Happy Birthday Aussie on the Road!
It was with surprise that I received the notification (via the groovy TimeHop app) that yesterday marked four years since I embarked on this crazy ride and started sharing my travels, life, and innermost thoughts on this humble little corner of the internet.
I’d known that October marked the fourth anniversary of the site, but I guess I’d let the exact date slip my mind.
This is criminal. Given how hugely influential in my life this site has become and how many great friends I’ve made through sharing my stories online, you’d think I’d have been preparing something suitably epic to celebrate the birthday of my bouncing baby blog.
With that in mind, I’ve decided to reflect on the four years that have been and also cast an eye towards what the future holds for Aussie on the Road.
Read on, if you will.
The Story So Far
As I’ve said elsewhere, this blog started with very humble intentions. My girlfriend at the time had started her own healthy living blog (now long gone, may it rest in peace) and I’d hoped to share an interest.
While both the relationship and the healthy blog that inspired Aussie on the Road didn’t quite see out the year, I found the process of sharing travel stories and encouraging people to get out of the daily grind to be something I really enjoyed.
Over time, this enjoyment also translated into financial rewards and – most recently – the occasional ‘free’ trip in exchange for a review or a mention on social media.
While I’ve not hit the heights of a Nomadic Matt or an Everything Everywhere, I like to think I’ve carved myself out a nice little niche here. I’ve managed to interact with people from all over the world – from the Philippines to the Czech Republic, South Africa to Canada, and England to China.
I’ve even been recognized in a bar on two separate occasions as ‘that guy from Aussie on the Road’. The Paparazzi will be at my door any minute, I’m sure…
Rather than waffle on with every up and down I’ve experienced over the past four years, I thought I’d instead highlight the ten posts that best summarize the journey so far. These are the posts of which I’m most proud or, in some cases, the posts that have earned the site the most notoriety.
Oddly enough, very few of them are directly related to travel.
Love, Sex, and Romance
With almost all of my romance (so far) having taken place abroad, it’s no surprise that it features rather heavily in the pages of the blog. From my time in China (and the US) with Nomadic American to the various other romances that I’ve had while traveling, I’ve always tried to tread a line between honesty and respecting the girl in question’s privacy.
So far, so good!
Often controversial, but always a blast to write – my list of travel blogging crushes was initially inspired by Will Peach’s irreverant ’10 Travel Bloggers I’d Go Gay For’. With a tongue-in-cheek view towards ‘ranking’ my favourite female bloggers, reactions have ranged from flattered to outraged.
While I’ve written a few posts on relationships on the road before, this recent post was one very close to my heart. Having loved and lost in romances with an expiry date on two occasions now, I felt it was finally time to share some of my thoughts and offer some advice for people who are in love, but know it can’t last.
Part tongue-in-cheek joke, part contest, and part desperate cry for human contact; my recent post about wanting to audition a (female) travel blogging partner with whom to romance my way around the world was more fizzle than sizzle.
Still, I enjoyed writing it.
Depression and Self Improvement
I like to think that people have responded to these posts because I’m very frank when discussing my mental health issues and the processes that I’ve used to cope with them while abroad. These posts have certainly been the most well received when it’s come to comments or ‘fan mail’.
The record holder for most views in a single hour, my ‘confession’ about my ongoing battle with depression and how it has shaped my life was met with a truly humbling wellspring of support. I still periodically receive emails and PMs from complete strangers who want to thank me for sharing my story, and it never gets any less flattering.
A more recent post I wrote upon reading some old blogs I wrote as a petulant, tortured 18-year-old. I remember really struggling to write this, because it dredged up some very raw memories of my earliest days with depression – even if I didn’t know it by that name.
Sharing one of my favourite stories from my time on the road, My Best Birthday talked about what it felt like to feel welcomed into my first expat community. While it has now been seven years since that fateful, heart-warming evening in South Korea – it still makes me smile whenever I think about it.
Last, but certainly not least, travel is obviously a huge part of the site. While the individual posts don’t generally draw as much traffic when they’re published, they’re the ones that slowly but surely keep building over time.
My second most viewed post of all time, my ever-expanding bucket list and the motivations behind it seems to resonate with a lot of people. One of the first posts many people comment on, and one I occasionally get rather saucy proposals regarding.
My mother does not approve of many items on the list. Read at your peril.
A consistently popular post, my post on my favourite spots in Sydney is a quiet achiever. While it’s nothing ground-breaking if you’ve been to the Harbour City before, it’s got some interesting options if you’re visiting for the first or the fiftieth time.
The record holder for most views of all time (with 120,000 more hits than the next hit), this one gets press for entirely the wrong reasons. Written as a frank discussion on views of sex and sexuality in South Korea, it instead gets a lot of traffic from perverts looking for photos of naked Korean girls. They must be so disappointed.
Thanks largely to a retweet from Lonely Planet, this post written in my very early days in China got a huge amount of feedback. While I would later write a less successful follow up that benefited from my having actually traveled in China, this one remains a popular post with those heading behind the Great Firewall.
It’s rare that my posts generate much controversy, so this one was a real shock to me. While I knew listing the reasons why I don’t enjoy living in Australia for an extended period of time might upset some people, I’ve been surprised by just how many people have found and commented on the post. While many have come out to agree with my sentiments, there have been some… ahem… colourful comments from my less educated compatriots.
One of (if I may say so) the most comprehensive guides to Australian slang you’ll find anywhere. I spent countless hours compiling and editing this list for consumption, and I believe it’s one of the most complete lists of Aussie slang you’ll ever read.
My childhood visits to Green Valley Farm are fond memories, and revisiting it as an adult was no less fun. Writing about this quirky local attraction was not only a lot of fun, but earned me plenty of praise from the family who created and maintain this unique New England icon.
Somehow, this relatively innocuous post about my early impressions of Nanjing has become a bit of a cult favourite with Nanjing residents. No less than three people have told me that this post was a factor in their deciding to come to Nanjing – something I feel bad about when I realize they turned down the opportunity to live in Beijing or Hong Kong.
Drawing on a number of uncomfortable travel experiences from my past, I compiled a catch-all list of the traits you definitely don’t want in a travel partner.
Things are looking quite exciting for the coming months.
This weekend sees me heading to the Broke region of the Hunter Valley for a weekend of wine and delicious food as one of the region’s blogger ambassadors. You’ll read more about this tomorrow.
I’ve also got a week long safari in Tanzania coming up in November, and who knows what the future holds beyond that? While I’m home in Australia for the remainder of 2014, I can’t foresee myself sticking around here long term. Not when there’s so much to see elsewhere!
Do you have a favourite post that I’ve neglected to mention above?