Forget resolutions, give me a challenge. There’s nothing I love more than a challenge – one that makes me slightly uneasy making me question whether I’m capable, but at the same time it excites me. It’s what I call living on the edge – the edge of butterflies and throwing up. Many of my life choices and travels were born out of the draw of a challenge. Quitting my corporate career, volunteering in India, living in Vietnam and riding a motorbike, doing the Mongol Rally, and living life as a nomad. When I take on those challenges, it’s hard, emotional, confusing, but ultimately I come out of it feeling like a super hero. However even this super hero still needs a break sometimes – a time to slow down and just do things that are easy, things that I can just coast at in order to catch my breath. Even Superman turned into Clark Kent.
For the last few years I feel like I’ve been catching my breath living like Clark Kent. I have taken a break from pushing myself and finding challenges in my life. I’ve settled into doing the things I always do. I needed that for a bit, but now I think it’s gone on too long. When I take a ‘challenge break’ I feel like it gives me a lot of time to turn mortal again and start worrying about everything. Yes – that’s right – I worry. I worry about how I will survive, how I will grow older, how I will stay healthy, how I will find love, how I will make a living, and the list goes on. Over the past couple of years, all of that worry has left me a shell of who I want to be. Don’t get me wrong – there have been plenty of great moments and experiences – but little by little I sort of feel a piece of my super hero mentality has been chipping away. Ok – maybe more than a piece chipping off – some days I feel like I’ve spiraled into this person I hardly recognize at times. I have always prided myself on my drive, confidence, independence, and resolve – but for some reason over the last two years it’s been taking a vacation and has left me spinning in indecision. The end result of all of this has put me in a weird place – a place of self-doubt, a place of feeling stuck. Not only in travel and work, but also in my personal relationships.
It’s time I put on the super hero outfit again – 2014 I’m going back to challenging myself on a variety of levels – relationships, career, and travel. And all of this challenge is going to be accompanied by honesty. Being honest and open here on Ottworld is a challenge in itself because it leaves you exposed. Exposed is not a word that I like – but I’m ready to take it on in 2014.
Sure – it’s glamorous to travel all over, but there’s always another side. And if I’m going to be totally honest – then the solo-ness of my life the last couple of years has really been hard. Most days I absolutely LOVE being solo, never checking in with anyone – yet over the last few years that has slowly been changing. It’s really easy to slip into your own little world when you have no one around. I feel isolated living in this nomadic travel world that few people understand. That isolation makes me forget that I need to share things – or sometimes I just don’t have the energy to try to tell people what’s been happening in my life – it’s just easier to let them think that everything is great in this wonderful world of being a travel writer – so it all stays bottled up. I think I’ve been spending too much time lately in my own little solo world.
Each year I continue this unconventional life – I find that more old pre-travel friendships slip away. It’s mostly my fault – I haven’t had time to keep up with everyone as I am always also meeting new people when I’m in motion. Plus, sometimes I think I live such an unconventional life that no one can relate to me any longer – nor me to them. And it’s not just old friendships that suffer, I realized the other day that it’s been 11 years since I’ve been in a romantic committed relationship/had a boyfriend. Granted – 7 years of moving around hasn’t helped that – but the fact is that I’ve always been someone who is out of relationships more than I’m in them. Lately I’ve been feeling the ‘L’ word – lonely. I’ve had to learn to make a point to really work at checking in more with my few close friends I still have – make little skype dates so I don’t go too stir crazy in my own mind and so I can still relate to them. All relationships take work – friends, lovers, and family.
My relationship challenge in 2014 is to put myself out there and ask for help when I need it and I feel like I’m spiraling out of control. As for my friends – this means leaning on them more, talking to them more frequently, staying connected. Then there’s the romantic relationships – a real can of worms. How do you meet men and date when you don’t stay put very long and you lead an unconventional life. Anyone have any answers out there? I’m willing to take risks and try.
As much as I love travel blogging and writing, many days I feel like we are just a bunch of out of work actors waiting tables waiting for our big break. Everyone focused on what the other person is doing and why they got the part instead of yourself. I hate the thought of being an out of work actor waiting tables, but I can’t shake the feeling. Like most actors – we don’t really make much money. Sure – a few bloggers are successful and financially sound – however most travel blogs are less successful than what you’d like to think. I think our readers want to believe it’s possible to get paid to travel the world. And yes – it is possible but most people I know have a variety of things that keep them afloat. I wonder if blogging is just a blip on the social media timeline – can it and will blogging continue? I’m not sure what the future holds for travel blogging, but I do know that you can’t sit on your past ‘success’ for long as things in the online world of business change rapidly.
For the last year I’ve been letting the work opportunities define my path instead of defining my own path. I just keep doing what I’ve always done. I’ve talked about wanting/needing to find more revenue streams and wanting to do more freelance writing and get more published in print – but I haven’t done anything to move myself in that direction. I recently saw this quote in my FB feed:
“Not to decide is to decide. Letting something go until it ‘decides itself’ is Life by Default. You don’t want to live that way. So choose. Choose right now. Stop worrying about what you can ‘lose’ or how you can ‘win’ and just follow your joy. Where does your joy say you should go?” — Neale Donald Walsch
Life by default…kill me. I don’t ever want to live life by default. Time to make some changes.
I’ve decided to try to take on more freelancing work and provide content (writing and photography) to other businesses or destinations that need it. I also want to work creating some products to provide multiple income streams. I have not done this in the past because honestly it’s not as fun as writing for myself on my little blog – and of course there is a big part of me that is afraid of the rejection and editorial process. Fuck it. Reject away. I like a challenge. It may just make me a better writer and business person in the end.
On another career front – I took a little break last year from Meet Plan Go and the career break movement that was started in 2010. I needed a break – because it was just too hard to juggle everything. And with the departure of my business partner, I was lost. I didn’t want to run it alone, the fun of Meet Plan Go for me was that it was this cool group project that I was working on. However after a year away from it – I’m ready to give it new life again and refocus on career breaks and Meet Plan Go. It is the one thing that makes me feel like I’m having an impact in this world – inspiring people to change their lives. I regularly get emails from people who tell me they attended our event and it inspired them to take the leap. Mission accomplished. Meet Plan Go doesn’t pay the bills – but it does make me burst with joy. Making an impact is a desire that is rooted deep within me. However in order to resurrect Meet Plan Go events, it means I need to take risks and spend some money – something which doesn’t come easily to me. Yet – I’m willing to take 2014 and throw some investment into MPG and see what happens. Is it easier, more profitable, more effective? I won’t know until I try.
When I started traveling I went to Africa, Vietnam, Laos, India, Nepal, and Lebanon. But lately I’ve passed up those grittier less developed places for comfort, ease, and social media and blogging work. I need to make a point to do grittier travel again. Grittier travel means traveling closer to the ground, meeting more locals, roughing it, and being independent. However, here’s the issue with being a travel blogger who loves to travel to less developed countries – these places are the places that have no idea what a blog or social media marketing/exposure really is or how to utilize them. I find it hard to travel as I normally do and partner with the visitor bureaus or travel companies of less developed countries. Getting to those countries and areas have taken a lower priority lately than other work that helps me earn a living. However I need to make a point to put these places on my travel schedule no matter what. It’s these places that make me happy. Travel to less developed countries is challenging for sure, but it’s the most rewarding by far. However doing this type of less supported travel makes my career goals of more freelance writing and content even more important to achieve.
I’d also like to get back to doing more charity work and volunteering – it’s been a number of years since I have focused on giving back. I am so lucky I get to see and experience the world, it’s time to do something for it again. I will most definitely be taking on the challenge of making the world a better place in 2014!
Plain and simple – be more honest. Every year I blog I feel I make a larger gap between who I really am and who my online ‘personality’ is. I’m tired of it. It takes too much work to push down feeling and thoughts in order to create a persona that is business friendly all the time. So forget it – I need to find my authentic voice back – and it starts now.
All of these challenges mean taking on more risk, following my passions, and moving forward. I’ve dusted off my super hero uniform again, I’m ready to fly into these challenges in 2014. In fact, some are already in motion – you’ll be hearing all about them shortly. Some of my adventures this year will even include a teen superhero sidekick – the #NieceProject continues in 2014! I hope you’ll join me!
Happy New Year!
What challenges are you going to take on in 2014?