I’m a former researcher and part-time travel writer who is on a mission to turn writing into my full-time job. This blog is a big part of that: Researcher Gone Rogue is where I share stories of my travels around the world and my passion for exploring the outdoors and places that lie beyond the urban centres. Every month, I write a personal update about what’s been happening during the month to help me stay on track. You get an insight into what travel blogging is like and it holds me accountable and enables me to follow my progress as I go. My intention is to be as honest and open as possible.
I track several things in these posts: things I did and places I visited, blogs that I wrote, articles that I published on other platforms, social media engagement and of course the things I wish I’d done better. At the end of each update, I’ll set some goals for the month ahead.
Here’s what happened this November!
My goals for travel blogging this month (set at the end of October in my two month update) were to have more meaningful conversations on social media, maintain a consistent blog schedule, start pitching again and get at least two more modules of my travel writing course completed. Yet again, I achieved some of these things and not others. There is always room for improvement!
What I did
I continued to publish 2 blogs per week this month, but it’s beginning to become a little too much, especially as I am trying to pitch to other platforms, apply for jobs over here in New Zealand and in Sydney and spend time with my family over Christmas. I also want to maintain the quality of my blog posts, rather than just churning out content for the sake of publishing a certain number of pieces each week. This blog needs to remain a fun thing to do and the content quality needs to stay high, so as of December I’ll be publishing one blog post per week.
My favourite blog this month was 6 challenges faced by Aussie expats in Sweden. I originally wrote this one as a listicle-style piece for one of the assignments for my MatadorU advanced travel writing course and decided it was worth turning into a blog post. Another favourite was Diary of a long-haul flight from Sweden to New Zealand. I made a 38-hour journey from Karlstad to Clevedon and to make it more exciting, I documented the trip. It was certainly a more interesting journey than others I’ve had – maybe I’ll document them all from now on!
This month, I also branched out to cover two other destinations. I’ve been to over 40 countries, which this blog clearly does not show because I didn’t start it until I’d been to about 43 of them! To write about your travels, you really need to do it soon afterwards when the memories are still fresh, so that’s why I haven’t written about all the travel I’ve done over the last 5 years (there’s been an awful lot of it). Luckily, I had written some notes from a couple of trips earlier this year but hadn’t gotten around to turning them into blog posts. So I went back through my notebooks and photo archives and published a long-form piece on Ardmore in Ireland and a budget guide to things to see and do in Tartu, Estonia.
I have started to get back into pitching to other platforms, which is a good thing. The bad thing is that my efforts have not yet been successful! But it’s all about persistence. I sent out some feelers to travel media in Auckland, which is where I am now, and did some research into what was out there. I got some helpful info but nothing has really eventuated yet. I’ll just keep exploring and coming up with ideas and keep on trying.
I also decided to pitch to a pretty big travel publisher, just to see if I could get any feedback. I figure that even if my pitch gets rejected, at least I will find out more information about contact people, guidelines, maybe even a few words of feedback, and some practice at positioning my ideas in different ways. I did get a reject but I’ll keep trying them with other ideas and angles and see if I get any success.
I think it’s worth noting here that I use both Google docs and Trello to keep track of my various pitches and my freelance schedule (that is, all the writing that I do outside of this blog). I have a Google docs spreadsheet where I keep note of the contact person at each platform, the date I pitched, any comments (awaiting response, send reminder, unsuccessful, etc.) For the freelance pieces that do get commissioned, I note the date that I send the work, the date they are published and a link to the article, as well as when I received payment. And when I’m in the middle of working on a freelance piece, I use Trello cards to keep me up-to-date with deadlines and where I’m at in the writing process (drafting, editing, proofing, and so on).
Freelance piece published
This month, my piece Weekend Away: Discovering Värmland was published for Slow Travel Stockholm. This article was the result of a successful pitch I made to Slow Travel Stockholm many months ago. I had been reading their stuff quite regularly and loved the focus on slow and meaningful travel. When I noticed that they had a section on day trips and weekends away in places around Sweden, I thought there was a good opportunity for me to contribute something on the Värmland region that I have quite a lot of knowledge about, having lived there for over 3 years. Luckily, the editor agreed and commissioned my piece, and the final product is now up on slowtravelstockholm.com! It’s a short piece but there are loads of suggestions in there for how you can spend a weekend in the Swedish countryside.
At the end of October, my stats were as follows: Facebook (34 likes), Instagram (59 followers) and Twitter (74 followers). Now, at the end of November, I’ve got 46 likes on Facebook, 80 Instagram followers and 104 Twitter followers. One of this month’s goals was to engage in more meaningful conversations on social media. I struggled to do this this month, as I have been spending time with family, searching for jobs and going exploring to get inspiration for my blog content. So I haven’t been spending the same amount of time on social media as I have done in previous months. I had a lot of engagement on Twitter with my personal account this month, as I published an article from my time in Brussels about a really inspiring project that seemed to get a lot of positive reactions and was shared by a lot of people. So I probably spent more time engaging in conversations on my personal account than on the Researcher Gone Rogue one (ah, the trials and tribulations of managing multiple accounts).
But I did make more of an effort with Instagram this month. Instagram is the thorn in my side, the social media platform that I love but never seem to really master. I’m a writer but I’m not so great at the visual side of things; it’s why I love Twitter so much. But after using Instagram Stories for a little while, I’ve noticed that people have started to talk to me more and respond to the video content. I was a little suspicious of it at first as it seemed to be another Snapchat (just as I’m wary of Facebook Messenger’s new ‘My Day’ thing – does anyone actually use that?) But I actually like Instagram Stories so much more because I can just take pictures and film with the same app, instead of constantly opening different apps. I’m also not great at posting pictures every day, so I like that Instagram Stories keeps your followers updated as to what you’re doing even when you don’t have any quality images to upload. I’m not sure how interesting my story is to people – there’s definitely a lot of clips of walking. If you’ve been watching and have suggestions for how I could improve, let me know what you’d like to see more of!
I’m still using Hootsuite to schedule content for Twitter and Facebook, which is continuing to prove a wonderful tool.
Travel writing course
I finally got around to doing the next assignment of my advanced travel writing course with MatadorU. Okay, I haven’t quite finished it yet – it’s being edited for the second time – but the important thing is that I got back into it. And once again, I’m receiving really great feedback on my writing that I can apply to all my pieces. I did set a goal to complete the next 2 assignments this month, so unfortunately I fell short of that this month. But I’m not being too hard on myself – this month was quite a busy one!
This month, I replaced my little Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini with a Samsung Galaxy S6. The camera is incredible and I have been taking all of my Auckland pictures with it – I haven’t taken my camera out once! The main reason for upgrading was so that I could use the new phone for taking travel pictures, as sometimes I get sick of taking my camera with me and wanted something more portable. I used to have an iPhone but I just couldn’t justify spending so much for an iPhone when Samsung phones are (in my opinion) better value for money. So far I can say it has been well worth the investment.
Where I went
If you’ve been following me on social media, then you already know that I’m no longer in Värmland – I swapped the Swedish winter for sunny Auckland! I was born in Australia but most of my relatives actually live in New Zealand because my dad was originally from there. I’m staying here for a couple of months with my family before heading to Sydney some time in the new year. At this stage I’m not sure how long I’ll be staying down under, and the reasons for coming back here are quite complicated. I might write a blog post about it soon. Let’s just say that we all need some time out once in a while, and that even the most adventurous of travellers needs to come home and see their family and friends every so often. Even though I’m away from my partner (long-distance relationships really suck) and will miss Christmas in Sweden, it’s really great to be here.
So far, I’ve been pretty busy exploring, writing and soaking up everything that Auckland has to offer. I’ve visited my family here for Christmas and other occasions many times but have never really spent extended periods of time here. This time is different, and I’m really making an effort to try to get to know the city and the surrounding area. My family live in a lovely rural area southeast of Auckland called Clevedon. It’s close to some gorgeous beaches and regional parks, as well as the Hunua Ranges, where there a lot of great walking trails, waterfalls and rolling hillsides with grazing sheep. There’s also wineries, local markets and great coffee! It’s only an hour’s drive from the city, so it’s easy to explore both countryside and urban areas.
I’ve done a lot of walks so far around some of Auckland’s islands, beaches and parks. I’m collecting inspiration from these trips that I’ll turn into blog posts and (hopefully) freelance pieces for other platforms. I’m documenting everything with my new phone and make notes in a notebook that I carry with me everywhere. It helps me to remember key details about the places I visit, such as times, facts, observations and personal thoughts – things that pictures cannot always help you with. I’m going to buy some hiking boots soon and start preparing for some longer walks and hikes. If you have any good hiking gear recommendations I’m all ears!
Things I need to work on
Motivation and prioritising are the main things that I need to work on next month. I’ve been finding it difficult to motivate myself to do things lately, although being back in the sunshine and around family has improved things. I’ve also decided that I need to prioritise things a bit better. I was spending far too much time on this blog, which I do in my spare time, instead of spending time on things that would bring in money (which I’ll need when my savings begin to deplete). By dropping down to 1 blog post a week and minimising some of my workload, I’m hoping that I’ll have more time to spend on searching for paying freelance work and jobs that will bring in a more stable income.
As Christmas and New Year are coming up and I’ve got lots planned with friends and family, I have decided not to set big goals for the next month. I’d like to spend some time figuring out what I’m going to do next year and just chill out for a while with friends and family who I haven’t seen in a long time. If I can manage to write 4 blog posts in December, land either a successful pitch or a job interview and get one more travel writing assignment done, then I’ll be happy. But at the same time, if these things don’t happen, I’m not going to try not to be too hard on myself. So I suppose the goal is to relax and have fun and hopefully hit 2017 with renewed energy and happiness.
I’ll still be in Auckland next month, so if you’re following me on social media you can expect plenty more snaps, stories, pictures and posts from the land of the long white cloud. And of course, if you have any suggestions for things to see and do on the North Island, then I’d love to hear them.
That’s all for now, thanks for reading and I hope that you all have a wonderful December 🙂
Are you also an aspiring travel blogger/writer who can relate to some of these things? Please share your accomplishments and struggles in the comments below, I would love to hear from you! And if any part of this update resonated with you or you want to know more then please don’t hesitate to reach out.