume if you’re reading this you are either interested in the blog, or related to us. Firstly, hopefully that motivation will come back to post, blog, etc. It’ll be driven by that excitement we had in the first year – a want to share our adventures. Secondly, we’re going to rebrand. Travelling Writers as a name is potentially too broad. We want to be visible because we want to genuinely engage with people who are interested in the same thing as us. Maybe this will help. Thirdly – we are still going to be really honest. No one travels for free, and if they do, it’s because they are paying in a different way. Not all travel is fun, cheap or easy. Not all sunsets are insta-worthy. And that’s okay. We want to take you on our year away, and give you genuine advice from start to finish that will help you in your own travels. We hope that you join us.