Two Years of Blogging: Taking Stock
Blogging, Musings

Four Years of Travel & Two Years of Blogging: Taking Stock

Just over two years ago, on December 21st, 2013, I published my first ever blog post.

With no inclination of the direction The Mochilera Diaries would take back then, it’s both thrilling and fascinating to see how far it has come in such a short time, how it has grown and changed and matured alongside me, and how it has, in many ways, dictated the trajectory of my life since that day.

It’s hard to imagine where I would be had I not started blogging.  At the risk of sounding utterly cliché and sappy, I’m going to say it:

Travel blogging changed my life.Two Years of Blogging: Taking Stock

Allow me to elaborate.

Life Before Blogging

You see, it’s been a long time since I’ve dedicated so much of my life to any one endeavor.  Two years may not seem like a lot to most people, but when my attention span until now has hovered right around the three-month mark before boredom set in, two years is actually quite the accomplishment for me, and make no mistake–it’s something I’m quite proud of.

Before I knew how much travel truly meant to me, I had big career ambitions.  You might say I was following the Great American Dream–or, at least, the Original American Dream.

Back then (2005, to be precise) I’d just been accepted to my dream college to study the field I thought I was passionate about at the time, nutrition and dietetics.  It wasn’t until many years later that I realized this “passion” of mine, which manifested itself in intense self-study beginning as early as high school, was nothing more than a band-aid solution for problems that were rooted too deeply to be solved in such a superficial way–body dysmorphia and an eating disorder.

But until that realization came about, I studied diligently, got good grades in my university courses despite feeling completely inadequate, gave up my opportunity to study abroad in order to graduate on time (that’s four years in the US), and was accepted to my dietetic internship and master’s program of choice in New Haven, Connecticut.

In spite of my successes, the bitter taste left in my mouth by not being able to study abroad was acrid and strong; I imagine this was because even back then, I knew that nutrition wasn’t truly where my heart was.

And yet, I continued.

My year in Connecticut was easily one of the most miserable of my life.  A feeling of dread filled my gut each morning as I summoned the courage to go to my rotations, only to have my ego shattered into a million pieces by the end of the day.

I took small victories where I could get them.  I felt an enormous release of pressure the day I officially dropped out of the master’s program.  I managed to suppress my binge-purge behavior for most of the year.  I escaped to nearby New York City as often as I could, imagining briefly that my life wasn’t actually unfolding the way it was.Two Years of Blogging: Taking Stock

It’s incredible to think how many glaring red flags I willingly ignored during that time.  But I’d put in the work to get there, and so it was obligation that dictated my thoughts and actions.  I had to finish the internship.  I had to become a registered dietitian.  Otherwise, it would all have been for nothing.  The funny thing now is, those obligations meant nothing in the end.  It was all for nothing, because my heart proved more strong-willed than my head.

When my year of hell concluded and an opportunity came around to change my life’s trajectory, I faltered simply for lack of ideas.  I moved to New York and began unwillingly searching for entry-level jobs as a dietitian.  But when 30 job applications produced one interview and zero jobs and my motivation to study for the registration exam evaporated into thin air, I knew it was time to choose a different life.

Choosing Travel

That fall is when I began researching opportunities for teaching English abroad.  One year later I enrolled in a TEFL program in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and haven’t looked back on my old life since.

Although teaching didn’t prove to be a true passion, either, moving abroad was a giant leap in the right direction.  In the past four years, I’ve visited 26 countries, calling two of them home.  I’ve experienced things I’d only dreamed of–I’ve jumped out of an airplane, chowed down on crispy insects, and seen some of the world’s most incredible natural wonders.  I’ve been wreck diving, zip-lining, sailing, and island hopping.

I’ve met people that amaze and inspire me and push me to be better every single day.  I’ve fallen in love with more people and more places and more moments than I could ever count.  I’ve learned to love myself for all of my shortcomings and imperfections, and developed a new, healthy relationship with my body and food.

Just when things seemed most dismal, travel brought me back to life.Two Years of Blogging: Taking Stock

The Role of Blogging

Over these past few years, my path hasn’t always made much sense; but as long as I’ve kept moving, kept learning about myself, and discovered what it is I truly desire in life, I’ve continued progressing toward my goals.

Among those goals?  Continuing to travel (check) and waking up each morning excited about life (check).  Starting this blog has been a major catalyst toward achieving the latter.  I never imagined it would lead to so many opportunities, so many friendships, and a lifestyle that I absolutely adore.

In some cases, my blog has even helped me decide where to travel next; I may not have traveled to Europe as early as I did were it not for the TBEX conference, for instance.  While traveling the Balkans, I visited some cities for the opportunity to meet up with blogger friends, and one city I even visited as a result of a serendipitous email from a reader.

And the mere act of penning a travel blog has undoubtedly provided some extra motivation to continue exploring and experiencing the world.

I’m happy to admit that my life is far from perfect.  My blog doesn’t support my lifestyle yet, even though I hope it does one day. My other income streams are growing, but still tentative at best.  But the things I have now that my life lacked before blogging are the confidence to know that I can achieve things that seem impossible at first, a lifestyle that is built around my true passions, and the peace of mind of knowing I’ve taken control of my own life and happiness.Two Years of Blogging: Taking Stock

Where to Go from Here

One thing I can say with total certainty is that blogging came into my life for a reason, and it’s here to stay.  For the past two years, it has been my creative outlet and a justification for learning new skills, among so, so many other things.

As far as travel is concerned, it is also here to stay, but in a different capacity.  I discussed my desire to slow down my travels at length in this post, so I won’t rehash it here.

Lastly, I plan to continue freelancing all while building this little blog even more, filling it with beautiful travel photos and useful info and uplifting anecdotes from life “on the road.”

As ever, as always, thank you for following along with this journey.  Your support and readership mean more to me than you’ll ever know.

Cheers to two years, and many, many more!

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26 Comments

  • Reply Anke Roosendans December 29, 2015 at 7:54 am

    Nice to read your story! What I noticed about traveling, it just gives you the time and space to determine what you want and how you see your life. Loose from all other comments and judgements. And even if you didn’t figure out what to do next, at least you gained the confidence and knowledge that everything turns out how it should be anyway.

  • Reply Manouk December 29, 2015 at 9:06 am

    Cheers Leah! Like you, my blog is my creative outlet and a justification for learning new skills. I can’t even describe how much I’ve learned these past years! And these numerous (creative) learning experiences, give so much positive energy. Curious to see what 2016 will bring for you :)!
    Manouk recently posted…Best Places to Travel When Solo and On a Budget!My Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis January 3, 2016 at 3:22 am

      Thanks so much, Manouk! I can’t wait to see what this journey has in store for both of us 🙂

  • Reply Kinga December 29, 2015 at 9:34 am

    I love how honest you are in this blog! Congratulations on those four years of blogging and fingers crossed for the coming years.
    Kinga recently posted…The most amazing sunsets ever. Part I – EuropeMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis January 3, 2016 at 3:23 am

      Aw, thank you Kinga! That means a lot to me. I try to keep it real around here 😉 Cheers!

  • Reply Joella December 29, 2015 at 10:30 am

    Congrats, Leah! I think most people give up blogging way before two years so two years is a great milestone. I’ve had this blog (though of course I switched the name when we decided to leave Beijing) for about 2 years now too. I’m quite proud of myself 🙂 I actually had my first travel blog in 2006 when I moved to Korea to teach, but didn’t keep it up for more than a year. But with this one I still feel excited about it. I think one of the things that keeps me going, apart from that I love writing this blog, is that there is such a great travel blog community now. Like you, I’ve enjoyed making new friends through blogging. And though I also can’t fund myself through my blog, I’ve had some other great opportunities such as writing jobs, come about via my blog. Here’s to blogging for many years to come and I hope we cross paths sometime! Happy new year!
    Joella recently posted…Walking The Wild Great WallMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis January 3, 2016 at 3:24 am

      Ah, you are so right, Joella! I’ve loved getting to know other bloggers, both online and in person. It really is an awesome community and one I’m proud to be a part of 🙂 I hope to cross paths one day as well!! Happy 2016!

  • Reply Melanie Fontaine December 29, 2015 at 11:50 am

    What a wonderfully uplifting and inspiring post, Leah! I think there is so much we all can learn from your story, namely to not just settle for whatever path we’re already on, but to pursue what we feel truly passionate about – even if it seems crazy at first! I truly wish you the best for your blogging future: I’ve been following your blog since spring and while I don’t comment a ton, I’m pretty sure I’ve read and enjoyed every post you’ve put up since then. Your passion for travel clearly shines through! 🙂
    Melanie Fontaine recently posted…What I Loved Most About Andalusia in 20 PicturesMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis January 3, 2016 at 3:26 am

      Thank you so much, Melanie! You are so sweet to say that. Thanks so much for reading, and I wish you all the best too, in travel and in blogging! 🙂
      Leah Davis recently posted…Month in Review: December 2015My Profile

  • Reply Katelyn December 29, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    Congrats girl! I’m so glad I got to meet you in Athens! You have such a way with words and writing from the heart. I’m glad you found your passion and I have no doubt that your blog will continue to grow and become an inspiration to many, including myself. This post definitely hit home with me as I feel very much this past year has been a big transition year for me and I’m ready to ditch the “American Dream” for the expat life too. Life is just way to short to live chained to a desk working a 9 to 5 until you die. You’re a rockstar and I can’t wait to read more about Sweden. Speaking of Sweden, think you might still be there the end of March? I might be swinging through on a long layover. Happy New Year! 🙂
    Katelyn recently posted…My 12 Favorite Travel Photos of 2015My Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis January 3, 2016 at 3:28 am

      Thanks, Katelyn! I’m glad we had the opportunity to connect in Greece too. I don’t know about my future plans for Sweden. I may have to leave as soon as my 90 days are up, and then come back later in the year. Things are turning out more complicated than I hoped. Anyway, happy travels to you this year and hopefully we can meet again somewhere!

  • Reply Lisa December 30, 2015 at 12:38 am

    Congrats, Leah! Two years is a great milestone indeed. I completely comprehend the boredom setting in by the way. I think it truly requires an environment where we are very passionate about and can keep challenging ourselves in order for that boredom not to emerge – something you have clearly found, so cheers to that! Thanks for inspiring us, it has been great following along with you and your journey the last couple of months.

    • Reply Leah Davis January 3, 2016 at 3:32 am

      Thanks so much, Lisa! I hope to have found that sweet spot where I’m just stimulated enough to stay still, ha! I think living in another culture is a good place to start. Thanks so much for following along! Happy New Year!

  • Reply Silvia December 30, 2015 at 1:31 am

    This is so inspiring! I started my blog two years ago this January, and while the details are totally different, reading this was in many ways like reading my own story. I’m excited to see what your time in Sweden brings, and I hope you can squeeze in a trip to Norway at some point too! (I promise it’s not as expensive as people say, especially now that the kroner is so crazy weak.)
    Silvia recently posted…Christmas the Norwegian WayMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis January 3, 2016 at 3:33 am

      Thanks Silvia! I would really love to come to Norway. We’ll see if we can make it happen this year. How long do you plan to be there? Indefinitely?
      Leah Davis recently posted…Month in Review: December 2015My Profile

  • Reply Caroline December 30, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    Congratulations on two years of blogging, and two years of heading in the right direction and living a fulfilling life!

    Your posts are always so honest and I think that’s why so many of your posts resonate with me and are really relatable, including this one. A few years ago I took my first overseas trip to Europe right after I had graduated college; confused and stressed about the direction I wanted my life to head and not having the greatest self esteem. That trip turned out to be such a positive catalyst in my life, it gave me direction, confidence, and it eventually led me to my career (which I love).

    Cheers to an exciting new year for you, looking forward to reading about it!
    Caroline recently posted…Wanderlusting: Trendy & Bohemian Neighborhoods Around The WorldMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis January 3, 2016 at 3:34 am

      That’s an amazing story Caroline! Travel does have a way of providing clarity one way or another. I’m glad it worked out for you the way it did. Cheers, and thanks for reading!

  • Reply Andrew Darwitan January 2, 2016 at 9:41 pm

    Inspiring! Thanks for sharing. =)
    Andrew Darwitan recently posted…2015: My Kiasu Travel in Review + Win a Free Giveaway for Your 2016 Trip PlanningMy Profile

  • Reply Lauren January 3, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    Love your honesty! I stuck with the school I was at even though I HATED the town because I thought it was what I wanted to do… And now I’m out in California living the life I love. SO jealous you taught in Chiang Mai- Kway Teow is hands down my favorite soup of all time.
    Lauren recently posted…8 Books That Will Take You Around the WorldMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis January 5, 2016 at 1:33 am

      Glad to hear you are finally doing what you love, Lauren! That’s the real takeaway here! Chiang Mai was an amazing experience and I miss the food every day 😉

  • Reply Justine January 4, 2016 at 2:59 am

    First of all congrats on two years. It feels like it has been SO MUCH longer! It’s pretty incredible how blogging has helped to transform your life. And the fact that it has had such a positive impact on you personally (and professionally) makes me so happy because you’re pretty awesome, Leah! And you most definitely deserve to wake up each morning loving life 🙂 Thanks for sharing your story. Cheers to another wonderful year!
    Justine recently posted…Looking Back at 2015: Travel and Expat LivingMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis January 5, 2016 at 1:40 am

      Thanks Justine! You must be right around the two-year mark yourself, right? I feel like we started around the same time. Anyway, it has been amazing and you’re so right that it feels like longer! Looking forward to seeing where we go from here! 😀
      Leah Davis recently posted…Month in Review: December 2015My Profile

  • Reply Laura4NYC March 4, 2016 at 8:21 pm

    What an inspiring journey indeed!

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