Thoughts on 1 Year of Food and Travel Blogging

Today the most incredible thing happened: I received an email from the past, quite literally. One year ago I have started this blog, but the road to the decision was a long one and full of obstacles. Obstacles that I created for myself in my own mind, to be precise.

On hesitations…

The truth is before this blog I have never written in English. I wrote emails and small notes, also little essays like “How I spent my summer” at school. But never long thought-provoking articles with my opinions and my view of the world. Besides, there were so many other food and travel bloggers out there, it made me think: “What can I bring to the table? There are people who know more than me!” So I hesitated. And delayed starting my blog for good 6 months.

Then I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic”, a book I wholeheartedly recommend to all people who wish to follow their passion but are scared, unsure and hesitating. And I came across this:

“Let me list for you some of the many ways in which you might be afraid to live a more creative life: You’re afraid you have no talent. You’re afraid you’ll be rejected or criticized or ridiculed or misunderstood or—worst of all—ignored. You’re afraid there’s no market for your creativity, and therefore no point in pursuing it. You’re afraid somebody else already did it better. You’re afraid everybody else already did it better. You’re afraid somebody will steal your ideas, so it’s safer to keep them hidden forever in the dark. You’re afraid you won’t be taken seriously. You’re afraid your work isn’t politically, emotionally, or artistically important enough to change anyone’s life. You’re afraid your dreams are embarrassing. You’re afraid that someday you’ll look back on your creative endeavors as having been a giant waste of time, effort, and money. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of discipline. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of work space, or financial freedom, or empty hours in which to focus on invention or exploration. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of training or degree. You’re afraid you’re too fat. (I don’t know what this has to do with creativity, exactly, but experience has taught me that most of us are afraid we’re too fat, so let’s just put that on the anxiety list, for good measure.) You’re afraid of being exposed as a hack, or a fool, or a dilettante, or a narcissist. You’re afraid of upsetting your family with what you may reveal. You’re afraid of what your peers and coworkers will say if you express your personal truth aloud. You’re afraid of unleashing your innermost demons, and you really don’t want to encounter your innermost demons. You’re afraid your best work is behind you. You’re afraid you never had any best work to begin with. You’re afraid you neglected your creativity for so long that now you can never get it back. You’re afraid you’re too old to start. You’re afraid you’re too young to start. You’re afraid because something went well in your life once, so obviously nothing can ever go well again. You’re afraid because nothing has ever gone well in your life, so why bother trying? You’re afraid of being a one-hit wonder. You’re afraid of being a no-hit wonder”

And then this:

“You’re not required to save the world with your creativity. Your art not only doesn’t have to be original, in other words, it also doesn’t have to be important…

It’s ok if your work is fun for you, is what I am saying. It’s also ok if your work is healing for you, or fascinating for you, or redemptive for you, or if it’s maybe just a hobby that keeps you from going crazy. It’s even ok if your work is totally frivolous. That’s allowed. It’s all allowed.

Your own reasons to create are reason enough. Merely by pursuing what you love, you may inadvertently end up helping us plenty. Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart. The rest of it will take care of itself.”

On realizing why creativity matters…

Reading this book helped me realize that I can create for the sake of creating. Just because I have it inside of me and it has to be let out. It doesn’t matter if 1 million people read me or only my mom and granny.

It doesn’t matter what other people think or say about my creativity, although, being a human being, I of course would like people to like me.

It doesn’t even matter whether I succeed or not, however you can measure that: by money, fame or amount of likes under Instagram picture. What’s important is to express yourself because that’s why we all are here, on this planet. Are we here to pay the bills and spend hours at the desk? Or are we here to create and express ourselves? I prefer to think the latter.

I finished the book, came up with a name The Foodie Miles within a few hours – I just couldn’t delay starting the blog anymore – bought a domain name, and then, inspired but still slightly scared, I wrote an email to my future self. If you haven’t tried Future Me yet, go ahead and check out this amazing site! It allows you to write an email and send it to the future. You can set the date when you would like to receive it, whether in a year or in 10 years. It’s absolutely free and, the best of all, you forget about it in a few days. Imagine the excitement when one day you open your mail and see a letter from your past.

On the message from the past…

On that day, a year ago, I have written about my fears and my aspirations to remind my future self how it all started and what I am capable of. Here’s that email:

“Dear FutureMe,
When I write everything down I understand myself better. Although before this particular moment I used to always write in Russian. And I am fairly good at it. At least that’s what teachers used to say at school and at University, and those who wrote infrequent comments to my blog posts. But although it was very flattering and satisfying for my ego to know that somebody appreciates what I write that wasn’t the goal. The goal was always to make some kind of order out of a mess of my thoughts, to catch each of them and put it into its right place, where it belongs and mostly to remember. It’s amazing how easily memories slip off your mind if you don’t make an effort to keep them there. Well, that’s how my mind works.

To be honest the longest essay I wrote in English was probably “How I spent my summer” for English class at school. And here I am pouring my mind out… I wish I could say on a piece of paper, but our century is not so romantic, so I am pouring it into a bright screen of my laptop. So what am I trying to prove?

I hope this will be my reminder that I am capable of much more than I can ever imagine. A reminder that I am creative, bold, passionate, and fearless. Actually, at this exact moment I am the opposite of all that I said above. I do feel scared and unconfident as I am about to start a journey I was dreaming of for months now. I am about to start a travel food blog and as if this wasn’t enough I am going to do it in English, a language I have never used to express my thoughts in writing, a language that is still a mystery to me with thousands of unknown words, a language that gives me away the moment I open my mouth to say a word because of my heavy accent. Well, luckily for you, you will be reading me, not listening to me.

I did my research, googled plenty of food blogs and even more travel food blogs and instead of helping me to understand the market, it intimidated me to the point of thinking: what the hell do I have to offer? Who is going to be interested? There are so many people who have greater knowledge of food than I do, write better than me, can capture an amazing moment with their camera that I wouldn’t even notice, and most importantly for a travel food blog – travel more than I do.

And then I thought to myself: maybe that’s the point? “I know one thing: that I know nothing”. So I will learn. With every travel destination, with every person who I meet, with every recipe borrowed or created, with every cook book, with every new ingredient I discover at the local market I will learn. And that is enough to start this blog. If somebody finds my journey interesting enough to follow I will be the happiest person in the world. But either way being on a path that you truly enjoy is already an achievement. And I don’t need any other reason to do what I want to do but expressing myself and enjoying it along the way.

So here I am writing my very first blog post in English but it will not be published until one year later. I hope that one year from now I will read this letter, and smile, and remember this day and myself sitting in a café, writing these very words and having not even a slightest idea of what future holds for me.”

On what I learned…

I can’t believe this is the very first piece of writing in English I did! Seriously, not bad, 1 year-younger-than-me Yulia! My blog is a one year old baby, and this first year has been amazing. Like with a new-born baby, I didn’t always know what I was doing. I wouldn’t understand what it wants from me and how I can fix a problem. I got tired and frustrated from time to time. But all that is so little in comparison with the joy from creating something of your own!

1 year ago I was watching Parts Unknown by Anthony Bourdain and thought to myself: how do you land a job like that? I want to do that! And now I kinda am. On a much smaller scale, of course, but I am travelling, eating and telling people about it. Is there a better job in this world?

trying Texas wine
Trying Texas-made wine for the first time

I have met so many wonderful people along the way: from Marco Caputo of MAST’ in Boston who showed me how to make traditional Neapolitan pizza to Vladimir Olkinitskiy from Yekaterinburg who talked to me about cuisine of the Ural region where I come from to Yashasvi who I already knew but was so excited to make a traditional Sri Lankan lunch with.

I have been to places I couldn’t dream of visiting like a hotel wholly made of ice in Quebec, or a supermarket that looks like a palace in Moscow (that’s how we roll in Russia), or Texas rodeo.

Drinking cocktail in ice hotel
Having ice cocktail in a glass made of ice inside ice hotel in Quebec

I have eaten my way through New York restaurants featured in movies and TV shows (including Sex and the City, Spider man, Where Harry Met Sally and beyond), I have tried traditional Sri Lankan New Year treats and had the best breakfast of my life in Istanbul.

sex-and-the-city-magnolia-bakery
Eating cupcakes like Carrie Bradshaw under pouring rain in New York

My travels made me think deep and opened my eyes on differences between the country where I live now and the country where I come from. At times I would be serious, other times – laugh at myself.

The best part about receiving this email from the past is realizing how far I have gone. I reread my first posts on this blog, like the one about my first Thanksgiving celebrations, and I can see how in only 1 year my writing improved. Two of my articles were published on The Austinot, a local city guide. Somebody considered my writing good enough to be published on a site with hundreds of thousands visitors per month – whoa!

One year ago I was shooting on auto mode and was afraid to change settings on camera. Before starting a blog I was taking pictures like this:

waffles breakfast

progress_photography

Today it’s more like…

pumpkin-and-cottage-cheese-ravioli

russian-vareniki-with-cottage-cheese

Finally, I am not scared anymore, in fact I am having so much fun. I won’t write a secret email to my future self this time. I will just write it here. I don’t have a glass of champagne so I raise my coffee cup instead to more traveling and more delicious food in my second year of blogging! Also, to some kind of miracle that will allow me to lose weight while I am eating my way around the world!

Pin it for later:

lessons travel blogging 1 year

AUTHOR: YULIA DYUKOVA
Yulia is a Russian food and travel blogger who found home first in Sri Lanka for 3 years, then in Brazil for a year and is currently based in Austin, Texas. She is the kind of person who starts a research of the new country by googling “what to eat in…” instead of “what to visit in…” Yulia is a self-proclaimed “food nerd” who will spend hours reading on the origins of pecan pie before trying it and who doesn’t consider waiting in line of 50 people to get a cronut a waste of time. She finds it hard to keep her delicious findings to herself and that is the reason why this blog exists.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Anita says:

    Congrats on one year! What a great accomplishment! You’ve done some awesome things in the last year and I can’t wait to see what you do in the next year.

    1. Thank you very much, Anita! It’s really great to hear words of encouragement from people who read me! I am looking forward to another year of culinary adventures!

  2. chewy says:

    Love this! Such a great idea to write a letter to yourself! I wouldn’t have known that English wasn’t your preferred language to write in until so recently. 🙂 Keep it up!!!

    1. Hey Chewy! Thank you very much! That’s the best compliment I could get, being fluent in English is very important to me. When I received the email, i was very thankful to my younger self for thinking about it.

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