Your writing is crap, Caroline. No one will ever want to read it. Besides, Lonely Planet has the market, as if you could ever compete.
These were the words I heard as I sat at my kitchen table in 2008, dreaming and planning.
I had been living and traveling around the world as a teacher for 14 years and wanted to continue doing that. But this time, doing something I was passionate about.
A life without wandering was not for me. I loved to write and share our stories on the road via email to family and friends. And they loved hearing from us. This inspired me, even though my writing was terrible.
I sat and dreamed and planned. A travel book, a travel blog, a community of travelers sharing and having fun — I saw it all in my mind’s eye. I was excited to create my vision.
But then, I listened to those words and shut the book on my dream.
If only I knew then what I know now.
Those words that told me I couldn’t do it came from me. They were words of fear and insecurity, and they took me out of the game before I even gave myself a chance to start.
For the next two years, I went through pain as I tried other things that weren’t my passion and strayed further from my path.
The mistakes, the losses, the pain all caused me to turn and dig deep within myself. Dig deep to find out what was “wrong” with me and how I could fix it.
Through all the digging and introspection my mind set began to change as did the belief I had in myself. I learned that life is not about finding yourself, it is about creating yourself.
You can be, do, and have your heart’s desires — because they were meant for you.
Deciding to start
One day in April 2010, through a simple internet disconnect, I decided to start that travel book I thought of years ago. It fueled in me excitement and passion.
Then, I started the travel blog, because I believed I could do it and that I had a story that would help others.
Then came the community of like-minded travelers willing to share and have fun together. I was finally creating that vision from long ago after all. The only thing had been stopping me was me.
I loved what I was doing. It consumed every waking minute and kept me up during the sleeping ones. I read every day, took online writing courses, and learned from others. I wrote every single day.
And soon I began to find my voice.
Becoming a writer
Writing and being successful at it is not about being the next Ernest Hemingway. It’s about having a voice, and presenting it with passion in a way that inspires. It’s about being honest, raw, and real.
This is the stuff that draws people in and empowers them to believe they can do the unimaginable.
I had high goals for our travel blog, which my husband enthusiastically embraced with me. (You should see how he found his voice — a professional athlete, turned carpenter, turned travel writer. No one would have imagined it, let alone himself.)
Your goals are unrealistic. You will never do it. I’ve been going for three years now and have just hit these goals.
I sat and cried as I read these words from another travel blogger.
The pages of the book of my dream began to close once again as the fear and doubt began to creep back in. But, just as quickly, the hand of my learning and courage jumped out to keep the book open.
Remember Yossi Ghinsberg, one of your mentors. Remember when someone tried to stop him. He turned and said, “Don’t ever stand between a man and his dreams.”
So I stood and said the same: “You don’t know me. You don’t know what I know. You don’t know what I’m capable of. Don’t ever stand in the way of my dreams.”
Breaking the barrier
It has been 18 months since we started. Our blog is now one of the most popular independent travel blogs in the world.
Last week, Tourism New Zealand flew us over to talk about travel blogging at the Australian Travel Writers Convention. Me — someone whose writing was amateurish and “crap” was now going to talk to professional and polished travel writers.
I was nervous and insecure. But I stood and shared my story, anyway.
The biggest barrier to anyone’s success is herself. We feed ourselves excuses bred from fear and insecurity. Then we listen to those around us who say it can’t be done. But what we believe and how we act is a choice.
Sometimes, I think of where I’d be now if back in 2008 I never listened to those words telling me I couldn’t do it. Then, I imagine if I never learned to shut them out at all. Imagine that.
What’s holding you back from finding your voice and telling your story? Imagine what life would be like if it didn’t. Share in the comments.
*Photo credit: Spence Lawn (Creative Commons)