Apparently most blogs don't last more than six months. Something to do with the pressure to keep posting or some such palaver. Or that the reason for writing a blog changes and it no longer is all that important. I guess my blog could have gone that way, given that I started it primarily to keep family and friends informed of my travel tales, but soon realised it was far more than that.
I'm coming up for my four year blog anniversary, so it might be a good time to look at where I've been and where I'm going. I don't mean just literally, I mean all the touchy feely stuff too.
When I first started this blog I'd reached a pretty low point in my life, where I was burnt out from work and suffering from depression. I was fortunate to be able to take long service leave, as well as leave without pay, and take the time I needed to heal. I then also sought professional advice to try and protect myself from that level of burnout ever happening again.
One of the first thing I noticed about writing a blog is it's very personal. Unlike Americans who appear to have no qualms about hanging out their emotional laundry for all to see, us Aussies are made of truer grit and we just don't emote to strangers. Writing about how I felt on a blog, however, was easier than talking to someone I knew. Also I suspect it gave me time to gather my thoughts and come up with something coherent to say. It certainly was cathartic, and even now, I kind of like the fact that one can just say stuff one feels and let it loose on the webosphere. Is that a word?
I think the other reason I've continued to write is that I am literally alone where I live. Yes I have great local friends, but I also have all my family, and many friends, living more than 3000km away on the other side of the country. So it gives me a chance to keep them up to date, with pictures, on what I'm up to. I've never been a fan of Facebook as a primary communication device, especially for those close to me, or for anything personal either. My good friends aren't JUST Facebook friends, in fact many of them aren't even on it.
I love reading other people's travel blogs, but despair at how many seem to be written by professional travel bloggers. I suspect many of them start out just travelling, and then get convinced that making money writing "ten best" blog posts and pushing affiliate marketing is the way to go. Obviously there is money in it for a few of the high flyers, or they wouldn't do it, but I prefer to troll around for the bloggers who write about their travels, their personal take on a place, a situation, a culture etc. I am gradually culling my list of favourites, to those who actually travel, versus those who write about travel, or about hanging out with their travel blogging mates! Sure, horses for courses, each to his own, just I'm not a fan.
I realised I didn't want my blog to be just another travel blog, I wanted it to reflect me, and my life, which wasn't just about travel after all. I'm much more interesting than that! I have left a lot of my life out of this blog though, especially details about my work, which I find hard to communicate in a way that people could understand. Perhaps I need some distance before I can write about the First Australians who are my work colleagues, patients and friends.
So where have I been in the last four years? I've gone from depressed and burnt out, to travelling through SE Asia for 6 months, to returning to work part time, to taking on more responsibility for training the next generation of doctors and GPs. I've gone from active couch potato with too much flab, to someone who runs four times a week and listens to an iPod while she does it. I've grown my hair, lost a few kilos, and expect many family members wouldn't recognise me in a crowd. Having a picture of Hazel as my Facebook profile probably doesn't help either...
As for the future, I've decided to retire from doctoring before I turn 50, and to pursue a more creative path through photography and travel, and possibly even writing. I've also decided that my creative pursuits will not be for commercial gain, I intend to sort the income stream out before I give up the day job. I also don't intend to ever turn my blog into a place that advertises things, so if I post a link, you can be sure I'm not getting any money for it. Yeah I know, as pure as driven snow....
My near future, however, feels somewhat overwhelming. I've got involved in a few committees, work related involving numerous trips to Perth and the eastern states, as well as trying to run a local Coastcare project and help organise our yearly Oxfam Walk Against Want. I am looking forward to July with relish, because then I'm taking 6 months off to recover. Aside from going skiing in NZ, I'm still not sure what I'll do with the time. At this point I don't care, not like I'm short of options or anything.
And finally there's Hazel, who features front and central in my life. She's now 2 months off her 14th birthday, well and truly on borrowed time, but remarkably healthy and happy for her advanced years. She's slow, she sleeps all day and rarely manages to be energetic beyond 15 min bursts of playfulness. Her teeth are wearing down fast, she has significant muscle wasting in her rear haunches, but she ain't complaining. Well that's not true, I get a right good talking to if I don't take her for her daily beach amble and paddle in the surf.
Soon my future won't include Hazel, which will be pretty weird, but something I am actually looking forward to. Not because of any feeling of missed opportunities, but because I feel that that period of my life is coming to an end and I'm looking forward to new experiences. It's the main reason I can't really make plans for my six months off, because I won't leave her again for an extended trip. I joke about euthanising her prior to jetting off to New Zealand, but to be truthful, I don't want my dog to suffer, and that may well be the right time for us to say goodbye. Not if she's still hale and hearty, but she is not the dog that she was last winter, and I really don't expect her to last more than the next few months. I'm not a vet, but I am seeing rapid decline and have to accept the inevitable.
So on that happy note let's move on. Let's drink a toast to four years of blogging, and to looking to the future. I didn't call this blog What's Next? for nothing!!