Business Crisis for The Professional Hobo! (Vlog Ep. 9)

by Nora on June 29, 2017

I recently had a business crisis here at The Professional Hobo headquarters (which, at the moment, is in Tokyo Japan). I filmed a very raw and honest vlog about it (which you’ll find below), in which I actually call myself a “hack”. Although “hack” is probably a bit strong, I’ve come to realize some fundamental facts about my online business, which are pretty damn concerning.

Business Crisis for The Professional Hobo!

Now, before I launch into how much of a “hack” I am, it’s worth noting that nothing about what I write is inaccurate or hack-like. From the start, I’ve been brutally honest about my life and lifestyle (to the point of publishing annual reports of my income and expenses, demonstrating that full-time travel can be financially sustainable. I’ve also been brutally honest about the ups and downs of this lifestyle, careful not to sugar-coat it, and even delving into the details of all the yucky things that can happen on the road (for a breakdown of these icky things, check out Brace Yourself: Travel Isn’t All Roses and Lollipops).

Instead, my business crisis has been just that – a business crisis. One in which I’m seeing some of the mistakes I’ve made along the way that have now put me in a pickle I’m not exactly sure how to get out of.

This Business Crisis Has Been a Long Time Coming

In 2013, I wrote a post about the Evolution of the Travel Blogging Industry, and how I felt like I was missing the boat. I was in the process of changing my lifestyle to adopt a home base (which didn’t end up working out), and I was also recovering from an ultimately life-changing accident.

Re-reading that post, I see some themes that have come back to bite me…again.

I Lucked Into This Business

Back in the pioneer days of 2006 when I sold everything to travel full-time and started a blog, travel blogging wasn’t even “a thing”. Words like “monetization”, “location independent”, and “digital nomad” didn’t exist.

And for me, my travel blog was little more than a glorified travel journal, with no business plan. My business plan was much more about becoming a freelance writer – which I might add, I did pretty well.

Over the years as the travel blogging industry was built up around me, my website succeeded by sheer function of longevity. I never applied a science to my website. I didn’t analyze where my traffic was coming from. Split testing was as alien to me as my non-existent business plan. And, pay for ads to increase exposure? You’ve got to be kidding. I wouldn’t even have known where to start.

Now, back in 2013 when I realized my site had unrealized potential, I was smart enough to capitalize on it, in ways that luckily kept me in the game. I redesigned my site, started a newsletter list, and wrote some e-books.

But I stopped there. And in this ever-evolving industry that has become super-competitive, stopping hurt me.

I Got Tired of the Business

Shortly thereafter when my life in the Caribbean ended and I later arrived in Peru (in 2014), I knew a change was coming. Perhaps I even knew that the travel blogging industry was becoming more sophisticated than my innate capabilities at the time. Perhaps I was just tired of it (in my 20s I had a history of changing jobs/careers every few years, so technically I was overdue for a change given that I’d done this through most of my 30s). Either way, when shamanism entered the picture, I used it as an excuse to scale everything back.

At the time, it made sense. I had a gig in Peru that was a total life change that would provide me with an income, property, and promised to make me the beneficiary of a successful plant medicine centre. I even considered selling my site at that time, but decided against it since it was still my baby, and also a security blanket.

Thank goodness I did hang on to it, because when my life in Peru fell apart, I had something to fall back on.

Even after I left Peru and found myself house-sitting in Ecuador, I was kind of uninspired by my online business. So, I looked for new ways to inspire myself, such as starting a travel vlog.

Shortly thereafter though, I was led back to shamanic pursuits at a retreat centre in Ecuador that kept me very busy for the next nine months of assistant managing the place and facilitating ceremonies. Again, I scaled everything back to the bare minimum of activities that could keep my website alive and kicking out (some sort of) income.

After nine months, again I had doubts about my shamanic path and decided to take a break to hit the road again. Which brought me to my current location, house-sitting in Japan.

 

So Today, I’m Having a Business Crisis

I knew in coming to Japan that I would be putting some (long overdue) time and energy into my website and online business. My business crisis was inspired by the first item on my list: to change web hosts to a managed WordPress hosting platform that would supposedly increase my traffic. It was an investment that would multiply my hosting expenses by more than 10, but I figured it was time to take things to the next level. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

But while migrating hosts, I realized I was trying to play a game with the “big boys”, and that I no longer was a “big boy” in the game, as I had been for years. I mean, given my website’s foundations (like domain authority and backlinks and longevity), I should be a big boy. But my traffic is a mere fraction of what it should be given this foundation. And thus, my income is also a mere fraction of what it should be. Just take a look at some of my Financial Case Studies, many of whom are travel bloggers who are making six figures a year. Heck – if I really want to depress myself, I compare myself to Nomadic Matt, who is one of the few bloggers who have been traveling as long as I have. He has 800,000 visitors a month and makes over $1 million a year. Me…not so much.

I Deserve It

I mean, for the last three years, I’ve done little more than publish one post per week, respond to emails, keep up with Facebook and Twitter, and write little more than one measly freelance column. It has been enough to financially sustain me, but just.

So of course I deserve to not have a leading travel blog that appears in all the “top x” lists as it once did. But it still hurts. It hurts my wallet, and even more so, it hurts my ego.

So this is why I’m a hack. I stumbled into an industry that was built up around me as I pursued my lifestyle dream of traveling full-time. When people interview me about how to succeed in the travel blogging industry (and no, the irony doesn’t escape me), I talk about the need to treat it like a business, and to apply a science to it in order to differentiate yourself from the ever-increasing plethora of travel blogs out there. I admit in these interviews that I got lucky because of sheer time in the saddle.

But I never took my own advice. I haven’t treated it (enough) like a business, nor have I applied much of a science to the art.

And here I am. In business crisis central.

Business Crisis Vlog

In this video I’m at the epicentre of my business crisis, discussing how it has led to a larger lifestyle crisis. I also delve into a lot more than business stuff, talking about how much of what I’m going through is totally normal….for everybody. I even discuss how my last three years in shamanism have helped me to reframe a lot of this.

Check it out:

Can’t see this video? Click here to watch on YouTube.

 

How I’m Dealing With This Business Crisis

Since recording this video, I’ve done a few things to get my business back on track, including:

  • I’m long overdue for another website redesign. I’m looking at designers (and budgets) right now. This will require a significant investment of both time and money that makes me nauseous.
  • I’ve increased my posting frequency from once to twice per week, and breathed new life (again) into my YouTube channel. Every Thursday, posts on my website (like this one) will include a vlog.
  • I’ve started looking at website analytics in the hopes of gaining a better understanding of what makes my website tick. (It’s less soul-destroying than I thought, but I still think if I want to get anywhere concrete with this I may need to hire somebody to help me).
  • I’m upping my social media game by creating engaging short Travel Tips videos that relate to posts on my site. I’m active on Quora. I’m pitching products on Product Hunt. And every day I’m finding something new to do to increase my exposure.

And there’s a lot more I could do. In some ways I don’t even know where to start. I’m hoping the actions above will be enough, but I suspect it won’t.

This all means I’m working a lot more, but for the moment I don’t mind. I’m still getting out and “discovering Tokyo” at a decent pace, as you’ll see from my upcoming vlogs (stay tuned every Thursday!).

 

I Had a Crisis About Publishing This Post

I mean, I shouldn’t actually admit that my website traffic sucks and that I’m a business hack, should I? It’s not exactly good for prospective customers (readers and advertisers alike) to read. I should probably be faking it till I make it (again).

But in the name of being honest with you as I always have, my loyal and lovely readers (and yes, there are still quite a few of you, and I love you for sticking with me), I’m putting it all out there for you to see. Hopefully, through my own struggles, you can further identify with me, and also realize that traveling full-time does not require superhuman status – nor will it solve all your problems.

And publishing my business crisis is also perhaps a bit self-serving; if any of you are smarter than I am when it comes to website management and business planning (and you don’t have to be very smart to be smarter than me in this game), I welcome your suggestions below.

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rob June 29, 2017 at 12:36 pm

Expectations is a word I didn’t see in this write up (not enough bandwidth for video).

If you expected to be a millionaire & have a million views a month than you may be a bit behind…
If you expected to make a living, travel & live in different land & generally enjoy yourself you may be doing what you set out to do.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda is always there, ignore it for the most part and if the big bucks & high view count is your new thing then go for it!

Don’t forget that life is a journey with no rules….. and if you’re into remembering things remember that “I” like your blog!

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2 Nora June 30, 2017 at 5:23 am

Hey Rob,
Very very good reality check! Indeed, I am – and have been – living the life I chose, regardless of traffic stats etc. It’s hard in life not to glance over to the other side of the fence and say “but I could have that too! That’d be nice…”, but we all know that the grass over there isn’t usually as green as it looks.
Thanks for the reminder that there are no rules in this game.

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3 Betsy June 29, 2017 at 1:08 pm

I’m one of your longtime readers, who has been in the digital nomads location independent lifestyle travel blogging space since 2008 myself. I totally get where you are coming from, and appreciate the raw honesty and emotion you shared in the video. In the nine years that we’ve had our blog, I’ve had a couple of similar crisis periods. One when we moved to Kauai and I decided to take time to get personally centered away from a bunch of crap we left on the mainland. That took about a year, and resulted in a rebrand. We are emerging from the most recent one, focusing on better positioning and monetization. You’re so right about the changing industry landscape, filling up to saturation levels with (sometimes nefarious) new players. But it’s still a big enough world to carve out our space, even if at times exhausting to deal with the effects of that change. I admire you for pressing on and look forward to what you share.

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4 Nora June 30, 2017 at 5:27 am

Thanks, Betsy!
Despite the hardships you’ve faced, it brings me some comfort to know I’m not the only one who has had industry crises.
I recently read a well-written article on influence, and using it wisely. Given the number of people entering this industry to make money at it (as opposed to why we got into it a million years ago, because of passion), sometimes the morals and ethics of being an influencer get lost in the shuffle. She says “When money is your biggest motivator, it affects everything — your travels, your content, and the industry as a whole.” Wise words! Here’s the article: http://www.adventurouskate.com/on-influence-and-using-it-wisely/

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5 Betsy June 30, 2017 at 11:57 am

Yes, I saw that article. Many truths.

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6 Michelle June 30, 2017 at 5:29 am

Hi Nora
I’ve been reading your blog for the last few years and your’s was actually the very first, of the now numerous travel blogs, I started to follow religiously.
You have always been an inspiration to me in the fact that you have traveled and sustained your lifestyle on such a seemingly small income / budget.
There are other blogs I follow who say they earn $150,00 a year or more and I watch their travels with envy…but of course they can do anything they want with that kind of money.
But you have made me see that it IS possible to have a travel lifestyle with a more realistic income and budget.
Do what you need to do but know that you are a success, not a hack, in my opinion and I will continue to read this blog each week no matter what !

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7 Nora June 30, 2017 at 5:51 am

Aw….thanks, Michelle! Good to know that I am a success in your eyes. 🙂

Indeed, this crisis hit me hard and fast, but has passed quickly as well. I’m putting one foot in front of the next and getting myself back in the game (and actually somewhat enjoying the process) – not because I need to measure up against other blogs (well….okay, maybe a little!), but more because I want to make (at least a little) more money so I can experience just a bit more freedom of lifestyle.
At the moment if I’m not getting free accommodation, I need to be very selective of where I live. And as a colleague once said, that’s not a true definition of “location independence”.
And although I love my free accommodation gigs (heck – I wouldn’t have been able to live in Tokyo for 2 months any other way!), they can also be a bit restrictive. So I’d rather choose these gigs because I want them…not because I need them.

Since you say you’re following me no matter what, then stay tuned….I’ll keep you posted! 🙂

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8 Fabrice June 30, 2017 at 5:40 am

Hi Nora,

maybe, you haven’t realized that you have been a Good Scanner till now!!

What does being a Scanner mean?

Here it is!!

http://www.screwworkletsplay.com/docs/ScannerCareerGuide.pdf

Hence, just keep on being a Good Scanner, it’s your own deep nature, you should be very, very proud of it!!

All The Best!!

Fabrice, greetings from Italy.

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9 Nora June 30, 2017 at 5:54 am

Hi Fabrice,
Long time no hear! Thanks for the link – very interesting information. Although some of the qualities of a Scanner do resonate for me, others don’t. Although I’m not afraid of change (and can admittedly get bored easily), I am also not a quitter and I tend to finish what I start. Hence – my newfound commitment to this site! 🙂

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10 Tiffany June 30, 2017 at 7:00 am

Hey Nora,

I just wanted to say I can feel you on so many points you brought up. Also, I think it was very brave to publish this post. I can jump all around in my comment here with so many points you brought up, but yeah, it’s a tricky, so tricky to look at where some sites are at and then be like, ‘But where am I at?’ I was just journaling away this morning doing a self assessment and then read your post with similar thoughts – so in a way your self serving serves my self serving – does that make sense and come off as a compliment? I hope so because in so many ways we’re all in this together. I hope as you go through and feel out what the next action steps are it gives you energy and focus (and I hope the same for me too!) 😉

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11 Nora June 30, 2017 at 9:04 am

Hey Tiff!
Ha ha – I totally get how my self-serving is serving your self-serving!! LOL!
And thank you. Indeed, we are all in this together, and like I say in the video – none of my problems are special or any different from the crap that we all deal with in life. In a way, it’s what brings us all together as the beautifully flawed humans that we are!

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12 Miki June 30, 2017 at 8:35 am

Yikes! Do you know if you tear up on video, I’m going to start bawling. Thank God I wasn’t at work yet lol. I have ultimate faith in your ability to adapt and conquer. And if you can do it from the ever-changing landscape of the road, I have no excuse to not do the same from the safety of my home. Inspiring video, as always.

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13 Nora June 30, 2017 at 9:09 am

Thank you Miki! You’re the best, most supportive husband EVER! 😉

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14 Gary June 30, 2017 at 9:08 am

Nora,

So someone has more readers and is making more money than you. But, here is a question: Do you have enough people reading your site? Are you making enough money to live as you like? Has ten years of nomadic life been enough? Is a life centered on business and work again in your future?

If accumulating money were your chief motivator, would you have sold your old business and taken to life as a full-time traveler? Likely not. So, as the questions seem to be about the future of your life rather than rescuing a failing business, may I be so bold as to opine that this seems of a personal “crisis” than a business “crisis.”

This may be a slight non sequitur, but I think it is somewhat relevant. To paraphrase Lao Tzu (in translation), only the person who knows what is “enough” is rich.

https://terebess.hu/english/tao/gia.html

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15 Nora June 30, 2017 at 9:17 am

Hi Gary,
Indeed! Excellent questions and points.

As I mentioned in a comment above, I’d like to achieve true “location independence”, where I can live just about anywhere in the world (modestly) and not worry about money. At the moment, my income supports me, but only if I’m very choosy about where and how I live. For the most part those choices meet my lifestyle desires, but I would like a bit more freedom.
Also, I’ve seen a trend with my income, and it’s a downward one. Given that I haven’t paid much attention to my online business for a while, it stands to reason. So the point of this exercise (which inspired the “crisis”) was to give my business a boost to keep it in the game and producing a lifestyle income.

But you also make a great point about business vs personal “crisis”. Duly noted….

Lastly, as I quietly allude to, I think there’s an ego thing in here as well. Whereas once I was in all the Top 10 lists, now I’m lucky to appear in the Top 100 lists. That’s an emotional blow for me.

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16 Gary June 30, 2017 at 9:30 am

Thanks for the reply. I first saw The Professional Hobo just a few months ago when Duckduckgo.com found it while I was looking for proven ideas for packing light for a month-long trip. The blog and the nomadic life fascinates me, so I bookmarked it and try to stay up to date for the vicarious enjoyment of your travels. It is the only travel blog I read.

I hope you achieve your goal.

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17 John Lennie June 30, 2017 at 4:35 pm

Hi Nora,

At least you admit you’re a business hack. It’s a bit like being an alcoholic… you have to admit what you are.

I’ve always enjoyed your travels and stories. But, your lack of business acumen was your choice. Really, you have had a travel and adventure hobby that made a little pocket change on the side. That’s not a business.

As you know, one of the companies I founded, and still own, has created tens of thousands of websites and we still manage over 5,000 websites. A new website will not fix your issue. You have a business challenge and some cosmetic (marketing) surgery is not going to change much. Don’t waste your money. Their are a ton of snake oil salesman that sell simple formulas for success… don’t be a sucker.

Business is simple. Know yourself. Know your product . Know your customer. All three must be aligned or you’ll fail at business. Once aligned you just have to decide what scale of success you want.

Over the past few years I seen you struggle with knowing yourself. (You’re a very honest writer) But, you must be honest with yourself… maybe you just want a hobby that delights your sense of adventure and makes you a little money. Problem solved.

If you want some real business advice give me a call when you visit Toronto or send me an email.

Cheers,

John

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18 Nora July 1, 2017 at 12:14 am

Hi John,

I think we’re in a new age – the age of the lifestyle business. This concept always existed, and was formerly known (especially in tax arenas) as a hobby business. These days, I think there’s more of a science to it than simply being a “hobby business”. Maybe a lifestyle business is somewhere in between a hobby business and a bonafide business empire.

I sold everything I owned (including a very successful business, as you may recall) to get out of the business-rat-race. Maybe that’s just a charmed excuse for not taking my “hobby business” more seriously. Or maybe there’s something to it.

There’s also the reality of being a writer, which is rarely a lucrative career choice. (Again, maybe that’s an excuse, but statistics say otherwise). So my chosen career is a bit of an uphill battle on that front.

Years ago when I asked a colleague if he had any suggestions for my upcoming year’s business plan, he replied “make more money”! I bristled at the suggestion, responding by writing an article about how I choose not to make any more money and instead to have a more “fulfilling” lifestyle. (Here’s the article: http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/financially-sustainable-travel-part-2-income-and-expense-choices/).
But at the time I was still a major player on the travel blog scene, so it was easier for me to say that. Maybe now, I’m seeing the ultimate consequences of taking that stance in life and business.

So, you’re right. I have to determine for myself what I really want; a hobby business, a lifestyle business, or a business empire. This plays into what I really want in life as well.
Stay tuned. Thanks for your support!

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19 John Lewis June 30, 2017 at 8:13 pm

This is for you. Maybe it helps, maybe not.

https://youtu.be/egI3OEzVduU

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20 Nora July 1, 2017 at 12:21 am

Hi John,
What a thoughtful response in your video! Thank you.
Here’s the comment I left on your video, in case you don’t see it:
Oh John….thank you so much! How caring, how thoughtful, and how insightful. Indeed in my own video I surmised that my “crisis” isn’t unique to me in any way. If anything I’m experiencing the “almighty equalizer” that is business in general, or goals, or the bottom line, or simply a lifestyle crisis.
No matter what it is (and I’m working on that right now), I appreciate your constant support and empathy, which you’ve been very generous with towards me over the years.
Please, keep on inspiring in your way. 🙂

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21 Chris Cox June 30, 2017 at 9:26 pm

Nora,
For someone who has known you for 23yrs, you are always successful at whatever you put your mind too. You have always been a person of integrity and honesty as long as i’ve known you. You always beleive in what you do. Even if it is magnetized water or beds that promote healthy living…..lol. You will acheive what you want. It may take time, but i know you will do it. Just do what makes you happy. You are an amazing lady and I always wish you the best in all of your endeavours. Just remember, lifes short…… enjoy yourself in all that you do.

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22 Nora July 1, 2017 at 12:30 am

Hey Chris!
Wise words indeed! It’s all about doing what makes us happy…the rest will sort itself out (for the most part). I hope you’re taking your own advice in life as well!
Here’s to another 23 years…. 🙂

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23 Jo July 1, 2017 at 12:58 am

Hi Nora,
I think I must have been one of your early fans and I have never tired of reading about your up and down life. I moulded my dreams of my retirement on what you were doing so when I sold my house in Auckland I bought a pack with wheels and started on my journey. I went on to Word press and my (empty) blog and ridiculous name is still sitting there….totally empty.
It took me awhile to realise there was a lot of work attached to having a monetised blog and that I am a procrastinator and a true Gemini flitting from one great idea to another and achieving zilch. So I made my money by buying real estate……7 transactions in the last 5 years …..mostly to give me a home base. With a son in Dallas I bought a condo there…..dirt cheap compared to NZ and basically travelled to get away from NZ winters.
I have returned to Napier where most of my good friends are which was something I had missed without realising it.
So I do understand everything you said in the video and the blog. It is a progression that you would be going through if you had stayed in Canada I feel sure. It’s life but the problems are wrapped differently.
I was surprised to read how well Nomadic Matt has done as I rarely read his emails…..they do not resonate with me…..which applies to most other travel emails I receive. Yours I always welcome and savour and either laugh or cry with you.

That accident you had and the drama of it all was probably when you stopped paying attention to what was happening in the travel blog industry and then Peru, and suddenly the world had moved on. The IT world moves at a phenomenal pace as I found when I tried to get into internet marketing. I pulled out….ok gave up…..and every so often I go onto a website and realise a lot of that stuff I learnt is irrelevant now.

You will get your mojo back and increase your income to what you are happy with and find your way out of this crisis…..Your inspiration for me was that you are doing what you are doing on a small income. Those making a fortune do not interest me as I do not want to travel as a rich or priviledged traveller. I travel slowly to meet the people and learn about their countries and culture…..that doesnt happen in a 5 star hotel.

Thinking of you Nora…..there is a bedroom here in Napier for you should you decide to return to Kiwi land……it must be a great place…..all these rich Americans buying up large….or are they looking for a bolt hole these days?? 😳

I am looking forward to your next step.
With love,

Jo Mahar

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24 Nora July 1, 2017 at 11:45 pm

Hey Jo,
Over the years I’ve so enjoyed our correspondence – both on email and publicly through our comment-conversations. I really appreciate the perspective you’ve been able to give me, having seen me (from a distance) go through all my ups and downs. Indeed, you’ve pinned it – the accident, followed by my shamanic adventures in Peru, were really the tipping point of my losing pace in such a fast-paced industry.

And even if I kick my business back into gear (as I’m working on at the moment), to tell you the truth, I still expect to be “small potatoes”, with a relatively small income. I doubt I’ll ever hit (or even get close to) a 6-figure income with this business. Why? Because I totally COULD….but then I’d be chained to my computer again, in ways that don’t satisfy me. I like running my online business, but I’m not sure I like it THAT much! Ha ha! What’s much more satisfying to me is pumping out raw honest articles like this one (that don’t necessarily hit SEO top lists), making fun videos, and creating genuine connections with my readers like you. If I “hit it big” with this strategy, then great. But if not, if I can simply continue to make ends meet and live a life of freedom, I’m good.

To that end, I AM working much more at the moment than I feel is ultimately sustainable, creating frameworks to keep myself in the game. But at least I know it’s a bit of temporary pain for some long-term gain. And to be honest, I kind of enjoy making changes where I can see the results of my work (for example, in a better-designed mobile responsive site, new course, etc).

It ain’t so bad. A little crisis once in a while can sometimes be the kick in the pants we need to decide what we really want. 🙂

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25 Holly July 1, 2017 at 2:43 pm

Hello Nora,
I’ve been following your blog since your Hawaii days (a long time ago!). What really drew me to your blog and kept me reading is your voice. I liked how your slow travel lifestyle allows you to experience the places you travel to on a deeper level. I still remember your posts about discovering the exotic fruits in Hawaii, the Australian fires, and the friendly kangaroo you met. That was great content, and I think that style of writing is one of your biggest strengths.

I know you will find a way to pull yourself out of this quagmire. You still have loyal readers and we are all rooting for you.

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26 Nora July 1, 2017 at 11:50 pm

Thank you so much, Holly!
I can’t tell you how much it means to me to know that I’ve got readers like you who have stuck with me through the years (and my lord – Hawaii was 10 years ago now!!!).

And if it’s my writing style that resonates the most, then maybe what really need to do, is to get started with this travel memoir idea that I’ve been sitting on for almost 2 years now. This book is a a massive project though, and it’s easier to just keep myself occupied with busy-work than to carve out the time required (possibly years!) for something like this.
Then again….maybe it’s time….

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27 John Lewis July 2, 2017 at 1:35 am

Regarding writing that book: Pomodoro technique works wonders when you want to get the thing done. It worked for me on my first book (https://www.amazon.com/Scams-Flops-Failures-Crowdfunding-Warned-ebook/dp/B06XYTLY63/ref=sr_1_5?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1491766212&sr=1-5&keywords=john+lewis) concerning crowdfunding, so it can work for you writing your memoirs.

Busybody John

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28 Nora July 4, 2017 at 12:03 am

Hey John,
Yes, I do like the Pomodoro technique, very much! Thanks. 🙂

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29 Stephanie July 1, 2017 at 3:10 pm

Dear Nora,

Well, who cares as long as you feel happy with what you do! And who needs to make 6 figures, what for? Don’t be so hard on yourself. I have followed you for a long time and have been a “digital nomad” since 2011. Having blogged since 2007, and had a spectacularly non mainstream travel blog since 2012, my content has never been “marketable”. I left a career in marketing exactly FOR this lifestyle, and it really alienates me that people leave their 9-5 just to fall into the same marketing, consumerist job where your job is to market travel locations to people in a superficial way.

I wouldn’t see a home base only being such for a short time as “it didn’t work out”. It was your place for a while, then something else was better for you. If something doesn’t work for you, do something else. Why not? It doesn’t equate failure. I know as we leave the supposedly carefree 20s, we somehow feel like we should be more rooted in a place and job, but really there is no need for that.

No need to say “I am a full time traveller vs. “I am rooted in one place”. There are so many options in between. I wish you all the best in figuring out your new steps.

If you need any advice on travel (or even life!) in Japan OUTSIDE Tokyo, let me know, I have travelled all over from the tip of Hokkaido down to Okinawa in the last decade.

Love and light,
Stephanie

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30 Nora July 2, 2017 at 12:03 am

Hey Stephanie,
Thank you! Although my site is somewhat marketable, it also falls in a grey area between “mainstream” and “obscurity”. So like you, it is – and always has been – more a vehicle of passion than business acumen. And that’s okay. Some friends and readers who have commented that my business acumen is lacking are totally right – but I’m not sure I’m inspired enough to “fix” it completely.

Like you say, there are many areas of grey. Although my home bases “didn’t work out”, I agree totally with you about home bases in general – they’re good for a time, and then it’s time to move on. Some of the “times to move on” over the years have just been less graceful (or by my own choice) than others.

By the way, I don’t know if you’re familiar with http://travelsofadam.com/ – he’s made his site a bit more “mainstream” but also shows that working an “obscure” niche can work. There’s another woman I know of (German as well), but I can’t for the life of me remember her site. But she also does very well.

Like you say, it’s all about shades of grey, and deciding what results we want in the end.

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31 Felipe July 4, 2017 at 5:50 am

What your feeling is so natural, it has a name, impostor syndrome.

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

I also get that we all benefit from capitalism and your writing is one of the things you do that provides value while generating cash flow. You don’t have to stake your identity into it. Reading your blog helps me better plan my imminent travels.

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32 Nora July 6, 2017 at 6:07 am

Hi Felipe,
Thanks for your interesting thoughts! I will further consider whether impostor syndrome is an accurate description for what I’m feeling. It certainly is a common trait for most writers to consider themselves “hacks”, or undeserving of whatever success they have.

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33 cinque July 4, 2017 at 10:33 am

Write your book.
Continue being true to yourself
And keep sharing your insights and knowledge
With gratitude and compassion

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34 Nora July 6, 2017 at 6:08 am

Thank you, cinque!

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35 John s July 8, 2017 at 5:11 pm

Hi Nora, Watched your YouTube video also. I’m a US business person since 985. With my own little 9 employee company, I got caught behind the tech curve with the “internet” in general through the 1990s, whereas you’ve experienced this discouragement with “social media marketing”. As with the fields of finance and operations in the last 20 years, which you’re well aware as a financial planner, advances in computational power and capacity have dramatically accelerated marketing research methods. Some of this stuff sounds like rocket science. lol

Utilizing an analogy, a successful, senior employee who just career changed into another industry is brought to an industry business dinner party at the annual convention for industry X, by some senior folks in his/her firm. The “new person” is tossed into the mix, so she/he may absorb useful information and make contacts. Attendees are having cocktails before sitting down to eat, chatting and sharing best practices. The new person is desperately trying to hear and follow/engage the conversations for that golden nugget (the take away), and perhaps follow a group of big dogs and sit at their table.

The party starts small, maybe 20, and grew over the hour to over 150 people, and now the new person is struggling just to hear anyone, much less pick out the choice conversations. Before the party got so big, the new person could hear most folks, but now he/she’s forced to differentiate and select, because now the room is a loud, confusing mess, compounded by the newbie’s impression that everyone else already knows each other. The new person, despite being successful and a good business person, is out of place in this new industry setting, and needs to catch up; feeling awkward and a little frustrated! So which conversation should the newbie select?

Many consumers of social media accept form over substance initially. But over some time, the developer/ blogger with the “better” content will prevail and endure, in my opinion. Sure, maybe Nomadic Matt’s MBA degree helped him develop and implement a successful business plan and tech architecture. (I’m a fan of Matt’s by the way.) In my opinion, your content is up there with the very best in the biz. Maybe you got to refresh some pubs, since media consumers impose short shelf lives on written material, improve and optimize your web site, and get a pro to apply best practices to your social media marketing program. Your doing this; congratulations for going all in!

But at some point, all the investment in loud flashy marketing can’t sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo. Even when the room gets loud and messy, consumers will differentiate, seek out, and land on the superior content.

You got the goods Nora!!! You’re not a hack Nora. You’re just a little behind the times, which is awkward and frustrating, because you know you’re good. Just raise your voice and rely on good content. Folks will what to hear what you got to say.

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36 Nora July 9, 2017 at 6:05 am

Hey John,
Wow – what a great analogy, and a really nice sentiment and vote of confidence as well! Thank you. I do in fact trust that my content is good; I’ve just got to make good on how it is delivered. Already in the hopper!
Thanks for your support and advice.

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37 John s July 9, 2017 at 10:04 am

And your content is good because it’s good, not because it lacked competition in the early years. Good luck Nora!

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38 Kerry Dexter July 10, 2017 at 8:37 am

Nora,
I am one of your longtime readers. I like John’s analogy of the conversations at the party, above. It resonates for what you said of your work, and somewhat for mine as well. I began my blog in the same year you did, in part because as a writer for print and producer for broadcast I saw increasing need to know how to fir my work into that format as well. My main calling is to write about folk music, not your most mainstream of gigs or one for which there’s a clear career roadmap. As music pubs began to fold or cease offering payment I moved over into doing a good bit of writing about travel through the perspective of the arts, which I am still doing. I am facing some of business issues that you are just now — and having had my long time home base neighborhood torn down for new construction and living in a place that’s not the best, I’m considering traveling yet more. I will see how that works out. In any case, thank you for the years of good companionship through your words, and all the best as you go through these latest transitions.

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39 Nora July 12, 2017 at 12:57 am

Hi Kerry,
I’m sorry that you’re facing similar business challenges, in addition to what appears to being forced back out on the road. I can certainly say that I also, wasn’t all too keen to hit the road again in a big way after my years in South America, but now that I’m out and about, I’ve enjoyed a fresh burst of inspiration which is in turn helping me in my business activities and energy levels.
So…I hope the same for you, and smooth transitions all around!

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40 Andrew Dorchester July 12, 2017 at 6:28 pm

Nora,

You are an inspiration to me and I suspect most of your readers. You can’t hack that. Your passion and genuineness for travel speaks volumes, as does your integrity for producing your crisis video. It takes a bravery and honesty to lay your cards out on the table the way you have and you are to be commended for doing so.

You are not alone in your frustration and fear in a world that might seem as though it is passing you by. I share your frustration about the speed at which the world is changing and the relentless pressure to keep up with the pace. I’ve never felt lonely traveling to the most remote places of the planet, but the 2017 digital landscape is brutal and lonely place to be.

No question about it, there are many slick looking travel websites that are constantly coming online. Some of them are good and some not so much. I have yet to see a website that contains information better than yours. Yes, some are flashier and have more splendid photography or videos, but it’s content that counts and your site regularly meets a higher standard.

Don’t despair, you are providing an enormously valuable service to your readers. Keep up the good work and have fun as you take the next steps in your project.

Best regards

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41 Nora July 13, 2017 at 8:14 am

Hi Andrew,
Thank you so much! I really like what you said here:
“I’ve never felt lonely traveling to the most remote places of the planet, but the 2017 digital landscape is a brutal and lonely place to be.”
That’s profound, and profoundly true. In all our digital connectedness, we are ultimately pretty disconnected. What a trip!

I’m actually enjoying the process of doing more videos and redesigning my site and getting more active on social media etc. Whether or not it pays off (but it surely will), it has been nice to create the time and space to embrace my work in a new way.

Looking forward to launching a new (slightly slicker) site! At the very least it will be easier to navigate than this one, and it will be mobile responsive. I’m joining this decade, finally! Ha ha.

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