Mar 10, 2014

The Evolution of a Blog & Blogger: 3 Years & Counting…

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I can hardly believe it, but somehow this little creative space 'o mine just had its 3rd birthday. THREE YEARS! Yesterday, to be exact. My blog is no longer a baby…it's a walking, talking toddler, with a brand and goals and a voice all it's own. I don't usually celebrate blog birthdays, but I felt a strange nudge to acknowledge it this year. This particular blog birthday symbolizes more than just the birth of a blog, but also the end of a journey. Not the end of blogging (you can't get rid of me that easily), but the end of what compelled me to begin blogging in the first place...our life in Germany. I started writing just as our journey to Germany began…the orders, the movers, the long days of living in hotels and acclimating to our new host country. During year one, I'm pretty sure my mom, my friends, and a few select MilSpouse bloggers I somehow befriended were the only people who even read my blog. I wrote to keep everyone updated on our adventures, never worrying about grammar, punctuation, or using too many ill-placed exclamation points. Gosh, I loved exclamation points. I had no clue you could turn your blog into a business and that earning a little side hustle was a sought-after "thing." Ahhh, blogging was simpler then. No expectations, no comparisons, just sharing what was going on in my life as I was living it. That's how it starts for most of us, no? With intent only to write an online diary…naive to all the other avenues of blogging. And then one day, you wake up and want more. Or at least that's where I found myself at the end of year one.

In year two, I spent time changing my design, linking-up with every link-up I could find, and commenting on hundreds of blogs just to get my face out there. My real life amped up with travel, so I began carving a little niche out for myself in the travel blogger realm. Slowly but surely, I began to feel embraced in my new niche…and that's where my blogging fire really started burning. I yearned to be an integral part of the blogging community--that travel blogger everyone loved and couldn't live without, even if it meant I had to write or participate in things I wasn't so keen on doing. Around my 26th birthday (and the beginning of one of the hardest years of my life emotionally), I dove into the sponsorship world head first and pushed myself to write like everyone else. Be funny, be thoughtful, be relevant! I toyed around with different voices but continued to feel unsettled. I thought I needed a persona…anything to make me stand out, or rather, fit in. Even though inside I felt confused, my page views steadily grew and other bloggers bought ads on my blog. WHOO HOO! I was relevant! I was popular! I was IN DEMAND! GIMME GIMME GIMME! The numbers game was on and I was caught all up in it. No stat was ever high enough and my eyes became green with envy. The harsh realities of blogger comparison were slowly revealed to me and instead of marching to the beat of my own drum, I became a blogging robot and felt my mojo deflating. Although I was getting the exposure I wanted, I struggled finding the joy in blogging and spent dozens of nights crying about not being good enough. I just couldn't keep up. I was disgusted at myself and the way blog world was moving (and the way I wanted to conform to it), so I figured getting out while I was ahead would be a smart choice. On 3 separate occasions in year two, I almost closed up shop…but even that never felt right. Quitting was in my nature, but not in His divine plan.

Towards the end of year two, I parted the blogging fog over my heart. I decided the only way to make blogging work for me was to blog my way. There isn't a blogging "rule book" anyway, so why was I putting so much pressure on myself to write everyday…write a certain way…and focus so much on trivial things that I never fully enjoyed the space I was creating. Year three, I was going to rejuvenate my views on blogging (and my design because, well, it was time again). WHO CARES if I compose a post of "too many" photos or ramble on and on in circles instead of keeping things short and sweet? You don't like that my punctuation is too liberal or that my sentences run on? There's a little red "x" you can click, won't hurt my feelings any longer! Yeah, I make a little money from this space and I'm not ashamed to say that. Think I'm selling out and not "writing for me?" I'm sorry you view blogging in such a black and white way…if you need to leave, as Juan Pablo would say, "It's OK!" Not every blog is for every one. While it took some time for me to realize this, I've made it my blogging mantra. In year three, I rekindled my love for meaningful interactions, focused more on transparency, and began to write how I talk in real life, instead of how I thought blog world wanted me to write. I took a good, hard look at what parts of blogging I loved and clung to them, discarding all the bits (and bloggers) that no longer fit me or the space I wanted to nourish with realness and positivity. While the comparison monster still rages on occasion, I've found ways to contain him. If I need to step away, I don't feel apologetic about doing so. While I still offer sponsorships, I've found ways to make them fun and worthwhile for those who sponsor AND for myself. Even though I continue to look at my pageviews and enjoy growing my readership, I don't stress if the numbers are stagnant or the opportunities don't come. While I'm far from having it all figured out, in year three I found I'm a happier blogger staying true to myself, my way.

Truth be told, there are times I still fall prey to the blogger I was in year two, but those pits are much easier to crawl out of these days. In the start of year four, I'm motivated by so much more than the numbers and the accolades. I'm motivated by you guys. The emails, the comments, the tweets and sweet ways you let me know I'm doing alright. Over these last few years, I've marveled at how this space where I started chronicling our journey abroad has morphed and changed into such a visceral part of who I am and what I do. I've watched my perspective change, my photography evolve, my content grow, and my readership flourish…all the while finding solace in an activity so weird and so wacky, even I can't quite put my finger on its pulse. Even in my year of uncertainty, through all the mistakes made and growing pains, I've found myself peeking over the blogging horizon…finding my rhythm and honing in on the unique voice I've been searching for these last 3 years. Some days, it's hard to remember my life before blogging. Which makes me interested to see where this space will take me once our life stateside starts up again. It's funny, but yesterday, as I started thinking about writing this post, I realized my blog birthday falls on the same day as my late MeeMaw's birthday (cue goosebumps). She passed away just 4 months before this blog dream came to fruition in my life. I never talked about blogging with her, but maybe my blog birthday falling on her birthday isn't just a coincidence. I like to think she's watching over our family in various ways. Maybe this blog is MeeMaw's gift to me...keeping me busy and engaged while I'm so far away from my family and my career. Giving me something to work hard at and be passionate about. She was so into creating lasting memories and "remembering who you are," maybe she knew I needed this place to chronicle this particular chapter of my life. So I could look back someday and remember who I was and who I've grown to be throughout this amazing adventure. Whatever divine reason this space came to be, I'm thankful that it's here. I'm looking forward to nurturing it more and giving it room to move in whatever direction it may go in days to come. 
Happy 3rd birthday, We Took the Road Less Traveled. Cheers to many, many more!

[In case you're fairly new around here or just never took a walk down my blog's memory lane, here's a healthy smattering of the posts I love and posts that have been popular throughout my 3 year blogging journey. And as always, thanks for reading!!]







46 comments:

  1. Happy Blog Birthday! You really have come a very long way, and can't wait to have time to go through all those older posts! :D

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  2. Happy Blog Birthday! I've loved your journey, and can't wait to see where year 4 takes you!

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  3. Aw happy blog birthday!! So glad to have found your blog a while ago! :)

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  4. Happy Blogiversary! I think I found your blog a little less than a year ago but I've enjoyed reading it ever since - and many a time I've gone through your archives to get to know more of you and your journey.
    I think you're doing a great work and I hope that We Took The Road Less Traveled will continue for many years to come :)
    Have fun celebrating your blog success and have a great week! xo

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  5. Happy Blog Birthday!! Thank you for writing this. I find myself wanting bigger number and more sponsorships, and I need a reality check every once in a while that brings me back to the original reason I started blogging....to just document life as it happened. I need to stop worrying about what other bloggers are writing (a.k.a. what I should be writing) and just write what happens in my life...good and bad. Thank you for letting me know I'm not the only one who goes through these rough patches. I love your blog just the way it is. :)

    xo Denise
    lovelybohemian.blogspot.com

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  6. I'm in the process of changing my blog a bit and I loved seeing your evolution. Keep up the good work! :)

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    1. Fun!! Gotta keep growing and changing in this fast-paced blog world we're a part of. Just keep on staying true to you, girl. That's what I love about reading your blog. You're always filled with fun travel stories and interesting insights…a cozy place for authentic writing. :) Can't wait to see what new things you have in store! And thanks!!! :)

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  7. Happy Birthday, Blog! I am so glad I stumbled upon your blog way back when... I think I've been around for most of your journey!

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  8. Definitely such an incredible journey! Congrats! I love reading old posts by bloggers!
    http://liveitinerantly.com/

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    1. Thank you, Quyen!! And thanks for taking time to read each day! :)

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  9. Happy three years! I found you because I was looking for other military people stationed overseas. I've done a bad job blogging myself, which I suppose is just a part of my blogging story. :)

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  10. Well, thank goodness you never gave it up! I found you last year around this time when we found out we'd be moving to Wiesbaden. Honestly, reading about your travels and adventures is what got me over the nervousness and ready to take on the move. ((I ran into you at the commissary once, and went home to say I'd met a real life celebrity.))You have a way of inspiring people through words (and pictures), and you are completely relatable. I can't wait to see where the next year(s) take you! Happy Blogging Birthday! :)

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    1. Hahaha! I remember you and that day at the commissary very well, Heather!! I so appreciate you taking the time to stop and chat with me. I absolutely love meeting my readers in person…especially sweet ones like you! I'm so happy to hear my blog helped you in your move to Wiesbaden. Exactly what I'm here for…giving a little insight into this crazy military adventure! Thanks for your kind words, girl!! I hope to run into you again soon! :)

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  11. Whoop whoop! Great achievement. You're not alone in your past/present struggles. It's so easy to get trapped into thinking you have to write a certain way. At the end of the day the best blogs are always the ones written from a place of truth and passion. :o)

    Life+1
    New Post: The Importance of Independence

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    1. I totally agree…writing with your heart produces the best results and the most important interactions in blog land. I only wish I'd taken that to heart straight out the gate! Thank you, Jane!

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  12. Congratulations on three years! That is so exciting and good luck with the next years

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    1. Thanks a million, Elizabeth!! :)

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  13. I loved every word of this:) making it your own has made it beautiful:) And trust me, you inspire so many of us! So so grateful I met you this year lady, love Katie xoxo

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  14. Happy blogday :) I love reading your blog...I'm just starting out and one day I hope my little slice of the internet to turn out as nice as yours! Thanks for sharing your life with us
    Grace x
    theartofwandering.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. Slow and steady wins the race, girl! :) Thank you for taking the time to come read everyday!! I so appreciate you and this wonderful blog world!

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  15. I've been reading your blog for almost a year exactly! It sounds like I lucked out with my timing. I've always found your writing to be authentic, and you know how much I love your sponsorship program. Congrats on three years! That's a huge milestone, and you should be proud. :D

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    1. YAY! Time flies, girl! Thank you so much, Belle!! You don't know how happy that makes me to hear! I'm feeling all kinds of love today :)

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  16. happy birthday to your blog:)
    just started mine!
    http://elenacameacross.wordpress.com/

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    1. Thank you!! Welcome to blog world! :)

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  17. I keep forgetting when my birthday is but happy blog birthday to you

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  18. Yep. I knew I'd love this.
    I have always enjoyed your writing Casey, and ever since last year when I started following you in April, I've been fascinated with your real writing style, your gorgeous pictures, and the fact that it seemed like you were writing for you and that's what matters most.
    What a gorgeous look over the last few years! I can't wait to see what's ahead. :) Happy Blog Birthday!

    -Amanda | Living in Another Language

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  19. Happy, happy blog birthday! I loved reading this, as a newer blogger, the honesty was so incredibly refreshing.

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    1. Thank you so very much, Kristan! I've made my fair share of mistakes in blog world, but it's been fun ride nevertheless! Looking forward to seeing what year 4 will bring :)

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  20. Happy Blog Birthday! I loved reading this post, especially because i can relate to all the trials you went through in Year 2! I'm glad you kept your little creative space running because let me say, it's magical! haha I've always wanted to travel Europe and i feel like i travel with you whenever i read your posts. You are amazing and i love your rambling ;) ;) Cheers to more creative years to come!

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  21. Wow! AMEN! You go girl!

    I came across your blog a couple months ago because my boyfriend and I are debating on which country in Europe to live in for one year. He has family in Oslo, but Berlin is our favorite! We are debating on the which aspect is more important: having people you know or choosing your favorite city! We are software engineers, so our careers give us flexibility- he works from home, and my company has locations in almost every country.

    I also created my own blog in September 2013.

    I feel parts of me resonate with you because of these similarities. In addition, you tell it how it is, give accurate descriptions, and your blog voice is filled with sincerity and care. Your layout is very unique and cute!

    I could go on and on... but thanks for giving us readers a peek into your life! We love your posts!

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  22. love this post!! it's amazing to see the way your blog has changed and grown through the years! this is so inspirational!

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  23. What a great post! Congratulations to you and your blog :). You are one of my favorite bloggers, and it is because your relatable, genuine writing. Thank you for giving us a peek into your lives! As a new blogger, I also struggle with finding my authentic voice, and I always look to your blog for inspiration and to remind myself that the best bloggers are just themselves :) keep on doing what you're doing, can't wait to see what happens next!

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  24. I am a fairly new reader, but have loved checking in on your blog and seeing what new adventure you have been on. Keep it up, and keep marching to your own drum!

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  25. I stumbled upon your blog earlier this week, and I'm so glad I did! My brother was stationed there as well a few years ago, but unfortunately my husband was medically discharged before I could convince him and army to send us ;) He and I both laughed when we read your post about moving to Germany, where you said hurry up and wait lol I constantly said that! Good luck on your return to the states and I look forward to reading more posts! :)

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  26. This was fantastic! Thanks for letting us in on your thoughts of each year. I can't believe you've only been blogging for three years, you sure have gotten it together in a short time. You're one of the bloggers that I admire most :)

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  27. What a great post and Happy (belated) Blog Birthday! Off and on I definitely feel the pull to "keep up with the blogging joneses", especially lately, and I've been fighting to stay true to myself and remember the reasons why I started my blog in the first place. It's so nice to hear that I'm not the only one with these feelings! I love your writing and all your beautiful pictures and am looking forward to reading whatever you have in store!

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  28. Such a great post. I'm so happy to have found your blog, and so happy you didn't quit since I found you over this past year. Thanks for continuing in YOUR voice because I love it!

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  29. Congratulations, Casey! Your blog is uniquely you, and that is why everyone is here! The only person to compete with is ourselves and betting our blogs in our own ways and you've certainly done that.

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  30. I love reading that. It's so inspirational! Nothing better than traveling and share our experiences with the world.

    My blog: www.isamour.com

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  31. Good on you for blogging your way and not doing the same old thing as everyone else. I love coming across new blogs that are slightly different to the norm and I love yours.

    Congrats on the 3 year birthday!!

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  32. Happy blog-a-birthday!!!! You are such a genuine person and I love following along on your incredibly adventures! You're a doll!!! xoxo

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I appreciate your feedback, friends! I read every comment and try my hardest to respond to each one, but if your email address isn't attached to your blogger profile, you might find my response in the comment thread instead. As always, thanks for reading!

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