A lot of well-meaning friends and even family members are always telling me “You’re so lucky!” and “Must be nice…You’re really living the life!” And, while most days I do feel pretty blessed, I always want to tell them that luck had nothing to do with it. Truth is, I’ve never won anything in my life (tell a small lie–I once won 2 turkeys in a fire station turkey raffle but I’d hardly call that my ship coming in). I don’t consider myself a “lucky” person but I don’t consider myself “unlucky” either. What I do believe, however, is that attitude and gratitude have everything to do with how I live and what opportunities come my way. You see, years ago I decided—literally made a conscious decision—to create a better life for myself. One that is rich in experiences and memories and not material things. And, not a day goes by that I am not grateful or take any of it for granted. But my life is hardly stress free and there are times of turmoil and reflection when I feel I’m on a bit of an emotional roller coaster….like right now regarding this blog.
Sometimes it makes me a bit angry and I want to tell people that I’m not living “THE” life, I’m living “”MY” life. Yes, my life has its moments where it may appear that it’s all glitz and glamor, full of good times, travel and adventure. And yes, I have had some pretty amazing experiences with more good days than bad. But, it wasn’t always that way and I have overcome my share of adversity and pretty awful circumstances. Again, I made the decision to change the way I live my life, who I chose to live it with and to surround myself with happy, positive people daily. If you take one thing away from this, let it be to rid yourself of negativity and people who do not support you. They can suck the life and sparkle out of even the happiest motivated person. Has it always been easy? Hell No! I’ve had to let go of a few long time friendships that ended up being entirely too much work with little to no return. I’ve had to make decisions that weren’t always the most popular but my heart told me were the best for me. And I struggle daily with my own high expectations for myself and all that I hope to learn and accomplish while I still can. I am often my own worst enemy.
They also should know that I don’t make a six figure income and climbing the corporate ladder is not important to me and never has been. My six weeks of vacation time however is priceless. I can afford to travel because it’s a priority to me and I sacrifice in other areas. My car is 12 years old and has 160,000 miles on it. I have conversations with her every time we go for a ride in which I promise to take care of her well if she keeps on going for a couple hundred thousand more miles….I’m shooting for 300,000. I also tell her how appreciative I am that she has been so low maintenance and treat her to a car wash often. I don’t own a high end wardrobe and have resale shopped for most of what’s in my closet. In fact, I have shoes with worn soles almost equal to the mileage on my car. I cook dinner at home every night of the week except Friday and most Saturdays. And although we eat fresh, healthy, delicious meals using mostly organic ingredients, I would never consider shopping at Whole Foods. My kudos and my $$ go to Aldi and Trader Joes (among a few others). I clean my own home even though most of my friends have theirs cleaned professionally and in the summer add to that the yard work and gardening. That means that while everyone else is out playing on a beautiful summer Saturday or Sunday, I’m almost always spending one of those days doing chores. While it may seem like I’m bitching or disgusted, I don’t feel bad about any of this and don’t expect any sympathy. Again, I make these choices every day and wouldn’t have it any other way because on the flipside, I play as hard as I work.
This blog came to be as a way to channel some creativity, learn something new and as a way to share my travel experiences while inspiring others to get out and explore the world. And, more importantly, I wanted to share all those beautiful trip photos with anyone who would look. After all, who doesn’t get as excited as I do pouring over other people’s vacation photos….right? And like most starry eyed naïve first time bloggers, I figured if I simply built it, people would come by the thousands-millions even. I knew nothing of SEO or the importance of promoting across all other forms of social media or the time it would take just to do that let alone create posts and articles that would have people mesmerized and following my every move. I didn’t even have a Twitter or Instagram account. No one warned me of the days upon days I’d spend trying to get a widget or Plug-In to work only to find they don’t work with my WordPress Theme. Or the hours of frustration at trying to resize photos or change fonts only to give up and find they work perfectly the next day for no apparent reason. I thought at the very least I could surely count on the support of those loyal friends who always seemed so excited and interested to hear about my adventures when I returned. Nope! So my excitement and eagerness has quickly turned to frustration and rejection and I am beginning to feel totally overwhelmed by it all. I fear it’s impossible to fit in a full time job, write engaging blog posts and articles, post daily on Instagram with creative and meaningful hashtags, inspire others, and most importantly get back to what I really love doing most…photographing things. Time is the real enemy–there’s never enough of it and trying to get everything done on my list seems like a pipe dream. And although I love to be busy, my mind lately is never in a restful, harmonious state.
So, what is the point of me mentioning all of this. Well as the 6 month anniversary of launching athousandplaces.com draws near, I have been seriously reflecting on whether keeping the blog up and running is more a source of joy or stress and I’ve been questioning its purpose and losing a bit of my sparkle. After all, I started the blog to learn about website creation (I guess I’ve partially accomplished this…the blog is functioning but I continue to learn something new every day) and to share my love of travel and photography as I inch my way toward 1,000 unique and interesting places (I guess I am accomplishing that as well). So yes in these instances the blog does bring me a sense of both joy and accomplishment. But what about all those followers and inspiring others? Let’s face it, isn’t the success of a blog based on hits, comments, and sponsorship opportunities? Should I dwell on that and stress because no one is lining up to give me free trips? And what about the whole social media thing? I really think based on what I see on Instagram that my photography skills are right up there with some of the best. But, hard as I try, I’m only gaining 1-2 followers a day despite my clever hashtags. And why, after all this, isn’t NatGeo beating my door down begging me to shoot for their magazine? To that end, the blog has created much stress, sadness, and quite a few sleepless nights.
So in the midst of all this reflection and pondering the meaning of life, just as the universe nudged me to start the blog, it practically pushed me down to keep it going. On the very day I was going to throw in the towel, I found a group of supportive fellow bloggers at Drifters Unite (a Facebook group of great people simply looking to connect and help each other succeed…imagine that!). Suddenly I didn’t feel so alone or behind all the other nomadic travel bloggers that have been around for years. I began receiving comments (from strangers) on my blog posts and articles. I even received my first sponsorship offer and will be blogging about that in the very near future. And, I decided to get back to what really makes my heart and soul sing….the travel and photography…and not worry about all the other bullsh*t! To stop comparing myself with everyone else and telling myself I’m not as good. To remind myself daily as stated in paragraph one that I’m living MY life and I’m a pretty lucky gal. It’s taken a huge weight off of my shoulders, my sparkle and joy are back and my mind is at peace for now. Today, everything is right again with the world–I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished so far and if NatGeo ever comes a knocking, me and my brand new camera will be ready!
Something for everyone to ponder…Living authentically and struggling to sort out all your mixed emotions and feelings is hard, even though the benefits make it worthwhile. For peace of mind: it’s deeply rewarding (and also a little scary) to live sincerely, candidly, masklessly. For meaning: authenticity helps you focus on your purposes and goals and ignore what doesn’t matter. For impact: as others see the real you, they can be inspired by your passions and enlisted into your causes. For regret avoidance: seniors often report overall life satisfaction based on how true they were to themselves. And most importantly, for identity: if you’re not living authentically, then it’s not really you who’s doing the living. My purpose and the purpose of this blog is to share my experiences and to inspire–not to create malice or animosity.
To live authentically we must remember to:
- Bring compassionate awareness to conflicts between your fundamentals, and to anything inauthentic you say or do.
- Be proud of who you are and who you’re becoming. Realize that you’re worth sharing with the world.
- Let the outer self be defined by the inner self.
- Show up fully, with integrity, in each moment. Don’t censor yourself, and don’t let perfectionism constrict your self-expression.
- Don’t trade authenticity for social approval. Be, don’t seem. If you act inauthentically in order to be loved, then it’s not you that’s being loved.
- Be courageous. Embody your fundamentals audaciously, even if it occasionally leads to uncomfortable situations. Favor external conflict over internal conflict. If you agree to a demand or request that’s against the way you want to live, you lose a little of yourself. Those who love you shouldn’t want you to be someone you’re not, or should trust you to become who you want to be. And those who don’t love you don’t deserve a vote in how you live your life.
Have any of you ever felt this way or struggled with authenticity? How do you handle negativity and what do you do to get back in the groove? I’d love to hear what inspires you to stay motiviated.