I can hardly believe that my little Scottish travel blog turned 3 this week and although I don't normally write blogging related posts, after 3 years I felt it was the right time to share some of the highs, lows and future of Adventures Around Scotland.
What started out as a way to fill my new found spare time when I relocated from Glasgow to the Isle of Bute has taken me on the most amazing journey, quite literally! When I started this blog, I thought I already knew Scotland pretty well but I've discovered that I hardly knew my country at all and even after all this time, I'm constantly finding new places to explore and my Scottish travel bucket list just keeps getting longer.
The trips I've enjoyed around Scotland over the past three years have left me with the most amazing memories and some of the experiences that I could only have dreamed about thanks to this blog (and all the hard work behind it!) include -
However, as special as these moments have been, I consider myself just as fortunate when I'm camping in a spectacular location, exploring abandoned buildings, discovering hidden history or being surrounded by the natural landscape. It really is the simple things in life and being among the beautiful Scottish outdoors that makes me happiest!
More than anything I've inspired myself to really get to know my own country. After years of making travel memories around the world, I have realised that I don't have to go far beyond my front door in Scotland to encounter once in a lifetime moments.
My blog has also brought so many fantastic new people into my life and it has been a pleasure getting to know many online acquaintances in the real world. Meeting some incredible people has definitely been a highlight of the past few years and I feel so fortunate to have been introduced to so many inspiring individuals thanks to blogging and social media.
Contrary to what many people think I don't blog full-time, I have a job and fit my travelling and blogging around my weekends and holidays. My job is term time, so I am lucky enough to have more holidays than most.
At the moment I have no intention of blogging full-time. It is not easy to make money from blogging and currently I have a good balance of earning a guaranteed wage to pay the bills every month and enough time off to go travelling regularly, although in the future I would love a career that combines my two passions of Scotland and travel. Having a job does mean I have to occasionally turn down invitations to go on trips because I'm working but that's the only real downside.
However, I do still put a HUGE amount of time into my blog and in many ways I treat it as a business even though it's not my job. I can easily spend hours after work or on my days off taking care of the less glamorous but essential tasks needed to keep growing my blog..
There are many reasons for this, but mostly I believe that if something is worth doing then it's worth doing well.
Sometimes blogging has made me feel more than a little burned out as there is so much work behind the scenes that goes in to running a blog, not to mention answering e-mails, attending events, editing photographs, creating newsletters and keeping on top of various social media accounts (which is a part-time job in itself!). The blogging world and social media is also constantly changing so it can be a challenge to keep up to date and adapt to what is happening in the industry.
For me the most frustrating thing is when people look down on bloggers, not appreciating how many skills they have and how much time goes in to running a professional blog. When I started out I had no idea about website design and SEO, I have had to teach myself from scratch as I go along. I didn't have any personal social media accounts when I started out either and now I am on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest! I remember being over the moon when I reached 50 followers on Twitter, never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have over 6,500 followers. But the truth is I struggle to find a balance with social media. I've not quite mastered how to share my travels to inspire others while finding time to be in the moment myself and switched off from the digital world. This is something I am still working on!
For the past three years I've bumbled through things, never setting goals, never making plans, just going with the flow and I've looked on this time as a blogging apprenticeship. Until the beginning of this year I said yes to as many opportunities as possible and tried to gain experience in as many areas as I could. I've written for large media publications, spoken at events, talked on the radio, worked with other bloggers, written guest blogs, run competitions, featured sponsored posts, reviewed products and accommodation, been a brand ambassador, attended blogger events, went on press trips and collaborated on umpteen digital marketing campaigns of every size, among quite a few other things!
I've learned what works for me and my readers and more importantly what doesn't. I have gained an amazing amount of experience and skills which have all helped to make me a better blogger.
However, from the start of this year I have said no to most opportunities and taken a step back from blogging. For the first time in three years I've traveled quite a lot without writing about most of my trips. I've wanted to take time to just be in that moment and not put myself under pressure to share everything or run around on crazy itineraries trying to get as much material and photos as possible. As much as I love blogging, my first love is still travel and it has been important for me to rekindle the joy of travel that I was starting to lose due to all the deadlines and expectations, sometimes from collaborations and sometimes imposed on myself.
For the first time since starting to share my Adventures Around Scotland three years ago, I've taken some time to work out what I love most about blogging and where I want my blog to head in the future. I've also been questioning whether to keep blogging at all as there are also things about the blogging industry and social media that I don't love. I don't love that plenty of people don't value my time, skills or followers with frequent requests to work for free or very little money. I don't love fake influencers, I don't love competitiveness and I don't love unethical practices.
So why keep blogging? The reason I started blogging in the first place was to help people create awesome travel memories in Scotland and that's the reason I still blog. Nothing makes my day more than a comment or e-mail from a reader saying they had a great time in Scotland thanks to my blog and that I inspired them to go somewhere different or helped them to plan.
Travel blogs are replacing guide books as a source of information and I feel it is more important than ever for me to share my knowledge of Scotland if it can help others to have a holiday of a lifetime.
It is equally important to me that I inspire locals to explore more of their own country, whether it is just for the day or a longer staycation. I really believe travel is good for the mind and soul, whether that be travelling across the world or exploring what's on your doorstep.
I love blogging, I love what I've achieved, I love helping others and I love sharing my love of Scotland - that's a lot of love right there! No matter what anyone else thinks, I feel proud that I have taken a little seed, nurtured it every day for three years and helped it to grow into something special.
Over the past few months I've taken a step back from my blog and given myself the time to figure out where I want it to head and what changes I need to make so I can keep providing a useful resource. At one point I definitely couldn't see the wood for the trees and kept plodding along without really knowing what direction I was going in.
There won't be any imminent changes as I still have quite a few articles to catch up on and I still need to figure out what I'm going to do with my 6 week summer holiday which is fast approaching! I have some ideas but I know I need a more challenging adventure than normal so will be focusing on that in the short term. However, there are significant changes coming to my blog before the end of the year. I have a very definite idea of what direction I want to go in and what I need to do to get there.
I want Adventures Around Scotland to be bigger and better, I want to provide something more unique and most of all I want to keep helping all my awesome readers to create even more amazing memories in the stunning country that I am lucky enough to call home.
Finally, but most importantly, I just want to thank everyone that has taken the time to read my blog, sign up to my newsletter or follow me on social media over the past few years. By supporting my blog you have inspired me to keep going, to stay positive, to keep pushing myself, to keep learning, to keep exploring and to keep growing as a person.
I hope you enjoy following along with me as I journey around Scotland for many years to come.
Follow me as I search for the best and most original travel experiences in Scotland.