I keep waking up super early in the morning lately with content ideas all of a sudden! Maybe bc it's hiker season, and I'm just getting so envious of all the hikers this year. I started asking for bloggers that I can follow this season. I want to live vicariously through these people. They know exactly what I went through last summer, I couldn't be more excited for them and can't wait to read about what they think about everything! Sharing honestly, the good, the bad, and the ugly is so important. I tended to share more of the raw things in my blogging with the readers who actually cared and Instagram updates were more short and surfacy. So many people follow blogs bc it was something they never were able to do and reading these experiences is all they have. I know that it's quite impossible to even find words to explain what a thru-hike is even like, but blogging is the best way we share even a glimpse of what it was like on a daily basis. So I want to tell those who plan on blogging this year, YOU MUST DO IT AND YOU MUST NOT GET LAZY AND STOP. And if you can help it, please blog daily. You will not regret it and it will be worth all extra time you spend writing after a long day, uploading in town and not socializing with anyone.
I went into my hike hoping to blog but didn't want to make any promises. And I made sure of that so that I wouldn't let anyone down that was reading at home. My friend Jeff Marsh was texting Jenny while we were out hiking the first 2 days and he said something that stuck with me that changed my whole mindset on writing.
"Can you please encourage Wang to journal the entire trip, even if it's just a sentence or two a day. It's so important that she does so that she won't forget the journey. It will last for generations. And tell her I'll be mad if she doesn't haha. Have fun!"
So that night, day 2 at Lake Morena, I started taking notes but realized my notes turned into an hour of writing where I needed to separate out my days. Then I just started making it a daily thing to write every night before bed, even though I was so exhausted (I'll share my process below). The more you make it a routine habit, the easier and normal it gets, like brushing your teeth or packing up camp. I actually really enjoyed skimming through a few other hikers' blogs who were ahead of me. The daily blogs were the ones I LOVED reading through bc they just went through something that I would be doing and having all that detail was really helpful. My most favorite to read was Claudia's blog. She is so hardcore and loved all of her posts with photos. Photos are a MUST. I also liked seeing where Nate and Meg were on trail and if we'd ever reconnect. It always made me kinda sad to see the new friends they were making and how much fun they were having without me haha.
My website is through Squarespace. Aesthetically, I love all of it. Customizing your layout is really difficult without adding some CSS, but for blogging, it's not exactly the best. I would recommend a WordPress if you don't have an established domain already set up. I only went through SS because all of my content is already here and it just looks nicer put together. I think I only discovered they have an app just a few days before I left, so I did end up using that to transfer my notes into but it's SUPER buggy
MY PROCESS ON TRAIL:
- Every night after dinner before bed, I would write that day's entry in my notes app. I would write for about 30-45 min around 9-9:30pm. These writings mostly were "action" things aka what I did during the day. I would try to write about what I felt/what I was thinking, but it's extremely hard to think of these things when you're so tired. Blogging is very exhausting after a long day, mark my words.
- If I was literally TOO exhausted and fell asleep while writing after a sentence or two, I would write about the previous day during lunch so I could catch up. I made sure to always do it the next day so that I wouldn't get behind. Once you get behind, that's when you'll slowly slack off on blogging thus making it easier for you to quit altogether.
- In town, there usually is terrible wifi. But once you find really good internet, that's typically a good place to plant yourself there for a good 3-4 hours. However, there's also always a million errands to do first: laundry, shower, resupply, organize, eat, catch up social media, etc. This is why blogging becomes an extra (very timely) chore in town and why I totally get why people stop blogging early on. It's a lot of work and takes a lot of discipline. Usually, when people are socializing or going out somewhere, I'll just plant myself somewhere so I can catch up on blogs.
- I transfer each day's entry from my notes to my SS app. Then I upload multiple photos to that day. Side note: I usually edit that day's photos the same night I write that entry so that I don't need to edit in town (another time commitment). I proofread my blog (just once is all I can handle) while the photos are uploading. Then I drag each photo in between the text. I'm all about things looking nicely put together, okay? :) When the wifi is bad, the photos don't load and it's really annoying. Sometimes the app crashes and I lose everything. That's also really annoying.
- I do that for as many entries I can get in before heading out of town. I schedule them daily to post so that my subscribers can get their emails sent out every morning. I was about 7 days ahead of what was being sent out. I kinda liked how it was not in real time. I had a separate FB group of close friends where they knew exactly where I was on trail.
- Just do this every single day for 123 days. ;) Only wished I could've made it to the end to write about what the walk to the Nothern Terminus is like, knowing that is your last day on trail and finally coming to an end to something you've worked so hard to do.
Blogging was seriously the best decision I have ever made. I love reading back through each entry and I can literally picture in my mind what that day looked like. I remember it so clearly bc I have those words and photos from that day. Even though we are just walking every day, SO much happens and you can't physically remember all of the details. Granted, there are some days in NorCal where nothing really happens except walking. Blogging, for yourself, to remember that experience of a lifetime, will be worth all of the extra effort.
THINGS I WOULD CHANGE NEXT TIME:
- Note all of my beginning and ending mile marks with the mileage I walked for that day. I knew how much I did that day in my head and on some, could do the math but wished I would've written down exact mileage each day.
- Used more interesting titles instead of just mileage and location.
- Wrote more about what I was thinking/feeling in the moment, but like I said up there, really hard to do when you're so tired.
- Took more photos of people, signs, anything and everything.
- Encouraged all the other hikers around me who gave up blogging to keep doing it. :)
I was talking to Jeff this morning, and he encouraged me to make a book of my blog in a hard copy. I thought it was a brilliant idea. I keep finding myself at random times reading back on my old blogs, and I get sucked in and get all nostaglic. I'll do some edits and have a designer make my layout. :) I think that may just be my next project once I complete the trail. Can't wait!