A few weeks ago, I joined an Instagram Story challenge where I shared part of my blogging journey.
For the first day of the #InstaStoryChallenge with Helene in Between we were tasked to share a story and mine was about how I realised that I wanted to pursue blogging, travel and writing–technically if you think about it, blogging combines the travel and writing aspect, so really it’s my blogging journey.
My very first blog was at Livejournal and at the time I don’t think I even considered it blogging then.
It was just me documenting my concert experiences in bullet form because I went to so many shows and wanted to remember the details.
Who I was with? How did I get to the venue? What happened before the show and what were the special fan interactions during the show?
And of course, I had to document that surreal feeling that I witnessed a show of a band I loved.
Then when I decided I wanted to expand writing–I first explored writing through band fan fiction–I created a Xanga account and posted Tumblr-esque photos with quotes that I’d made. Tumblr-like quotes.
I mostly focused on writing during my teenage years, crafting novels, and connecting with other music lovers online.
My love for travel ignited when I was seventeen. I’d traveled to Asia, the United States and Australia before, but it was when I had experienced Europe that I fell in love with traveling.
In the Philippines, when a girl turns eighteen, it’s usually celebrated with a big coming-of-age party called a debut. Instead of having a debut, I chose to travel instead with my mom and cousin.
We went around Europe with fellow Asians on a bus tour. I was in awe of the beauty of Europe, how there was so much art, good food and how so many beautiful cities were so close to each other.
You could either hop on a train or take the bus and in a few hours, you would be somewhere totally new. I loved it and I knew that I wanted to go back.
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Eight years ago, I set foot in Paris and experienced so many firsts. It was my first time traveling to Europe and fell in love with that continent. It was also the first time I experienced fear from traveling. The night we got back from the city of Paris, we’d gotten off on the wrong train stop. When we finally got to the right one, we learned the train station was closing and there was no taxi in sight to take us back to our hotel. And the temperature was getting colder. But thankfully, a bus came and the driver was kind enough to phone a taxi for us. That was the first time a stranger was so nice to us and I really appreciated it. It’s been eight years since I first got a taste of the kind of traveling I enjoyed. When was the last time you traveled to a place for the first time and where was it? 🙂 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #planoly #eurotrip #creativeentrepreneur #girlbossbabe #lifeoftravel
I was to start college a few weeks after returning to the Philippines, so my next trip abroad would have to be either during summer break or after graduation.
The next four years were focused on school and writing. I had to maintain a grade and work for the school to keep my scholarship as well as running the official school publication.
It was during college that I viewed blogging as more than a hobby and self-expression.
I created my first music blog called “ohfortheloveofmusic” on WordPress.com because I needed to have something to show an international music magazine when the time came to submit internship applications.
I wanted to be able to hone my music journalism with a music blog. It was around this time I also joined the Philippine Concerts team and covered shows for them.
I then rebranded and relaunched my music blog under a different name because I wanted to sound more “legit”.
And so I launched a new blog called “ouvertureonline” but the name made it difficult for people to remember.
This is where I learned that you should make brand names easy to remember and spell.
I still wanted to travel, but my summers were all booked with internships.
I had an internship almost every summer or had to take summer classes in order to graduate on time, so travel had to take a back seat.
One place I’d particularly wanted to go to for a long, long time was the UK.
And since I also wanted to experience studying abroad, I applied for a Creative Writing summer course at The University of Oxford during my senior year.
I was so nervous I wouldn’t get in, but they had accepted my application. And so after college graduation, I flew to Oxford and fell in love with travel all over again.
It was my first taste of solo travel and I knew that I wanted more of this type of experience.
There were a few misadventures like getting lost in a mountain with my new friends, but hey what’s travel without getting lost, right? It’s an epic story to tell now though. And I might just share it here.
After the summer Creative Writing course, I had a few more weeks of travel ahead of me as my mom and I had joined another bus tour where we explored Amsterdam, Germany, France, and Switzerland.
While exploring Europe and the UK, I realised there were so many cities I had not yet gone to like Liverpool, Brighton and even Manchester!
I wanted to go back to Oxford and to London to experience the Warner Brothers Studio Tour again–this time without suffering from hunger because I had not eaten before entering the tour.
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Name a place that inspires you ✨ This is Exeter College, one of the colleges at the University of Oxford. And also where J.R.R. Tolkien studied. It was kind of mind-blowing to visit this place and be able to call this college my home for a few weeks. Swipe to see some snippets of Exeter College: the common room, the view from one of their dorm rooms, the chapel at Exeter, the bar underneath the dining hall and the college crest! You can read more about places to visit in Oxford at izzymatias.com. What is one place that inspires you and why? #solotravel #studyabroad #oxfordsummerschool #exetercollege #oxford_uk
And so I made a promise to myself that one day I would be back.
That day has yet to come, but hopefully, it will be soon.
When I got back to the Philippines I felt like I had changed so much, yet the place I called home was the same.
I felt like an alien in my own hometown. It was good to be home, but I yearned for a life of travel and adventure.
I felt stuck wanting to go back to Europe, but not knowing how. I wanted so much more than a nine-to-five and yet I knew I had to work in order to save money to travel.
I had spent the majority of my savings on that trip to the UK & Europe.
And well, getting a job was the sensible thing to do.
It’s what we were taught our whole lives to do.
That’s why we work hard in school to get a good-paying job, save up for retirement and then travel.
But what if I wanted travel and writing to be a part of my career?
I wasn’t too keen at working at a magazine anymore since I wanted a break from publishing after handling the school magazine for four years.
And I wanted to be able to travel at my own pace and choose my destinations.
I felt lost for some time.
I knew I wanted to write and travel and also make a living doing those things, but the question was how?
How would I do that if I did not want to work in publishing?
That was when I discovered Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Work Week and Emily Wapnick’s term “multi-potentialite” and purchased one of her workbooks that pointed me to blogging.
It was also around this time that I found out that there were professional bloggers–people making all of their income by blogging.
They were writing, traveling and being creative and they were getting paid to do that.
That’s when it all clicked for me.
If they could do it, then why not me?
I could do it too.
And I was willing to put in the work.
Originally I had wanted to become a full-time music blogger/journalist though I had no idea how it would bring in money.
With more introspection and thanks for the multi-potentialite workbook, I knew I wanted to launch a new blog that let me mix both travel and music.
And so Days in Wonderland was born.
At first, it had other topics like personal development, but I refined it to a travel blog for music lovers.
It was laser-focused and at this time I was also learning about the different ways to make money through blogging.
I wanted to launch a physical product on my blog (as inspired by The 4-Hour Work Week) and maybe even an ebook.
Two months after launching that blog, I also started with my first day job.
The plan was to have a day job in order to save up money to travel while building my blogging biz on the side.
It seems simple when I put it that way, but boy was it a struggle to build my biz at night and on the weekends.
And It was only a year and three months after launching that blog when I got my first paycheck through a sponsored collaboration with a travel brand.
I knew that I didn’t want to rely on sponsored posts because it wasn’t all the time that sponsored posts came.
I then released a physical product on my blog–a concert scrapbook and then a concert journal–before releasing an ebook and a subscription box for music lovers, but alas, the sales were not consistent.
I’d joined bazaars to push sales, but ended up spending more than I was earning.
And the sponsored opportunities were also non-existent, but I was so persistent to make it work that I didn’t give up.
Though believe me there were many times I wanted to call it quits.
At one point, I found myself without a job. The second company I worked for had dissolved the department I was in.
I took this as an opportunity and a sign to focus on my blog. That was my silver lining: that I would be able to take the blog full-time now.
However, the moment I’d decided to focus on the blog was also a time I was tested.
People had heard of what happened and they were telling me about job openings and passing along my resume to companies they knew had openings.
I knew they had my best interests at heart, but I was conflicted.
Should I go back to having a day job?
But I felt pulled to focus on blogging.
And everyone was expecting me to get a day job.
After all, how was I supposed to make a living out of blogging if I didn’t even generate consistent sales for products or landing consistent sponsored collaborations?
I’d read and seen bloggers earning six to seven figures by selling digital and physical products and here I was with products that people weren’t buying.
I knew part of the reason for this was because I was not consistent in posting and a lack of blog traffic and awareness.
Later on, I would be told another hard truth through a tough-love moment: maybe people weren’t really interested in my products at all.
It was the fear of not being able to sustain myself financially and the pressure of what was expected that I took on another job.
It was a job that looked so good on paper. Great location. Great pay. Amazing benefits. Flexible hours.
But then part of me knew that by taking the job, I would be going back to the corporate life I was longing to get away from.
I was worried about the lack of stability if I’d turn it down.
And so I made that same resolve to take the job so at least I would have a steady income while still growing my blog.
What happened next was something I didn’t expect: anxiety had become a constant companion.
I’d experienced anxiety and panic attacks before (the first in High School and a few after that), but never to this level.
It was almost every day I was second-guessing myself.
I felt trapped: if I stayed where I was it would just be a constant cycle.
My day job had taken over my life. I was stressed and burnt out.
I was anxious all the time.
I did not have any time to blog anymore.
Almost two months into the job, I gave my resignation.
My health was more important.
And it was around this time I found another job–the dream job–close to home, in a department that fused business and creativity and I got to be part of the team that brought in concerts.
But all this time, I still felt the pull to blog.
Although, I had a tough decision to make: to stick with Days in Wonderland or start from scratch?
I had to figure out my next move.
It was such a tough decision to make because I identified as a music blogger for so long that it felt like shedding that would be shedding a big part of who I was.
I was also known as the concert girl and the band geek even back in grade school.
Was I ready to give it all up?
It turns out that I was.
I didn’t enjoy going to a show every single night.
Maybe back when I started, yes, but at that point, I would strategically choose the shows I went to.
It wasn’t about the number of shows anymore.
It was about the quality–the bands I truly loved.
And I knew that if I wanted to be a full-time music blogger this perspective wasn’t going to work.
Did that mean it was time to quit blogging once and for all?
To be a full-time music blogger meant fully immersing myself in the music scene–going to shows almost every night; traveling to different parts of my city and constantly writing about the latest music updates.
And that’s when I realized that maybe I had grown from that.
Yes, I still love going to concerts, but I stand by my new outlook on choosing the concerts.
High school me could stay up most of the night from a concert and still make it in time for an early and full day at school the next day.
Present me understands that my energy levels are not the same anymore.
During the years I researched, studied and invested in blogging courses and coaches to up my blogging game for Days in Wonderland, I realised that I enjoyed blogging about content marketing, content creation, travel and the business aspect of blogging.
It’s so fascinating to me.
And so that’s how this site was born.
I decided to pivot and start over instead of quitting.
The amazing thing is when I made that decision, I felt more in alignment with who I was and that’s when things started working for me.
When I choose to let go of what no longer served me, that’s when I saw the miracles.
The shreds of hope; the light toward the dream life.
I later learned that my anxiety kept pointing me back in this direction.
My feelings of unease, of anger, of listlessness were because I did not honor who I was.
Part of my anxiety was due to burnout and stress, but it was also my body telling me to listen to me.
To put me first instead of always thinking about what other people would think or react.
I fought back what I wanted for fear of judgment, for fear of leaving my team at the wrong time, for fear of being seen as lazy or someone who didn’t want to work.
The longer I fought back, the more anguish it caused me.
I was sacrificing my happiness and my mental health to please others.
And it was not worth it.
After deciding to start over, I immediately took action.
I brainstormed on my brand name, niche, and then invested in a domain and set up a self-hosted WordPress blog with SiteGround.
The amazing thing was that right after I took action and started working on this blog, I had booked three sponsored collaborations that were in line with my new brand.
I made back all the money I invested in this blogging biz.
And I had not even launched the blog yet!
At that time, I was still in the process of writing content so that when the blog launch happened, there would be a handful of articles published as well as content for scheduling.
Scheduling & planning ahead would be crucial since I had a new day job, but I was more determined than ever to make it work because I had already landed paid collaborations.
It was a good omen that things were going to work out.
I knew that I had to set up my blog strategically so that I could start making money online.
It has not been smooth sailing since launching this blog.
Sure, for the first few months I was able to keep a consistent posting schedule–something I was struggling with Days in Wonderland.
I saw 6 months of consistent blog posts before missing a scheduled post.
There would even be weeks at a time that I wasn’t able to post because of anxiety and my workload, but on the days that I could blog, I would.
I knew I couldn’t quit when I felt like I was on the right path.
It definitely wasn’t easy.
There would be many, many days I’d overwork myself because I had to put out a blog post to meet my blogging schedule or record a video for my online class.
I struggled with batch scheduling because of my workload but I knew that was no excuse all the same.
Still, I had managed to land opportunities I’d only dreamed of.
Since launching this blog…
I’ve collaborated with multiple brands and even booked paid sponsored collaborations.
I launched this online course that teaches you the strategies I used to set up my blog & helped me become a full-time blogger.
I got paid for setting up a friend’s blog.
I was over the moon that I’d been able to make money with my blog and I knew that setting it up strategically played a huge role in that!
I am officially a full-time blogger & creative entrepreneur.
I don’t think I’ll tire of saying that.
Because it’s no longer a dream.
It’s a reality.
A reality that took years to get there.
I’m glad I didn’t give up.
Yes, I had to start from scratch multiple times during this blog journey.
I had to muster up the courage to ask myself if it was time to leave music blogging.
I focused on what was working and let go of what wasn’t.
Now I’m taking the time to set up foundations for my online biz and figuring out the best way to operate and scale it.
And this is a whole new journey that I’m so excited about.
So, if you’ve also had blogging dreams that you’ve been holding on to for very long, but haven’t seen the progress you’ve been wanting, keep going.
Evaluate what has been working for you and if you have any tough questions to ask yourself.
And keep moving forward. ✨
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Grab the following freebies inside my resource library, the Content Chest:
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