This post feels incredibly self-indulgent and perhaps nobody at all will read it. But, inspired by ‘What She Said’ the fab blogging podcast by Wanderluce, I wanted to write about the story of my blog. At the start of each episode, she asks each guest how they got into their chosen niche and while I’m nowhere near in the same category as some of those amazing bloggers, it got me thinking about my own blogging journey. I bet you didn’t know I’d been writing on the internet for over 10 years now? So let me tell you more…
I’ve always been a writer and an avid reader. Since I can remember, I was devouring books to the extreme: taking out up to 10 short stories from my primary school library each night (I wasn’t the most popular child, that’s for sure) and I wrote a lot of diaries. If I ever got too big for my boots, just whipping out one of them would provide enough cringeworthy moments to put me straight back in my place!
When the internet came around in my teenage years, I realised that this was a more secure place to keep my innermost thoughts than a notebook in my underwear drawer. It was around the time that all my friends were super into sharing quiz ‘bulletins’ on Myspace (who remembers them!?) while posting overexposed, high contrast selfies with ‘pic4pic’ captions. Despite immersing myself in the emo Myspace life, it never felt completely honest so I started a Livejournal account in around 2006. This was super private and I never told anybody, just used it as a ranting tool to spill out all my inner teenage angst about boys and friends.
I continued writing on this account for years and while I loved writing short creative passages among the diary entries, I never told anybody or dreamed of growing an audience. This was just something that I loved doing and it didn’t occur to me once that people liked to read what others were writing online. In fact, when I looked back on those Livejournal entries last year, they were SO personal that I actually fully deleted my account in case there was any chance of somebody coming across it today!
Then, years later, I discovered YouTubers. While searching for a hair tutorial, I came across Kate Murnane (or Dolly Bow Bow as she was back then) and devoured her videos. This was my introduction into the world of YouTube, back when Zoella was at 200,000 subscribers and most of the big beauty bloggers now had full time jobs as well as their channels. At the same time, one of my friends was talking about starting up a beauty blog and something just clicked in my head. Why not write things that other people could read?
So this is where my journey into blogging as we know it begins. I originally started off on WordPress, writing about beauty like everybody else, although I quickly moved to Blogger so that people could follow via ‘Google Friend Connect’ – remember it?! I bought my own domain ‘Laura’s Haven which I regretted almost instantly; it’s been a topic of much laughter among my friends due to the amount of dodgy traffic I received from its alter-ego ‘Laura Shaven’. Quick tip: always check how your domain reads together before going ahead and choosing your name! However, the name did allow me to sprinkle the blog with lifestyle posts and this was where I really found my home for a while.
Just four months after I started blogging, I wrote what remains my most popular post to this day. The Phenomenon of Not Enjoying University talks about how I really struggled with those first few months, to the point where I moved back home while all of my friends seemed like they were living life to the max. I was scared to put it out there but the response was – and still is – incredible. Acquaintances from school popped up in my Facebook inbox to tell me that their experience hadn’t been completely positive either and every year when September rolls around my traffic and email inbox spikes with people who are feeling the same To this day, that blog post remains one of the most important things I’ve ever done and I’m so proud of being a small source of comfort to those who are struggling.
The next year or so was a really exciting time for blogging and I was small but making progress. Thinking back on it, I was gifted a lot of products and worked with some awesome brands including Harvey Nichols and Huawei! But in June 2014, after a great few months of city breaks and improving my photography, I got my first graduate job in Marketing. This was all down to my blogging experience which is pretty amazing in itself but it also left very little free time in comparison to my previous schedule. This really stalled my growth in what we now know is a big turning point in the blogging world. When I lost my job a year later, blogging was a huge industry and viable career choice.
However, losing my job also transformed my blog into what it is today. After spending my redundancy pay on a three week Contiki around Europe with 45 complete strangers and basically having the best experience of my life, I decided that I wanted to travel for real. So I started saving and in October 2015, rebranded my site to ‘Wander with Laura’, moved over to a self-hosted WordPress site and purchased a fancy new design. It was ready to document my travels and when I left the UK nine months later, I loved sharing details of my adventures.
During my travels, I also spent a lot of time learning. As well as experiencing all these amazing new things, I was gorging on SEO tips, learning how to grow a following in this super competitive world and starting to put myself out there a bit more. There’s a lot of knowledge out there for free and making the most of that has allowed me to become the most confident with my content that I’ve ever felt. Confident enough to share a 1,000+ word strong post about my blogging journey anyway!
This kind of takes us up to the present day. Despite the fact that I’m back home again and life feels a little less exciting than it did before, I’m still loving sharing my adventures and I can’t imagine being without a place on the internet to do it. Without the guaranteed prospect of freedom ahead, it’s sometimes hard to see a future for my little travel blog but as there are millions of people out there who love to travel whilst working full time, I know that I can add something valuable to this playing field.
I’ve never quite regained that growth that I was enjoying in those early days and perhaps I never will. There are so many awesome people out there now bossing social media, elevating their photography to new levels and jumping on the trends in their own wonderful way. But the personal touch is why blogging took off in the first place and so every site adds a different spin, perspective and experience to the others. That’s why I love blogging and what keeps me writing even through the hard times.
Let’s finish this ramble here but honestly, if anybody else wants to share their blogging journey PLEASE do as I’d love to read it. Chat to me in the comments, email me or just say hey on social media: no matter what our journey is, let’s celebrate it!