Candle Number Three : 5 Things I’ve Learned in My Third Year of Blogging

Pipeaway blogger Ivan Kralj sitting on the rock at St. Peter's Pools in Malta, photo by Damir Vidakovic

Every April (I launched this blog on March 28th, 2017), I ask myself the same question. What have I learned in the year that passed by? In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of the world is locked down. I really have an urge to answer: Nothing. I haven’t learned a thing! Or have I?

The same question bothered me the other day, when Alexa Meisler from Break Into Travel Writing blog and podcast interviewed me. I felt stuck when I needed to provide tips for aspiring travel writers and bloggers. The world as we knew it seemed to be collapsing! Has the teaching about how to conquer it become obsolete?

On Facebook, I still bump into “how you can travel the world for free too” advertisements. I truly wonder what all of that is about. In times of worldwide quarantine, when the majority of airlines have been grounded, someone still tries to sell the success story about getting rid of a 9-to-5 job and realizing one’s dreams through traveling the world! Is this a joke? Or is it just another proof that the world of travel blogging is a business of faking reality?

If you want to read what I’ve learned in my first blogging year, click here, and if you want to know what I’ve learned a year later, click here!

Traveling in crisis

At the beginning of 2020, before anyone really knew about the coronavirus breakout, I asked a slightly prophetic question: Does exploring the world in crisis make any sense?  I thought my answer was positive! But little did I know that the fire inferno in Australia, the escalating safety situation in the Middle East or the global plastic pollution problem could be topped by an even larger piece of shit!

True, airlines and hotels might be giving tempting offers at the moment. All of us could gamble on the date everything would get back to normal. But it is NOT normal! We already look at strangers as potential enemies. Many countries are locking up completely, euthanizing tourism and willingly endangering their own economy.

Travel blogs might be about traveling, but I would hope they’re also here to inspire us to do amazing things in general, change our lives, and hug each other more!

No, it’s not the perfect time to leave your 9–to-5 job (if you still have it?), and be delusional! The year 2020 definitely doesn’t seem to be the year of traveling! One cannot run away from the worldwide health crisis! Actually, each and every running away has direct effects on the enlargement of the crisis! Every irresponsible travel plan execution delays the era when traveling will again become normality.

In the About section of this website, I wrote about my inspiration for traveling. Three years ago, the rapid and radical change of the world bothered me, and I wanted to see it “before it’s gone”. The number of 48 countries on six continents, 11 of them in the past twelve months (Cambodia, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Switzerland, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Spain, Slovenia, Malta), reminded me that I did experience true luxury and privilege.

I still believe in the essence of what I wrote in 2017! Travel blogs might be about traveling, but I would hope they’re also here to inspire us to do amazing things in general, change our lives, and hug each other more!

5 blogging advice in the no-travel year

1. Distinguish important from less important!

Pipeaway blogger Ivan Kralj at Kuang Si Falls near Luang Prabang in Laos, photo by Ivan Kralj
Photo of me at Kuang Si Waterfalls shot just a few hours before the motorbike accident I chose not to report about

In February 2019, I fell off the motorbike in Laos. It happened on my return trip from Kuang Si Waterfalls to Luang Prabang. Even when I wrote about Kuang Si, these were the only falls I wrote about. I didn’t exploit my motorbike fall. I did publish the warning about the potholes and bumps on the road, but I did not speak about my personal accident.

Also, I never told my parents about the accident. I thought that worrying about your son choosing to live a nomadic life miles away from ‘home’ has enough reasoning even without the fine details. When I came back to Croatia four months later, my still visible wounds on my arms and legs were presented as “just a scratch”. Only a year later, I do not feel like hiding my scars is necessary. Only the trained eye can notice them now.

However, the lesson of the Laos accident was truly about the things that matter in life. Laying down on that hard asphalt in the middle of nowhere, with ripped trousers and rushing blood, makes you hit the reality. That moment of being alone in not so bright circumstances. Almost immediately and then even more, when I continued the drive towards the town, after some girls generously stopped by and provided first aid, my mind had the movie of its own. People I remembered, flashes on what is important, on who and what is irreplaceable…

One doesn’t need to experience the accident to reflect on these questions. If you’re heading for an adventure, go without guilt! Say what you need to say to others! Apologize to those whose contacts you even forgot! Say ‘thank you’ to people who need to hear it! Hug more!

2. Don’t let superficial judging bother you!

Pipeaway blogger on a swan floatie in the swimming pool at Mooban Talay Resort in Thailand, photo by Ivan Kralj
Is there a more stereotypical image of an “influencer” than the one where he is resting on a swan floatie in a pool on an island in Thailand? But what’s below the surface?

Travel blogging will probably bring you to places many people dream about visiting. If you jump into this business head first, you will definitely get to very exotic destinations. If you document it (and you should!), these images, videos and thoughts might be a trigger for judgment by some people around you.

I could have shot thousands of mountains, deserts, rainforests or archeological sites, but none of them would outshine the effect of the images from luxurious swimming pools. To some people, this type of photographs screams ‘vanity’. Especially in the selfie culture of today (and I’ve witnessed some extreme examples of selfie tourism last year!), your shot in some boutique resort at a tropical location can hit all the wrong spots with certain observers. You could be a down-to-earth person and understand that #poolporn pics are nothing but a part of the job, yet some will always read your work from their own perspective.

In some discussions on completely different topics, I’ve been put down through the context of pool pics. “Shouldn’t you be at some pool now?”, the naughty commenter would aim, trying to disarm my freedom of speech. They might even pejoratively shoot at you like an “influencer”, apostrophes included, even if you might not consider yourself as such.

Don’t let other people’s insecurities or misjudgements drown you in these pools! Travel blogging is journalism. Stay strong in respecting its ethical postulates, and let no superficial armchair know-it-all put you down!

People who confuse your social media images with your true self are those who hardly invested enough time to get to know you. If they’re bothered by someone who they don’t even know, it truly speaks more about their psychological profile than about yours!

3. Reflect on love and traveling!

Pipeaway blogger Ivan Kralj standing in the letter "O" of the Love Monument in Malta, photo by Damir Vidakovic
Love can turn travel blogger’s world upside down!

Unless you’re already a romantic couple that travels, finding love on the road has its limits. Rushing through places, visa limitations, the siren call of adventure… For singles, these are all enemies of experiencing relationships that would be deeper than a one-night-stand or a love affair with a fast approaching expiry date.

Surely, finding true love while traveling could happen to some, and if it did, it would certainly raise questions of whether it would transform into couple-traveling or couple-anchoring. I guess relationships of this type work out when two people align in expectations and openness towards the less formal life choices.

After a long time, I fell in love in autumn 2019, in Croatia. And my world stumbled. Who am I from now on? How can I travel for months if my partner’s work is based locally? Can one really be a long-term traveling blogger and a long-term lover at the same time? Suddenly, I felt incredibly secure, but also extremely vulnerable.

My three-week solo trip to the Canary Islands showed that we functioned well on a long distance. But I knew long calls and chats were not the solution. I was ready to calm down my traveling spirit for a while (even if we went for shorter trips together).

However, after three months, our dreamy ship started cracking. We broke up in February. Our relationship sunk after 5 months, and the reasons were not connected with traveling dilemmas.

Every break up of a couple necessarily breaks something in you as a person too. The outcome is that I’m healing myself in Croatia, closer to members of my family that would need help during the lockdown, which I wouldn’t be able to provide if stuck in Vietnam. So I comfort myself with the idea that one can always find a positive argument for a certain choice.

This was an intense episode of mine. But it was also a valuable lesson. I think that long-term travelers and non-travelers can indeed find love together, as long as both are willing to talk, (ex)change, adapt, invest. Or shortly: if they are the right fit.

4. Blog during the lockdown!

Private love insights from the previous point take us to the general situation we all experience at the moment. Travel is not happening. We are all stuck here or there, hopefully in places where we feel OK.

Many travel bloggers report on the decline in their traffic (proportional to airline traffic plummeting). At the same time, they cannot travel to look for more new content either. Is that a wake-up call to look for other sources of income/obligations?

The quarantine is the perfect time to deliver your content from the past trips on the baggage belt. Sure, readers might not collect it immediately, but it will roll and roll! Once people return to traveling, your content will be waiting to be picked up!

I think the quarantine is a perfect time to dig into your past experiences, old photographs, and unpublished stories. Maybe now you can post content you had ‘on hold’ while preoccupied with traveling.

All of us have this content baggage from past trips! Now is the moment to deliver it on the baggage belt of your readers! Sure, they might not collect it immediately, but it will roll and roll and roll… Once people return to traveling, your content will be waiting to be picked up!

Go through your old albums and notes, find what was waiting in those times when the material overwhelmed you, and you never found the time to organize it all under a deserving spotlight!

If you can’t find unpublished material, go through the material you’ve already published! Repurpose it! Take a look from another angle! Find a common thread and connect ideas from different articles in a new post!

5. Be useful beyond your blog!

In his bestseller book “The 4-Hour Workweek”, Timothy Ferris explains how the Pareto principle changed his life. This law of the factor sparsity, introduced by the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, says that 80 % of effects come from 20 % of causes.

Even before the quarantine, which provided more time to finally get my hands on this book that teaches you how to live more and work less, I was questioning my own work investment. As a workaholic cultural producer in Croatia (I wrote some of the reasoning behind my decisions in the articles such as Affording a getaway: Traveling saved me from going crazy and We are not cats: Why following your path matters – today), I was desperate to find a more meaningful use of my time!

The contortionist training in the front yard of Arba Minch Circus, Ethiopia, photo by Ivan Kralj
The contortionist training outdoors on discarded mattresses as training mats in Arba Minch, Ethiopia

And then in Ethiopia, I figured out that I could use much less energy of my own and produce much greater results than my Croatian experience was telling me. With zero budget, I’ve launched Circus of Postcards, the fundraising project for Arba Minch Circus, the social circus project that works with street children teaching them acrobatics and right values.

While I still try to find donors to the project (you are more than welcome to join our family of heroes), the fact that I’ve learned is that motivating people to adopt their own 80/20 rule is not always easy. With such a small input, we can provide a great outcome!

Even if at this moment we barely found half of the resources needed to build a proper training hall for this inspiring African project, I’ve learned I shouldn’t despair. Because even this half, that I could see as a “failure”, is a 100% success in the eyes of those who need this support.

Be useful beyond your blog! This will fill your heart even in the times when you double-question your doings.

Things I’ve learned in my third year of blogging – Summary

Among all bloggers, the year 2020 will definitely hit hard those in the travel niche. However, there is no reason to despair! One can still produce good quality content during the lockdown. Focus attention towards the things that matter, ignore the lame troll saboteurs, and keep your head up! Open up to your readers, ask them what they need, answer to those needs! Even if you have no partner to support you in these strange times, you can still provide love to – your blog!

In these times, when people are locked down in their houses, their need for the freedom of movement is growing stronger and stronger, day by day. If there was ever a better moment to write a travel blog – it’s now! In time, readers will be swallowing your content, join the dream and make travel a reality again.

Let me know how your blog is doing in the comments! Are there any lessons you’d like to share?

Pipe away and blog on!

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Does travel blogging in the no-travel year make sense? Here are 5 things blogger Ivan Kralj learned in his third year of running Pipeaway blog!

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Ivan Kralj

Editor

Award-winning journalist and editor from Croatia

8 Comments
  1. Happy Birthday to you & your blog! Great insights. Makes me realize I need to do more research on the plastic pollution issue. Here is to a great 3rd year and many more in the travel blogging world.

  2. I loved reading this as someone who only has a few months of blogging on the books. This post gave me much to keep in mind as I develop my site. Thank you, and happy birthday to your blog!

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Pipeaway is a travel blog mapping the extraordinary people, places and passions.
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