On being restless in writing and changing direction

On being restless in writing and changing direction

This blog isn’t called Endlessly Restless for nothing. I chose it not only because it seemed fitting for a blog about travel but also because it would technically work for posts that were not about travel too. I am often restless in my thoughts and focus as much as in location and I knew I wanted to create an online space that made room for all of that frenetic energy too.

In the six months that I’ve been diligently posting here on Restless, this blog has already become the catalyst for change in my own life. There’s something about presenting myself to the world, even with a tiny readership, that makes me think deeply about who I am and what I’m doing. I want to be the kind of person worth following, who writes things that are thoughtful and insightful and give you something to think about. However, over only a few months, I’ve grappled with whether travel is really the right subject. I’ve mentioned before on here that I have always struggled with posts that are basically just lists of what I ate, drank and saw and wrote a whole post recently about whether travel – and by extension, writing about travel – is meaningful. I do like writing about the places I visit. I feel like I learn a lot abroad and poking around another country always gets my brain whirring on matters of history, culture and what it means to be a human today. I also think there are many wonderful benefits to seeing the world and it’s cool put something out there that (hopefully) makes it seem more accessible. It is fun and challenging in equal measure to put fingers to keyboard and share those thoughts with everyone.

But instinct often tells you something valuable, and for the most part, I don’t always feel excited to post some of these blogs. I do think they are well written, useful and contain great pictures, but whether or not they feel meaningful to me continues to weigh on my mind. Most of the travel blogs I read regularly state that one of their primary aims is to be a resource for other travellers, and, while I have used many blogs for trip planning, I’m not sure that I share that aim. I would love to inspire people to travel because I think there’s so much great stuff to be gained through seeing the world. But the internet is full of websites, blogs and articles that do a far more comprehensive job of that than I ever could. When I look back over the things I’ve posted, the blogs that always make me feel the most proud are the more theoretical, big-picture type posts, about climate change or women’s rights or whether travel has value. They take longer to put together but the pay-off is much greater. It also gives me confidence that these blogs are definitely more popular than my destination-specific posts.

There’s also, of course, the small issue that I don’t actually travel that much. Don’t get me wrong, I am so fortunate to travel as much as I do, more so than most people will ever get to. But most travel bloggers travel full-time or have a flexible enough schedule that they can travel far more than the standard job’s annual leave policy will allow. In moments like now, with eight weeks or so between trips, sometimes I find myself struggling with what to write about, which is so silly because I am thinking about so much at the moment, even if it is not travel-related. I’ve always positioned this blog as being about more than just travel, with travel as the main focus. But six months of writing has convinced me that I want to have a broader approach.

The huge benefit of this blog being a) mine and b) small is that it’s easy to change course. You see it time and time again with various online platforms, where users build an audience around one subject and then try to segue into other areas, with varying levels of success. If anyone wants to follow my posts, I’d rather they do so with an accurate picture of the kind of things I’ll be sharing, rather than me trying to pivot later on and losing a load of readers in the process.

I still want to write about travel, but from a more social, cultural and historical lens, or perhaps if there’s a particularly good story to tell. It’s never felt genuine to me to be sharing tips on where to eat or sleep so I probably just won’t. While a great restaurant or Airbnb can definitely add to an experience abroad, I tend to err on the side of that stuff being background noise. Plus, as I’ve mentioned, there are lots of wonderful resources already on the web if you want to find out what to do or where to stay in a particular place. I will probably still do a few ‘budget breakdown’ posts, as they can help break down the stigma that travel is always extremely expensive and honest travel budgets from real people can still be hard to find on the internet.

Photography still matters to me too. In fact, I often think the photos are as important as the words in a travel post. I have loved learning to use a camera properly in the past year or so and do think I have a knack for it. I’ll still be doing my weekly Get Snappy feature and putting any posts that I think have particularly good photos in the photography section of this site. I think bumper posts that include all my favourite pictures from a place can work well, especially as so many of my readers came through my best photos of 2018 post and are, I assume, interested in my pictures.

To be honest, there aren’t that many travel posts I will write less of. What I’m really saying is that there are other posts I want to write more of. I want to write more about politics, social issues and posts that explore the nature of modern life in more depth. I want to write about travel in a way that considers how I – and others – actually move through the world, focusing more on the macro implications of globalisation, cultural exchange and travel as a pursuit of learning instead of consumption-focused posts that show you exactly how to spend a load of money. I don’t want to be writing filler posts about cities I thought were interesting but largely unremarkable in order to post something that meets my self-defined idea of what this site is supposed to be.

This has been sparked by the fact that I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my career long-term and where I want to focus my energy. I am pleased to be writing regularly and being forced to work through my ideas in a more rigorous way. Writing this blog has already made me more generous and more conscious of my choices. In general, I think writing and sharing is a good thing for me. However, if I think about the portfolio of work I’m creating here on Restless, I want it to mirror my interest in the world as learning opportunity rather than a consumer one.

To that end, I’m seriously considering not posting on Instagram anymore. I don’t love the role Instagram plays in travel – and life generally – but I want people to read my blog and many people follow on social media rather than via email subscriptions or just checking in. But part of trying to be a thoughtful internet user in the time of fake news, information overload and endless, endless ads is to stick by your principles. One of the core reasons I prefer writing about travel here instead of on social media is that you can offer context and deeper thoughts instead of just beach pictures (though I do love a good beach picture). The only reason I post on Instagram – and Twitter, but to a lesser extent – is so that people will be alerted to new posts. But other than that, I don’t want to be using the app. There were a really good few months last year where I deleted my social media, but once I started posting every other day or so about the blog it was silly deleting and then re-downloading the app every time. While I am glad that people are reading, I’m not thrilled to be back to scrolling mindlessly, a habit I did a lot to kick last summer. Part of trying to use the internet as authentically as possible most likely means deleting Instagram again and encouraging any Insta readers to sign up here!

You might have noticed that the main navigation bar of this site has changed. While it still lists travel and photography as main categories, it also has politics and popular culture up there. I imagine posts going forward will be an equal mix of these categories. I plan to post with the same frequency, though often these other posts need more research so can be more work to put together.

I hope you will all keep reading, even as ER takes a slightly different direction. This will help me put out posts I’m proud of and think are interesting even when I’m not travelling (which is, you know, most of the time) and gives equal space to all the other things I think are important, like politics and social issues and economics and trying to be a good person in a time of massive global upheaval. I will always love to travel but I will also always love to overthink compulsively about current affairs and what it means to be a person. I’ve got to make space for all of that, you know?

So, it only took six months for me to get restless about Restless. I wonder what I’ll be writing about by the end of the year!

7 thoughts on “On being restless in writing and changing direction

    1. Thanks Alexandra! I literally named this blog “Endlessly Restless” because I KNEW that I wouldn’t be able to stick to one topic. That has never been my way. Plus I feel like the process of writing makes you think differently about your topics and gives you perspective you couldn’t have had at the start.

  1. There’s nothing wrong with change, it should be embraced! I like your integrity, the way you’ve come to notice how the entertaining side of travel shouldn’t be the focus, that there is something more important and deeper than seeing the sights. Keep posting! I’ll keep reading!

    1. Julie, this is such a wonderful comment. There’s nothing that motivates me more than to know that people are reading!

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