A few months ago, I created a “Start Here” for The World in Between. After 155 posts, I needed something to describe who I am and what my blog is about. The “Start Here” section helps readers catch up quickly without slogging through nearly three years of posts– or at least this is the intent.
I asked my son, Ryan, for feedback. We went back and forth on a handful of edits – avoid cliches, don’t whine, and try not to sound so confused. Then he sent me a message, “Mom, you never explain why you write – and why you expect anyone to read.”
One hundred and fifty five posts (and a thousand thankless hours) later, I still struggle to answer this. Why do I spend almost every free minute on this blog?
Mentally, I ticked through – and discounted – the most obvious reasons:
Travel writer aspirations – perhaps write a book
The great travel writers; William Dalrymple, Jan Morris, Paul Theroux, Pico Iyer are my heroes. I marvel at their skill level while simultaneously thrashing my own. Then again, I never thought I would write a blog for three years. So let’s not discount this idea. I just can’t claim it as the reason I write.
Great bloggers eek out a meager life. Mediocre bloggers work other jobs. Financially, I would be better off shutting down the blog and staying at my current job for as long as possible – neither of which is going to happen.
For my ego
Google “travel bloggers” “nomads” and “wanderlusts” and you will find hundreds of twenty somethings who travel and write (does anyone have a real job anymore?). They are at the pinnacle of adorableness. On the other hand, I look at my photo and ask, “Hey, isn’t that my mother?” There is nothing which more effectively shrinks an already shriveling ego than writing a blog.
So there you have it. I can not remember why I started this blog.
But I do know why I keep going.
Each day, I must choose between lying naked on a rubber mat while a complete stranger covers me in hot mud or taking a nap. Without my blog, I would nap way more than I should.
Meet people, make friends
Sometimes people email me, often Americans living in or visiting Budapest. We meet for dinner and drinks and sometimes become friends. My readers are a small, but fascinating, group of people. I never anticipated this benefit – but I love meeting them.
Fill a void
The truth is, I get a sense of purpose from my blog which I used to get from my career. In my twenties, I wondered what I should do with my life. In my fifties, I wonder what I should do with the rest of my life. My blog is a piece of this puzzle.
Connect to something beyond myself
My career is an escape. It provides a network and focus and keeps me grounded and relevant. Further, it gives me something to do every day.
The thought of walking out of my office for the last time terrifies me. The dream of waking up retired in Paris and writing about it thrills me. I need to focus on the thrill lest I drown in the terror.
A few months ago, I received an offer to write some web content about Budapest for a relocation company in London. I hate this type of writing – the requirement to be simultaneously fact filled and pithy. To do well, I would need to stop blogging for at least a month.
I mentioned to Pat that I was considering turning down the offer.
“Am I crazy? To turn down the only paying offer ever?”
“Julie, you should do what makes you happy.”
I turned down the job. And in that single gesture, I realized how much this blog means to me.
For some crazy reason, writing this blog makes me happy – the same visceral happiness I feel making bread or taking walks before sunrise. I can’t describe why. Thankfully, I don’t have to.
I hope my kids read my blog long after I stop writing it. Maybe their kids will read it and their kids – on and on for generations. It may become a square in the patch work of our family story. Someone I will never meet, but who shares my DNA, will read it and understand their incredible itch to explore. Maybe it will give them the impetus to follow their own crazy dreams.
And should that happen, it will be worth every minute I have sweated over this silly, stupid blog which has come to mean so much to me. And never again will I refer to even one minute as thankless.