I moved from the U.S. to Belgium in January 2016. I started this blog almost immediately. Its purpose is twofold: First, to document our European travel while we live here (we set very lofty goals for traveling as much as possible); Second, to document my personal experiences living abroad.
Maintaining this blog has given me something to do, especially when we first arrived. I was accustomed to working full-time and needed something mentally stimulating to keep me busy. It has been a fulfilling way to experiment creatively through writing and photography.
But I didn’t tell people I was blogging right away. While this blog has always been public, I didn’t actively promote it. I never made it “Facebook official” through any sort of announcement to people that it exists. Friends and family that knew about it subscribed and I have gained a small following directly through WordPress.
I did put the link to it in my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter bios and my LinkedIn profile. It’s mentioned in my byline on another website for which I am a freelance writer, and I do share those posts publicly. I’ve also referenced it in one or two posts on Facebook and Twitter, but very casually. I’ve referenced it more frequently on Instagram, but I have fewer followers there than on any other platform.
I didn’t tell people I was blogging right away. While this blog has always been public, I didn’t actively promote it.
All this is to say, I didn’t hide the fact that I was blogging, and certainly some people saw my few references to it, but I haven’t done any major announcements or regular promotion of my posts.
We started traveling almost immediately when we moved here, and it took me awhile to start writing about those first few trips. I told myself I would announce and promote my blog publicly once I was “caught up” on the travel posts.
But waiting to share my blog until it was “up to date” was a crutch and an excuse. The truth is, I have a crippling lack of confidence and I was afraid.
I am insecure and self-conscious and afraid to share things I create in fear of judgement. I fear that anything I produce will not be “good enough” and will reveal me as an amateur or wannabe. I fear that people will see my work and spend time thinking about me and opining. That level of vulnerability makes me freeze and want to crumple into a ball in a corner under a blanket.
These insecurities and fears have hampered me for as long as I can remember in everything I have done. I will reserve exploring why that is the case for another piece, or for a private therapist.
Yet, despite all this, I’ve also always had a desire to be heard and appreciated. Trying to balance those opposing feelings is a constant challenge. I truly considered doing this whole blog anonymously for that very reason – to be heard without being known.
These insecurities and fears have hampered me for as long as I can remember in everything I have done.
I did not have intentions to become a professional blogger. I consider my blog and my Instagram account loosely linked and follow a lot of travel bloggers, Instagrammers, and influencers in both those spaces. I worked in direct and digital marketing prior to moving to Belgium. I know what it takes to amass a ton of followers. I know the tips and tricks and games in that world, but that wasn’t what I was trying to do. I just wanted to express myself creatively and create good content for myself and whatever audience found me … family, friends, strangers who identify with my genius and talent, etc. (I find jokes and sarcasm as one good way to cope with lack of self-esteem).
But things are changing now. My travel posts are almost up to date, with the exception of my latest trip. I hope to write about that very soon. More so, I still have so much to say about what the expat experience has been like for me. I have started making big plans around that. So I am channeling Cher in Moonstruck and smacking myself in the face and asking myself, “what is the point of doing any of this if you aren’t going to share it more? Those fears holding you back. Snap out of it!”
Back to School
In September of this year, I went back to school. I started a postgraduate certificate program in Digital Storytelling at The Royal Academy of Fine Arts (KASK) at the School of Arts of University College Ghent. This program is helping me build on my experience in direct and digital marketing while giving me new skills in storytelling via many digital platforms (web, social, visual, audio, VR, AR, etc.).
This is a very important experience for me both personally and professionally. I absolutely love the creative challenge of the coursework and get personal pleasure from it, but I also count on it to give me increased professional credibility when I am back in the job market in the States.
Telling My Story
The educational coordinator of the program asked me in my admissions interview, “What is the personal story that you are burning to tell the world?” and “Would you rather tell your story or other people’s stories?” My instinctive responses were that I am not that exciting to talk about and I would much rather tell other people’s stories. But that is a gut-level response and it is one that is rooted in deep insecurities and self-consciousness and Impostor Syndrome.
I do want to tell people what it is like to, in the middle of your life, uproot your whole world and move to a new country on a new continent. I have had humorous, emotional, life-changing experiences and I want to tell those stories to my friends, family, and anyone else who finds them interesting. I think there is value in them for some people. I also want to share stories about the people and places I am experiencing and learning from. I want to connect my stories to others and make something meaningful from it all.
I have learned that to become a great storyteller, I must practice and share and fail, and then repeat, ad nauseam. So I am pushing myself out of my comfort zone and hereby putting my blog and myself “out there” more.
I will be using my classes and (hopefully) a large “personal project” assignment to make improvements to this blog. I hope to improve my storytelling abilities and deliver my story/ies to audiences using a variety of media beyond what I have already been doing. I hope that it will help take this blog to a “next level” or “phase 2” where I do more work telling my expat adventure story. I have a lot of work to do and have only just begun planning my project, so more details on that will come pending project approvals, etc.
As uncomfortable as I am talking about myself and making myself the center of attention, I am really excited about this work. I am excited to tell many stories, not just my own. More so, I am excited to practice and apply the techniques that I am learning using new-to-me digital media tools and platforms. This is important to me for both personal and professional growth.
I know that I need to expand my audience, so I am forcing myself to share my blog more broadly with people now and invite them to follow along with me as I continue to tell my story of the past ~3 years, and my inevitable move “home” eight months from now.
If you’re still reading this, I hope you’ll enjoy (or have enjoyed) viewing my past blog posts to see what I have been doing (seriously, check them out, my posts usually have a lot more pictures than this one), and I hope you’ll stay with me over the next eight months or so (at least) to watch my story develop!
To become a great storyteller, I must practice and share and fail, and then repeat. Thank you for being my audience for that!