The memory is a vivid one: I’m sitting on my bed in Osaka, looking out the windows to the low, grey buildings sprawled out as far as the eye can see. I’m wearing a dress – I think it is black with little red and yellow flowers. My hair is up, of that I’m sure. My fingers are resting on the keyboard of my laptop, hesitating, hesitant.
My days of Livejournal were waning. That platform had hosted my first blog, back when I called myself Chapter Fourteen for no other reason than I like how those two words sounded together. I needed a new name, a new online persona. My Livejournal blog was almost solely about travel anyway, and at this point, 2008, I had already decided that I wanted travel to be a permanent and prominent part of my life. I remember that I tried to find the right words and then, like that, they appeared – This Battered Suitcase – and I registered my new blog immediately. Again, I just liked how those words sounded together, and I liked that I was this one, not the one or that one. I didn’t even Google the name before I registered it. If I had, I would have known that I did not think of those words at all, that they were the creation of someone else’s mind: Jack Kerouac.
“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” The quotation is perfect, made even more so to me that I didn’t know what my brain was referencing when I picked it.
And then – brand new blog name and brand new persona invented – I sat on it for almost two years, without writing a single post.
I still updated the Livejournal account from time to time, which means I’ve been steadily blogging since 2003. I switched permanently to this blog in 2010, and I haven’t looked back. Indeed, I’ve only looked forward. With almost 700 posts and now a book being written, I am not mincing words when I say that I credit this blog with everything in my life. It was the entry-way to my master’s degree, and the before-mentioned book. It got me my job. It helped me connect to hundreds of like-minded travellers and bloggers, and the majority of my friends are connected to the travel blogging world in some way. It has opened up doors and presented opportunities that I could have never dreamed of.
With friends and fellow travel bloggers Alicia, Vicky, and Chérie
I wrote a similar post last year, when my four-year anniversary came round. The anniversary of this blog was actually exactly a month ago, on April 12th, but life and school and work and Spain got in my way. Last year, I wrote:
“There are so many reasons why blogging has been so important to me for, gulp, over a decade… it has acted as a personal account of my journey through young adulthood and through my travels around the world. Aside from that selfish reason, I am amazed at the community that I’ve become a part of, of all of the incredible bloggers, readers, and industry people that I interact with every day. While writing is in my blood, and I’ll never stop, it’s the community that brings me back to this blog time and time again.
When I started this blog four years ago, it was basically a Tumblr. Going through my archives, I rarely wrote over 100 words in the first few years, and for the first year there were nearly no photos of myself or any mention of who I am. Gradually, posts have become longer and I have no shame in hiding who I am and what I look like. I hope that this never comes across as vanity, but as being comfortable and open.
While This Battered Suitcase has always been important to me, something shifted last year, and it became an even bigger part of my life. I stopped wanting to write just about me, and what I do. I wanted to start writing about travelling in general, and of making the blog about more than just me as an individual. I want to be relatable, and I want to make sure that this blog is (hopefully) inspiring to people from all walks of life, not just budget backpackers or solo female travellers… I’ve learned what works for this blog, and what doesn’t. While I hate the idea of sponsored posting and paid advertising, I am open to product reviews, press trips, and compensated tours and hostels. I am confident that you guys understand that these things allow me to travel more, and allow me to recommend more. I am also confident that you guys know I would never, ever compromise the trust and integrity that I have tried to build on this blog, and will always be completely honest if something is compensated (and be completely honest with my review).”
View from my hotel in Lloret de Mar, Spain for this year’s TBEX conference
And now, a year later, I stand by those words. This blog will remain ad-free, guest-post free, and sponsor-free for the foreseeable future. While I do take the occasional press trip, I only accept the ones I think that you would want to take and would be able to take, too. I recently turned down a luxury trip to the Caribbean, but I knew I had to do it – if I couldn’t afford to take that trip on my own, how could I in good conscience write about it? And again, from last year’s post:
“I do not write this to brag, but instead to say that absolutely none of this would be possible without the encouragement and support I’ve received in the past [five] years. Friends, family, and strangers have all continued to amaze me with endless emails, comments, messages, tweets, and likes. It’s not always good – I get discouraging messages, too – but every negative comment I get encourages me to think critically about writing and blogging and travelling. So, thank you, all of you, for everything.”
I am endlessly astonished by this community and the amazing people who reach out to me every day. My life is happier and more fulfilled because of this blog and because of you, whoever you are reading this right now. I couldn’t imagine my life without any of it, and although the posts are less frequent now due to work and university and the book, I have absolutely no plans of stopping blogging anytime soon.
So what’s next for This Battered Suitcase? Well, there’s that book I keep mentioning, and a few other cool things planned, too. I will continue to attend blogging conferences and continue to travel as much as I possibly can. I’m speaking at Blogstock this September in the UK, if you’re around… it would be great to see you there!
And because I still stand by what I said a year ago, and I still feel so strongly about it:
“The past [five] years have been shaped in many ways by this blog; every day I’ve thought about it, either through writing or using social media or taking photos or writing emails or brainstorming ideas. I’ve put a lot of blood, sweat, tears, hours, and dollars into this website, but it has all been worth it. And what’s next for This Battered Suitcase? Well, I know as much as you do. I can tell you this, though… it’s not going anywhere. I’m not going anywhere (unless, you know, it’s on a plane, and I intend to write about it). Thank you so much for some of the best years of my life.”
As a thank you for being so supportive over the years, if you comment here I will enter your name into a draw. I have eight postcards to send out!