There Are No Important Lessons In This Article (or What It’s Like To Step Away For 3 Weeks)

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Last Monday night I flew back to the US from the UK after 3 weeks away from commitments.

A lot of people requested feedback about how it went. “I’ve heard doing that is good, let me know how it goes.”

I’ll spoil the surprise: it didn’t go anything like I thought it might and instead of leaving me refreshed and recharged I came back more burnt out than I’ve felt in a long time. To the point where I didn’t even post an article last Thursday, which I believe is the first time that has happened since I started this site.

Part of the burn out may be due to the illness I contracted that still hasn’t fully gone away. (The cold that just won’t quit.)

But a lot of it was due to sensory overload. I seem to have forgotten that tour is not a particularly relaxing experience. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s go, go, go. Privacy (of the creative variety) and quiet time (again, of the creative variety) are virtually non-existent, so expecting any sort of creative recharge was short-sighted on my part.

What Happened and What I Learned

1) I didn’t want to check e-mail often while on tour. After a couple days I checked (as I said I would, in case there were emergencies back home) and I had hundreds of messages in my inbox. I immediately archived everything, but the thought of coming home to thousands of messages a few weeks later didn’t leave me with a sense of joy. So I checked e-mail more than once/day just so I could archive it. I responded to a handful of e-mails in 3 weeks and I used Boomerang to send a few messages back to me 3 weeks later, but for the most part I archived everything without reading.

2) I didn’t want to check facebook at all while on tour. I got a message from a friend in London that I needed to respond to, so I logged in for that. Then I logged in randomly otherwise. On one hand I think facebook is useless, but now I’m moving towards the thinking that it can be useful, and definitely more useful than twitter. I also think I’m going to begin actually accepting facebook requests from people I meet, even if we only met once. For years I’ve used facebook as a private “friends/family only” type of thing. But as a traveler there is a lot of benefit in having even superficial relationships with people all over the world. It goes like this: meet someone once for a brief period of time. Add them on facebook. Keep in touch superficially. Maybe visit them at some point in the near or distant future. While going solo is fun, it’s also a lot of fun exploring places with friends. From now on I’ll try to keep this in mind and maybe even seek people out on facebook who I’ve met in person.

3) I didn’t want to use twitter while on tour. I did log in, especially towards the end of tour, but I didn’t actually “use” twitter.

All in all, I feel like these were mostly failures. I didn’t step away as much as I could have.

4) Traffic, engagement, and new e-mail subscribers to this site were below average and RSS subscribers were flat while I was away. I’m actually surprised by this since I still had articles being posted. Lack of engagement makes sense since I didn’t have comments turned on for my articles, but I was expecting much more engagement with the guest posts. I also had the articles tweeted out and posted to facebook, so I’m surprised that there wasn’t more traffic/engagement from those two sources. I don’t know what to make of it except maybe what I wrote didn’t resonate with you.

Revelations

I didn’t expect to have any huge revelations, but I did have a few moments of clarity about Ridiculously Extraordinary and life in general. Here they are:

1) I’m not a blogger.

I’m an entrepreneur who simply uses a blog as an outlet. While my income comes as a result of things that happen or people I meet through this blog, a lot of it comes from endeavors that would make money without the blog. What I mean is, when you have a product for sale most of your sales don’t come from your own audience. If you’re blogging just to make sales you’re blogging for the wrong reason. Hour for dollar it’s more profitable to create products and find joint venture partners (people who will review and write about your product) than to simply blog to get traffic. You don’t need a blog to build an online lifestyle business. Read that again, get it ingrained into your skull. That shit’s the truth.

2) I’m unsure of the direction of RE.

But I’ve always been unsure. This is nothing new. The reason I love writing here so much is because I can write about whatever the hell I want. And I know that absolutely kills me as far as any kind of branding is concerned. I’m OK with that.

3) Doing what I want is not only desirable, it’s necessary.

I can’t run this site if I’m sitting in one place twiddling my thumbs and not coming up with fun events, such as the roller coaster tour. In that regard, this site is branded. The point is, you wouldn’t read these same words if they were coming from somebody who was living a normal life. I probably wouldn’t even have much to write about if I was living a normal life.

4) Schedules Are Necessary, But Not

My Monday/Thursday and sometimes Saturday posting schedule isn’t necessary, but I need to do it anyway. If for no other reason than I enjoy it. That said, I realize that the world doesn’t end if I skip a day, or a week, or whatever arbitrary time frame. This revelation makes me feel great, because I used to put a lot of pressure on myself to post even if it was incredibly inconvenient. While I will still put a lot of pressure on myself, I’ll be at peace if I have to skip a posting here and there. If I decide to do another X-week break from commitments (highly likely) I will probably not schedule anything new to be posted.

5) Chasing Money Is Not Of Any Interest To Me, But …

I’ve always wanted to start and sell a company for a significant sum of money. I’m in no great hurry to do this and I know something like what I’m doing here could never be sold. (Not that I’d want to sell anyway.) I’ve considered documenting the process from idea to execution, but this isn’t a top priority. When or if it becomes a top priority is when I’ll begin focusing on this goal. And rest assured, once I focus on it, it will happen. But my current priorities are doing exactly what I’m doing.

Questions/comments/want to play Slappy Fruit Hands? You know what to do …



24 COMMENTS

  1. Welcome back!
    I think the reason why engagement was low with the guest posts is because this is not what we are use to. At least for me when I read this site is becasue I want to hear what YOU have to say.
    When I read Zen Habits I know that here and there will be a guest post. And usually those posts sometimes are hard to tell if Leo wrote them or someone else did.
    Slappy Fruit hands??

    • Thanks Rosa. Good point. I did try to choose articles that were along the lines of what I’d write here myself, but maybe I missed the boat a bit.

      Slappy Fruit hands: 3 or more people and 1 piece of fruit (an orange). Slap the orange to another person, they slap it to another (or back to you), and you don’t let it hit the ground. It’s kinda like hacky sac with hands and more silly. The goal is obviously to keep the fruit in the air as long as possible. Our record was 51 slaps I believe.

  2. definitely use FB as a means of staying in touch with folks you meet from around the world or country. i accept friend requests from people i barely know, too, in case i’m ever in their neck of the woods and need a place to crash or some advice on the local flavor. additionally, they can become future customers/clients/whatever.

    this seems like a great exercise for you, regardless of how you feel some of the challenges went. glad you’re back safe and sound, and look forward to more of your articles!

    • Thanks Joseph. You hit it right on the head. I’ve usually been quick to dismiss relationships based on the littlest things (like, we only hung out for 1 hour, what’s the point of keeping in touch?). But who knows where they can lead if just given some time?

  3. Hey Karol – I disagree that there are no important lessons in this post. I think there are a lot. I, for one, always enjoy it when you add an insight that I have been thinking all along (Facebook, Twitter, being exhausted after an adventure etc.) One thing I love about you is that you do not see yourself a blogger don’t feel you have to constantly stick with a brand (as you say) and that you are very human and share that with us. It is good to have you back. Welcome home, my friend! Now you can relax a little before all that driving!!

    • Thanks Gayle, you are too kind. I wrote the title before I wrote the article. I definitely learned a few things, but I’m not sure how relatable they were to anybody but myself.

      No time to relax. Lots of planning ahead!

  4. This is very similar to my experience in Peru. I was mostly disconnected for 2 weeks, but like you, I scheduled guest posts while I was gone and checked e-mail from time to time. Totally regretted that.

    And I totally get what you mean when you say you’re not a blogger. I’m starting a business now, yet I pretty much refuse to center my blog around it. I certainly don’t want to be a professional blogger, because I’d lose the creative license I enjoy today. Just an extrovert and a writer who wants to be self employed. :)

    Ps. I totally want to play play Slappy Fruit Hands.

    • The issue wasn’t so much checking e-mail/facebook/twitter/whatever. The issue was I was taking a break from everything expecting a recharge, but I didn’t really think that through well enough. Next time I’m going to a cabin in the middle of nowhere. :)

      We’ll play Slappy Fruit Hands next time we cross paths.

  5. I’ve been leaning towards changing the way I use facebook now too. I guess it’s a bummer I’ve cut 1000+ people already… Oh well.. it is good to connect with fellow travelers though.

  6. Welcome back! #3 on your revelations list is what I love about this blog. You are actually DOING interesting things worth writing about. That reminds me, I need to check your schedule to see when you will be at Walt Disney World. I’ve been on every ride (my mini-tour)! :)

  7. Welcome back, Karol! Love the revelations — especially the one about feeling unsure about the direction of RE. I’ve been feeling the same way about my blog, and it always makes me feel better to know I’m not the only one needing some time away in order to figure out how to move forward.

    Looking forward to keeping up with all your adventures :)
    Jenny

    • Thanks Jenny! I’ve never worried too much about moving forward in a specific direction. The marketer in me knows that’s a problem, but the human in me knows it’s OK. :)

  8. Karol, the Facebook part is absolutely true. It is a bit odd how all these social tools have transformed how we make connections and reconnect. Over the last year (Ireland/UK/Argentina/India/Southern Africa), several of these random interactions have led to some really awesome travel opportunities for me and created some new friendships.

    As for the flat numbers, user engagement can be one of those finicky things. I wonder how things would have differed if you didn’t announce you were taking off for three weeks and just scheduled posts. Perhaps some folks took a bit of a break as well. I have no doubt things will bounce back.

    • Thanks for affirming my point Ryan! I usually write off random interactions, but I’m realizing more and more that’s a dumb thing to do.

  9. Hey Karol,
    I always glean at least one thing from your posts, but usually more.
    I am weighing that hour for dollar conundrum as I write. You give it clarity (I read it three times, slow learner). I will Facebook you but only if you don’t mind crashing in an RV (family of 4). We are within 2 months of embarking on traveling the States in an RV and then who knows where. Thanks for all the ‘real’ goods you deliver, bro.
    Live it LOUD!

    • Thanks Rob. :) I’m not opening my facebook widely, just to people I meet and have conversations with. Hopefully we can make that happen while you’re out and about on your RV though!

  10. I think it’s great that you put yourself out there and are completely and totally honest. Things aren’t always fireworks, and it really important to keep that in mind if you want to be self-employed/an entrepreneur. It’s TOUGH to be self-employed, in the beginning. Thanks for the honesty.

    As far as the blog tip goes, I was hoping to start a blog that would funnel traffic to my other endeavors, eBay store, Amazon affiliate and future ebooks. I want it to inform and support other work at home moms, because I really believe that if a parent wants to stay home with their kids but needs income, they should be able to do that. It has nothing to do with promoting women’s rights, but the right of an individual to raise children as that person sees fit. I want to draw on the inspiration and wisdom from this blog and others and channel it into my own blog to help parents free themselves from the yoke of a 9-5. So two purposes here, want to inspire others and keep myself at home with my kids. I know I can succeed and when I do, I’m really going to be able to help others.

    Thanks for being part of this process.

    • It’s tougher to not be self-employed. :)

      And I’m definitely not saying a blog can’t work to funnel traffic to other endeavors. Without this blog I wouldn’t be able to do a lot of what I do. What I was getting at is that a blog is not the only way, it’s just the current sexy thing to do. If you enjoy writing then blogs are great. Not everybody enjoys writing.

      • I totally agree with you. It IS tougher not to be self-employed. However, being a former working stiff, it’s tough to break out of that mindset that’s been implanted since birth, and tough to be disciplined. It’s especially tough with two babies in the home! haha, but they are my reason for working hard and not giving up.

        So relieved to hear you say that blogs are still a way to go. I would love to explore other ways of making money, only because I believe that having multiple streams of income is smart.

        BTW, we are taking off for four weeks to go to China to visit the in-laws and take a break. No doubt I will NOT be online. It’s good to know what to expect when I get back. Thanks again.

        -Erlinda

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