The Year of Learning is coming to a close, and as I go through photos, videos, my journal, and watch the world around me with wider eyes, I realize there are some lessons and stories I want to share.
A quick summary – if this is the first time you’re on my page – I decided around this time last year, regardless of cost, I would dedicate 2018 to a year of learning, growth, and as much travel as possible. I talk about the origins here.
While I am used to fielding questions from friends and family of “Why Singapore?” or “I can’t believe you do all of this traveling by yourself.” and other kind of nonsense questions and exclamations, there are questions I feel I’m not asked often enough. After everything I’ve put myself through this year, and given the recent events that have come to surface of a high-profile account, I wanted to share what I think is valuable information for anyone who is looking to ‘get started’.
I think it’s important to emphasize, while I do talk about traveling, writing, and photography throughout this post, starting points all generally start the same way with a “I want to do X and I have no fucking idea where to start.”
The Starting List
There were a few things that converged around the same time for me:
1. I fell during a hike, broke my camera and got a concussion.
2. A friend introduced me to SkillShare.
3. I booked a last minute trip to Iceland.
4. I started to pay attention.
These four things, although strangely were not meant to be related, kind of are. When I broke my camera, I was rather inconsolable about the loss – way more than I thought I would be. That camera and I had been through a lot together – we crossed the USA on quite a few road trips, I had it with me on my first trip to Iceland, hiking alone in the PNW – I learned so much about being a better photographer on that small ass camera. Sometimes I [jokingly] blame the concussion for the amount of money I spent 24 hours after the hiking incident, but I put myself through a real intense conversation.
First – it boiled down to figuring out why I was so upset about the camera. In the bigger picture, really the most important thing was that I was okay. I quickly realized, however, all that shit I talked about traveling the world and being a photographer – I really meant it. I think if I didn’t want to do that for a living, I wouldn’t have been as upset about the camera. I would have shrugged it off and did the I’ll-get-another-camera-when-the-time-is-right sort of dance. The next day I went out and spent my entire savings on a new, fancy AF camera and lens.
Why the obscene amount of cash? I have seen some seriously bodacious shots with cheap, small cameras. I will never not recommend these. Point-and-shoot? Your phone? They’re perfect. There were a few reasons I did this for myself: 1. I wanted a challenge. I knew my old camera inside and out, and more than half of the settings were the automatic ones for landscape, portrait, active, children – that kind of thing. I wanted a camera that didn’t have those. 2. My previous camera was a crop sensor and I wanted to have experience with a full frame sensor. 3. Somewhere inside me, the girl who has a really hard time giving a shit about herself, and is struggling to admit this even now, I felt I deserved to have a nice camera.
Second – Skillshare. A friend introduced me to SkillShare, the most important reason was because she wanted to get another month free, second, because she wasn’t sure if I heard of it and thought I might like it. Have you heard of it? If you have, perfect, go to the next paragraph. If you haven’t, it’s the tits. There are a ton of classes online, provided by people who have experience doing these things, and they’re legitimately helpful. Photography classes, YouTube classes, Podcasts, graphic design, writing, management and leadership courses. It’s phenomenal. Yes, there is a cost, however, if you sign up with a code, you can get two months free. If you refer others with your own code, you’ll get additional months for free. YES IT IS EASY TO CANCEL if it’s not for you. Give it a try here.
I signed up for SkillShare and saw how many photography and writing classes there were. I felt hopeful.
Thirdly – I figured I wasn’t done spending money, there was a great round-trip flight deal from EWR to KEF, and I jumped on it. I love Iceland so much, the fresh air, the wind, the landscape, the myths – all of that juicy goodness – I will always say yes to Iceland. It also felt like a really great place to test out the new camera.
I do have a full-time job as a manager in a warehouse. I had just finished my peak season, and like most ecomm, January is a pretty dead time of month – so I was able to get off of work. I feel like it’s important to say this because a lot of stories start out with – I quit my job and went for it! And as a woman recovering from terrible credit card debt and spending habits from her younger years, I can tell you, I understand when quitting isn’t an option. I’m sure there are some of you out there who have more to balance than I do. Two cats rely on me, but that’s nothing compared to spouses, offspring, mortgages, etc.
The most important – I started to pay attention. It’s interesting, because I felt like this is something I did. But the truth is, I really didn’t. I wasn’t paying attention to my unhappiness, my body, my relationships, my family, what I was reading, what I was watching, what I was writing, what I wasn’t doing. All of the things. It’s like that concussion knocked a little sense in me and made me give a shit.
I went for it. I started to really read everything people posted that I followed. Some of it was pure shit – like the runny kind that’s hard to get out of a shag carpet. Unfollow. There are others who write such relatable truths that you take a deep breath of life in for a moment before slightly changing yourself for the better. When they collaborated with someone else, or recommended a book, or another person’s account, I let myself trust what was happening and read and followed.
Cleaning up who I followed led me to: buy tickets for Women’s Travel Fest hosted by Kelly Lewis; buy tickets for TravelCon hosted by Nomadic Matt; I’ve followed Gloria @glographics and Alyssa @Mylifesatravelmovie for as long as I can remember, but I finally got the heuvos to sign up for their Bali Blogger Bootcamp; book a one-on-one appoint at Canon HQ; find better airline deals to increase my traveling and being kinder on my wallet; and meeting the most amazing people I would have never met if I didn’t break my fucking camera on a stupid easy hike a year ago.
The Important Lesson and Thoughts on the Scam
Now – what I am about to say, I know I’m potentially going to place myself on a side of an ongoing war. But I have something specific to say about the scam or ‘scam’ (depending on your outlook) in regard to Aggie from @travel_inhershoes. And I want to use Aggie as an example to explain what is the most important thing I have learned this year.
I used to follow Aggie, and a handful of other monstrously large accounts, but I did not feel fulfilled. I did not feel there was a genuine engagement for the purpose to inspire the world, but engagement for the purpose to create jealousy.
I followed Aggie for awhile, and what I’ve learned is her husband took her photos. Edited them. She made money from selling the presets I’m going to assume he helped create. My little website here has more content than hers does. She has been part of so many different things to buy her following instead of letting it grow organically.
I can’t justify spending the money to learn something from someone I do not think has an organic start. I’m sure Aggie has a loyal following. And bless them – I hope they continue to stick to her tribe if they love her – no judgment. Seriously – please don’t take what I’m saying as judgment at all.
I like being hands on, I like learning how to do something for myself, and learning from someone who can also do things for themselves. Other than appreciating Aggie’s book recommendations, I did not think Aggie challenged me. She didn’t inspire me to travel or teach me to be a better photographer. I’ve watched some of her videos on YouTube, and looked at her site, and she talks about wanting to experience life in other women’s shoes, hence, “travel_inhershoes”. IMO, based on her content, I never got the feeling that I was experiencing the life of any other women in this world other than Aggie’s prolonged vacations with her husband. And there are times I wish she just would have changed her handle to “travel_inmyshoes”.
There is a huge difference in reaching out to learn from someone that you think will put you on a unique path and challenge you to be a better version of yourself and inspire you to chase your dreams. Or, reaching out to learn from someone whose lifestyle you envy and ultimately you want to be them.
This is the most important thing I’ve learned: the quality of the content and who is really behind it. If there are women (were there men?) who got something from Aggie’s class, I think that’s great. I hope you feel like you got your money’s worth and you can do something substantial with that information I hope you hit your own goals and milestones – really, I mean it. I wish you all the luck. But I do think there are red flags there.
The one and only thing I did not like about our Bali Blogger Bootcamp was 11 women there was too much. I love them all to death. I love following them. I love that there is a unique experience we all shared together in a beautiful place in Bali. However, there were too many of us. And that was with TWO experienced women in their fields. I can’t imagine learning along side 499 others and feel that my personal needs were met; that my personal goals were heard and addressed and that I was given advice specific to me and my journey.
That’s all I’m going to say about that situation – I think if I say anymore it may seem like I’m bashing her, and I’m not.
I’m investing in my future, in my craft, my brand – myself. And that’s something I take incredibly serious. Regardless of cost. Yes, I’ve said it a few times by now. But I’ll be damned if I’m not paying for quality. The amount of followers doesn’t mean shit, but that quality of content does. That person or persons or company you’re on the receiving end of, if you’re certain the product they’re offering is setting you up to constantly challenge yourself to the next level as a person, as an artist, as a traveler, lover, friend – I say that’s where you should start. Start where it’s hard because you are inspired to grow.
By paying attention, and investing in myself, I addressed the fact that I really, really fucked up my foot and leg. I’ve been seeing doctors for months. In physical therapy for months. If I just stayed on autopilot, I would have let this injury go on for so long I’m certain I would have permanently crippled myself.
I also re-evaluated the relationships I let exist. Some were hella toxic, others were kind of there – and that shit takes away value from my livelihood. Even if I think about a toxic relationship for thirty seconds, that is thirty seconds wasted. It is time taken that could be valuable to myself and others.
The Wrap Up
I have absolutely no idea what the next year is going to hold for me. But there are some compliments I need to pay myself.
I’m a better photographer than this time last year. (A better, more well-equipped hiker, too.)
Although my following is small AF, it’s more than doubled from this time last year.
There are some serious travel goals set for 2019. I’m excited my body is bouncing back. And although I can be far too harsh on myself, I’m happy to see the progress I’ve made in a year.
My feed is more of a lovely thing to look at in comparison to last year, too.
Christmas 2017 and impulsive posting:
Christmas 2018 and a better understanding of content curation: