Several weeks ago, I was preparing to depart Belize to head back to Europe for TBEX (our travel blogging conference) and a media trip in Croatia and, although I should’ve been excited, I just wasn’t. I chalked it up to two months laid up with a nerve injury combined with a month of Dengue Fever, but deep down I knew it was more than that.
I’ve been struggling with writing and let all my blogs go for a while because I was so busy with freelance work, but again, I knew it was something deeper.
I lost my drive to travel.
My final night in Belize was spent bar hopping with some of my closest friends and we were watching Miley Cyrus parody videos online when someone mentioned Avicii’s video for “Wake Me Up”, a song I have been listening to a lot lately. (If you haven’t watched the video — please do!) After watching the video, I realized even more how strongly I identified with the song’s premise.
Later that night I met someone who I had circled paths with over the last year in Belize and “J” and I chatted over beers at nearly 2am. And that conversation sent me in a whirlwind of emotions. We chatted about his upcoming trip to Orlando and suddenly I was excited. But wait, I was excited by Orlando but not Europe? I said where I was traveling to so matter of factly and feigned excitement, but inside, I was silently screaming, “I want to go to Orlando with you!”
It took a few days and some continued chatting about his upcoming trip to make me realize I’ve just been chasing travel to get story angles. I forgot what it was like to actually enjoy travel and visit the places I love — the whole reason I left my career behind in the first place.
“J” made me realize how lucky I truly am. I get to see the world, sometimes it’s on my own dime, sometimes not. But, at the end of the day, I am doing things most people will only dream of.
So what the hell is wrong with me??
When I arrived in Dublin for TBEX, I decided if I couldn’t pull my head out of my a$$, I was done blogging. No more conferences. I was going to concentrate on making a life as a freelance writer, maybe go back to legal writing, and just hide out in my apartment on the beach in Belize.
Each and every night, I heard the Avicii song — twice it was performed live by the musical entertainment at our official conference parties. Go ahead and call me crazy, but I believe in signs. Not to mention, there was something quite magical about hearing that song performed by Irish singers live in the Guinness Storehouse.
I know many of us identify with song lyrics and, if that makes me “emo” as a dear friend calls me, then so be it. But, in this case, these lyrics ignited a long dead flame inside.
“Feeling my way through the darkness
Guided by a beating heart
I can’t tell where the journey will end
But I know where to start”
I stood there in the Guinness Storehouse and thought about “J”, my life, and a long chat I had the night before with my mentor. And it finally hit me.
I can do this. I can inspire people to want to travel and in some cases, I already do.
That was my original premise when I started No Checked Bags. It was intended to be a place for me to share the love of travel with others who had fears and emotional baggage like I did starting out. The blog name was definitely a play on words because anyone who knows me knows I always have at least one checked bag since I can’t travel with less than four pairs of shoes — even for four days of TBEX. No Checked Bags meant leaving your emotional baggage behind and not giving in to your fears.
“They tell me I’m too young to understand
They say I’m caught up in a dream
Well life will pass me by if I don’t open up my eyes
Well that’s fine by me”
I had done what I spent the last four years thinking I conquered — fear — but I let fear conquer me and life had passed me by. But how do I get back to what I originally intended? Thankfully, I have not done much with this particular blog yet, except a few posts figuring out style, layout, and content design.
The last two nights of TBEX had some serious after-party action and in sweatily dancing on tables at Dublin’s 37 Dawson Street, I realized why I had continued to come to TBEX conferences, even though you could hardly call me a blogger these days.
I was there to see old friends, network, and meet other bloggers I follow. And as anyone who was at either of the after parties can attest, we did some serious blogger bonding in the upstairs lounge area. It was nice to see everyone dancing, having fun, and chatting with new people. I met some awesome people those two nights and I felt like the pieces of the puzzle were falling back into place, but I was still missing that final piece.
“So wake me up when it’s all over
When I’m wiser and I’m older
All this time I was finding myself
And I didn’t know I was lost”
I’ve been told I am a decent writer and I’ve accomplished some impressive milestones, like authoring nearly half of Belize’s official visitor magazine for 2013, something that not too many people know about. I also was the English language editor for a renowned chef’s second cookbook in Taiwan.
I know a lot of people at the TBEX conferences, but how many know me. I mean really know me? People know I love Belize, but why? I travel with a Japanese teddy bear and in many cases, multiple bears, but what’s the story there? And how many people know I traveled to all five Disney Parks in the world in the span of 30 days (twice!)?
What about those months I cried when I moved to Taiwan and wanted to go back home? Or when I landed myself in an Egyptian hospital my last day in the country? Or the fact I am terrified of eating alone in a restaurant?
Travel is not all glamorous and I need to own that. Rather than sugarcoat it, I need to share my fears, my failures, and finally let other people in to know who I am. And, most importantly, let people know that if I (the biggest chicken) can see the world, so can they.
Whether you are a blogger or just a fan of travel, I think we instinctually lean towards following bloggers based on personality. We follow their journey, their ups and their downs…it’s how we naturally identify with others who ultimately inspire us.
When I make introductions, I usually focus on the other publications I write for because my blogs are rather unknown. And I have no one to blame for that but myself. I’m so quick to attach myself to bigger and more notable publications rather than spend time developing the most important brand: me.
“I tried carrying the weight of the world
But I only have two hands
Hope I get the chance to travel the world
But I don’t have any plans”
Throughout TBEX I chatted online with “J” about other bloggers, who was who, and what was happening at the conference. I also met up with two locals that had no affiliation to TBEX or travel blogging. They were fascinated by my world, the bloggers who are part of it, and the interesting life stories that landed them in Dublin those particular days.
Why don’t I share these stories on my blog? But how? Sure, I could do some interviews, but I was still lacking that focus, or the”glue,” to bind my entire site together.
On the ridiculously early 6:30 a.m. flight from Dublin back to the Netherlands, I started putting everything from TBEX together. I pondered the “how” all weekend while I tried to overcome my seemingly eternal jet lag combined with a total of about eight hours sleep throughout the entire conference.
“Wish that I could stay forever this young
Not afraid to close my eyes
Life’s a game made for everyone
And love is the prize”
And then, I finally found my missing piece. In chatting with a blogger I just met during this TBEX, finally the puzzle came together and I decided on the direction I not only want, but the direction I need to go.
I will readily admit; I was doing a bit of Facebook “stalking” and perusing his blog while we chatted on FB messenger about work and how to survive the post-TBEX recovery process. I was so moved by his story and how much of himself he shared that I had to take a step back from the computer for a bit. I hope “Rexy” doesn’t mind me mentioning him by name, but I only met him while “sharing a table” at the club aka dancing like crazy people on coffee tables, and I never really had an opportunity to interact with him at the conference itself.
It turns out Ed Rex aka “Rexy” of Rexy Adventures is deaf and he shared his very personal story not only on his own blog, but on several other sites. He spoke so eloquently and so strong. His narrative made you feel like you were living his journey with him. And without revealing too many of the details (I urge you to read it), I sat there stunned. I had hung out with him and had absolutely no idea he was deaf.
Ed offers tips on how to speak with someone who is deaf and how he handles day to day life. He’s one of the most charming people I’ve met and I’d venture to say his mesmerizing smile can melt even the coldest of hearts.
So many times I’ve heard people say they have a deaf child or family member and therefore can’t travel. Yes you can. Anyone can. Rexy is proof that you are only limited in life by the limits you set for yourself. When I backed up from the computer, I realized it is these stories I want to share. The stories of people who inspire me — whether they are a travel blogger like Ed, a newspaper owner, a dentist, or even a newbie fashion designer. In some way, each of these people inspires me and their stories deserve to be told because they might, in turn, inspire someone else.
Going forward, I will start actually blogging again and staying true to myself. I will save the more informational destination pieces for my freelance outlets, and only write about topics that I have some emotional connection to here on No Checked Bags. Whether it be a person, a place, a food, or even a hotel. I will keep categories for places and destinations, but my new focus will be based on the following criteria:
- People Who Inspire Me
- Places That Move Me
- Hotels That Relax Me
- Foods That Entice Me
- Things That Scare Me
I may have something to add on every destination that I visit, or I may not. No longer will I place this unhealthy burden on myself that I need to eventually blog about every place I visit and every thing I do. I have enough to keep me busy with all the food and wine I consume over at my Our Tasty Travels blog. (Shameless plug: starting a nearly 20 country foodie road trip on Oct 11, followed by a culinary cruise in Croatia!)
I will still keep the culinary travel related posts on that blog, but I may do posts on my emotional journey with food here. Before moving to Asia, I would’ve never dreamed of eating 90% of the foods I have to date. Thank you to whoever unleashed my Andrew Zimmern side, as it’s been a blessing in disguise.
Here, I want to use this site to share inspirational stories and people no matter what facet of my life they come from. I can interview a chef for my food blog, but what is it about that chef that brings people in from all over the world. It may surprise you, but it’s not always just about the food. And Disney. I could mention Disney names until I am blue in the face, and any Disney fan will go, “know that, read that, on to the next subject.” But here, you may have no idea about the personal journey and experiences of many of the Disney artists and Imagineers. I’ve spent my time looking up to these pivotal people, yet some of them are actually envious of us and the lives we lead.
At the end of the day, no matter what you do or what your life story is, you can inspire someone. Whether it’s inspiration to take a vacation to somewhere new or it’s a whole life change of moving abroad. The point is, we, as seasoned travelers and bloggers, are the voices people want to hear from. And yet, if only my close friends and family read this post, I will still be happy because, by writing this, at least I inspired myself to get back on the horse and not give up!
“So wake me up when it’s all over
When I’m wiser and I’m older
All this time I was finding myself
And I didn’t even realize I was lost”