When I was sixteen, I started making jewelry in my Mom’s basement. I was bored one day and she had trays full of beads in our craft room, so I played. After a few hours what had begun as play, became my obsession.
I looked at gems like they were colorful candies. Sifted through strands of iridescent seed beads. Strung silver spacers between discs of turquoise and tourmaline.
It didn’t take long before my friends and classmates noticed my new adornments. Within a day I had a backorder of necklaces to make for school dances.
I liked making jewelry. Whether I was earning money or not. I liked the meticulousness of it. I liked the creativity of it. I shopped for hours at the bead store and spent every penny I had on new designs. While my friends were out partying on the weekends with boys from other school districts and getting drunk in the woods, I sat on the sofa watching re-runs of The Golden Girls counting seed beads one by one, holding craft wire between my teeth. Sometimes I’d make several new pieces in one night.
By the time I got to college, my skill level soared. Family and friends encouraged me to start selling at gatherings (a la Tupperware parties) and to approach shops. I figured why not make money doing something that I loved.
However once I approached my jewelry-making as more than a hobby, I was faced with resistance. I felt discouraged and insecure when shops rejected my work. I felt frustrated when I could hardly sell a necklace for the cost of the materials. I felt like a failure when I pre-sold three copies of one piece and returned to the store to discover they had discontinued the beads I needed.
The solution, others told me, was to expand. To order supplies online in bulk from wholesalers. To make prototypes and outsource the work to China. To use cheaper materials so I could make bigger profit margins.
But I liked shopping at my little corner bead shop where everyone knew my name. I liked spending hours carefully twisting wire at my desk in my bedroom. I liked using real stones that felt like precious jewels in my hands.
Eventually, I decided that it was all or nothing. I suppose it’s like when you’ve been in a happy relationship for years, and suddenly your partner demands you get married or break up. You don’t want the relationship to change, but you don’t want it to end either.
Rather than take things to the next level, I chose to end it. I chose to give up making jewelry.
I continued pursuing my Business degree. I figured that even a passion would become a burden if you created a business out of it. I decided to keep my hobbies as hobbies and my work as work.
This story loomed in my head six years later when I started blogging. More than anything, I didn’t want to re-enact it. I didn’t want to take something that once was so much fun, that once brought me so much joy, and to corrupt it. To destroy it.
So I didn’t approach my blog like a business.
I wrote whatever I wanted, kept it ad free, and threw everything I learned in Business school and in my Marketing career out the window. I let it be my passion project without the need for it to earn money.
For two years I wrote regularly on my blog, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, and in my newsletter without making a penny. I didn’t need it to earn money because it already served enough of a purpose: it brought me joy.
Instead I worked as a freelance writer and lived on very little money, spending more time on my blog than on paid work.
People told me I was crazy. They told me I needed to approach it like a business. When they heard how big my following was, they told me that I needed to be monetizing. I defensively argued against it, protecting my precious blog like it was my child who outsiders were trying to throw into show business.
Even though I wasn’t making money, I felt like I was receiving as much value back as I was putting out. I felt like every time I posted my words and my pictures to the page, I got as much out of it from writing it, as someone else might from reading it. When I sat writing in the hostel lobby while other travelers partied, I remembered the passion of the teenage girl who sat on the sofa with bead strands between her teeth.
Then, a year ago, something shifted.
Maybe I got tired of waiting months to get paid by my freelance-writing clients. Maybe I was sick of living on $20 a day in Southeast Asia. Maybe I thought I was depriving myself of financial wealth because in leaving my old life behind, I had rejected everything about it. Maybe I thought that deep down I didn’t believe I deserved to earn a living by doing what I loved. Maybe I thought things could be different.
I decided it was time to start earning a living from my blog.
In the process, I did all kinds of things I had once sworn I would never do. I found myself entrenched in the dirty world of blogging. I accepted (and hid) sponsored posts on my website to make a quick buck and I accepted sponsored travel because I wasn’t sure how else I could afford it. I limited my options to what other bloggers were doing, none of which felt sustainable for me.
The sweet treats I vowed I’d never taste became my bread and butter.
Within six months I was on a full blown, never ending press trip. In the beginning, it was incredible. I went way outside my comfort zone by traveling in the Arctic in the dead of winter, and discovered I actually like snow. I learned to ski, slept in igloos, and made friends with some very beautiful souls. I fell in love with Lapland and Finland became one of my favorite countries I’ve ever been to.
But after a month, I’d had enough.
Instead of backpacking and riding local buses in developing countries, I was skiing in the Alps and sleeping in four star hotels.
I had some high moments, but it wasn’t really what I wanted overall. Yes, I had some phenomenal experiences without spending money, but I was working constantly without getting paid. My travels were free, but they came at a cost.
I wanted to get back to the travel I used to know. I wanted to mingle with backpackers and get my feet dirty and feel uncomfortable yet alive. But I worried that I couldn’t do it anymore. If I knew that I could sleep for free in a resort, why would I pay for a dorm room? Even though that’s what I wanted, I couldn’t seem to justify it.
I felt like traveling through sponsorships had corrupted me, and most upsetting of all, it had taken the joy out of travel.
By the time I got to Spain, I couldn’t look at anything with wonder anymore. I faked smiles and nodded along when people I met told me I was the luckiest person in the world. I faced the harsh reality that even traveling could feel like work.
Travel, my deepest, purest passion, had lost its luster. I had lost my wanderlust.
So finally, I said enough. I cut my trip short and booked a flight back to the USA from Morocco. I was seriously burned out on travel, and I wanted, I needed, a break.
I felt flooded with creativity upon returning home. By finally giving myself a chance to rest, the posts I had brewing inside of me for years came pouring out. I focused less on sharing my travels and self-discoveries, and more on answering the questions people ask me all of the time. I stopped writing posts that served as self-therapy sessions, and started writing helpful resources to show my readers how to travel the world and create the life of their dreams.
I started working with an amazing Marketing Coach, a woman who shared my mindset and had traveled with me in Thailand and Bali. She challenged me to see my potential and to allow myself to dream big.
Within a few weeks of making these changes, every blog post I published went viral. I got thousands of new Facebook followers and newsletter subscribers within a week. My traffic surpassed 1,000,000 unique monthly viewers. I went from selling five ebooks a month to fifty. My inbox was flooded with new readers telling me how much they loved my blog. To my delight, readers I’ve had since the beginning also told me how much they loved my new direction.
I was on cloud nine. I was brimming with energy, exploding with creativity, and more encouraged than I had been in so long. I considered these outcomes to be spectacular miracles that I had created myself, and shared my process in my post How to Manifest Miracles to Create the Life of Your Dreams. I decided to spend the rest of the summer in Seattle, so that I could focus entirely on getting work done on my blog.
And then, my engine overheated.
I felt pressure. Pressure to produce viral content constantly. Pressure to please. Pressure to sell. Pressure to progress. Pressure to serve. Pressure to utilize every moment in the day towards completing my business goals, despite it being the sunniest summer in Seattle history.
My web traffic slowly went down. People commented that I was an insensitive privileged white girl, that I was irresponsible and reckless for not having health insurance, that I sold sugar-coated white washed follow your dreams propaganda, and all other sorts of mean things. And as much as I can say “haters gonna hate,” not being at least a lil’ bit affected by haters is easier said than done.
Sometimes I sold ebooks, other times I didn’t. Sometimes my Facebook posts went viral, other times they didn’t. As my traffic and engagement fluctuated, so did my will. I pushed on despite the fact that I was working 10 hours a day, earning around $40 if I was lucky.
The thought of writing another blog post exhausted me. I was so sick and tired of writing resourceful guides and I was so sick and tired of selling myself and I was so totally uninspired.
Then came the meltdown.
It happened while I was sitting in a café on an overcast day in Seattle, working on a new project for my blog. This was the second version worked on, the first being 10,000 words, which I deemed useless as soon as it was done.
Just as I had nearly finished the next version, I suddenly realized that it didn’t make sense. That once again, I’d be throwing thousands of words and days of work out the window. The work I had chosen over playing in the sunshine with my nephew or hiking in the mountains with my friends had been for nothing.
It sounds ridiculous, but in that moment I felt like I had been punched in the stomach.
I looked at my list of upcoming projects for inspiration to shift my outlook. The things that once gave me so much excitement now appeared as added tasks on my list. Even the thought of being back in Costa Rica next month couldn’t lift me. I imagined myself being tethered to my laptop with my to do list instead of playing at the beach.
Then the painful truth surfaced.
“Something that I used to love more than anything, has become something that I hate more than anything.”
I felt the fear I had buried for weeks seep out my pores. I knew that even my blog, something that I once said I’d keep doing even if I won the lottery, had become a burden. It had become heavy with the pressure of needing to amount to something. Feeling that pressure, I wanted more than anything to give up.
Why was I doing this when I could throw my laptop into the ocean and go and teach yoga on a deserted island? Why was I doing this when I could offer travel consulting at $100 an hour? Why was I doing this when I could write freelance articles and live on a shoestring, yet travel anywhere I wanted and have no stress?
Because giving up scared me even more than not giving up. If I wasn’t “This American Girl,” who was I?
I looked back at the project that had set me off on this tirade. Ironically, I had finished all of it, except for the last section, entitled “Don’t Give Up,” along with this quote by Thomas Edison: “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up”
Beneath it, I wrote this:
Pursuing your dreams isn’t easy. Sometimes it’s really, really f*&king hard.
You may get discouraged. You may wonder how you can keep going. You may wonder if you made a huge mistake. You may want to give up.
But a bigger part of you knows that you can’t give up. You can’t give up because there is no going back. You’re already on the path and you can’t let a roadblock keep you from moving forward.
I know how it feels to be discouraged. But I also know that you can do this. I know that you are powerful. I know that you can do anything. I know that where there is a will there is way. I know that you are a fierce badass.
As hard as it feels, I know that now is not the time to give up when I’ve worked so hard for so long.
But I also know that I need to find greater balance. I need to make more time for Camille. I need to get away from the computer and spend more time in nature. I need to give less energy to my online tribe, and more energy to my family tribe. I need to get back to my way of traveling, so I can remember the way of living that stirs my soul and inspires me to share.
I need to attach less to the outcome of my work so I can feel more joy in creating it. I need to hold onto my empowerment, but remember to trust in a grander scheme outside my control.
I need to write not only for you, but for me too.
Because that’s how this whole blog started. With the little poems and stories I wrote to myself because I needed to release them. Eventually some people started reading them, perhaps even you started reading them, and when they touched you, you reminded me that we are never alone.
I’m not quitting blogging, but I am quitting blogging as I’ve known it. I’m quitting blogging with the mentality that it has to be either a hobby or a paycheck. I’m quitting blogging with the mentality that my writing is only worth the comments and shares it receives. I’m quitting blogging with the mentality that being This American Girl is more important than just being me.
Yes, there will be more practical, resourceful guides to come. There will be more eBooks to come. There will be thousands more Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter posts to come. There will be more email updates to come. I will keep building my dream and my business, and I will keep sharing the wisdom I discover, to help others create the life of their dreams too. I will keep listening to your questions and answering them in the best way that I know how. I will keep holding this sacred space for you.
There’s no going backwards, and I don’t intend to.
But there will also be more of what I love. More poems. More stories. More words from my heart. More fearless creating. More fun. Whether they go viral or not, I will write them, because they need to be written, and maybe they need to be read. Even if there are less people reading.
There may be times when you don’t hear from me. I can’t promise that I’ll always write consistently. I can’t always promise that you’ll be down with what I’m writing either. I’m an artist, and an artist can’t wear a business suit every day of her life. But I can promise you that I will always be grateful for you coming here, and that I will always do my best to make it worthwhile.
As long as that’s enough, I can keep doing this. Deal?
With love and gratitude,
your friend Camille