It’s time for a very long, very overdue, and very necessary update.

This is the longest time I’ve gone without posting any content here, and not ironically, it also happens to be a little beyond the one-year anniversary of this blog.

It’s common for bloggers to go through an “inspiration-to-burnout” phase that usually lasts a year—and most of us don’t make it past that initial hump. We’re all excited to set up our shiny new WordPress theme, write our about me page, and start churning out all the ideas for posts that’ve been welling up inside us for the last few months (or even years).

Then the well dries up and we’re left with a shell of our former gusto. Newness and novelty always wears off, eventually—and then what’s left?

This is usually the part where you start tapering off your content, start missing on your posting schedule and stop thinking of new ideas. You get uninspired and lack the discipline and foresight to push on.

Giants game at AT&T Stadium

Coming Home: Two Months Later

I had the same moment earlier this summer, but it was less from the one-year mark and more so because Joel and I had finally come back from our trip. For the twelve months prior we had been hopping from country to country, and there was always something new to write about. An update from our travels, a new restaurant I fell in love with, an interesting conversation I had. I couldn’t write fast enough.

Now that I’m back in California, I’ve had to take a long, hard look at where I want this to go. While I loved our RTW adventure and wouldn’t trade those memories for anything, it’s not the kind of life that I find personally sustainable. I could see myself traveling for a few months out of the year, or maybe moving abroad for an extended period of time, but switching zip codes every two weeks for years on end? No sir, not for me. At least not in the long run.

Braving the line at Swan Oyster Depot

It’s also easy to come back home and be hypnotized by the normal-ness of it all. When you’re traveling, you’re in new places having new experiences and meeting people from all walks of life. You also have a specific plan with how you’re going to spend your money and when it might run out (at least, I did), so thinking about how you’ll earn an income becomes less of a priority.

But home reminds you of the other way of living. Of picking up a fancy job with unlimited PTO and comped lunches, feeling like a superstar in the Silicon Valley tech sphere, and going to nice brunches with friends on the weekend. Clocking out at 5 pm and going home to watch reruns of Gossip Girl (which I do anyway, whoops) without feeling like there’s more you could be doing. It’s an easy life, a fun life, and one that’s not without its merits.

When you start surrounding yourself with this lifestyle again, it’s easy to get trapped into that way of thinking. I don’t have many friends who “do things differently”, and while there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, it also makes it harder to break out of the mold if that’s your goal.

I don’t live in the middle of a small town with nothing to do and a slew dead-end job opportunities. I live in San Francisco, the best city in the world for what I do professionally (UI design), a place undulated with Teslas and exciting startups and ridiculous IPO paydays. Everyone is always out doing something, being someone, and seeming important. It makes you feel less of a person if you opt out of it all.

Spending 4th of July with friends

I know I’m rambling at this point, but I’ve just had so many thoughts swimming around in my head about this and I haven’t found a way to put it into words. I’ve struggled so much with coming home and wondering what next step I should take—do I continue to develop this blog, full-steam-ahead? Do I get a “real” job and work in an office 40 hours a week with limited time to travel? Do I start freelancing and work my way up to my own design business, so that I have time to travel on the side?

I don’t know. I just know I want to make beautiful and useful things, have the freedom to explore, and live a balanced life. How that will happen? I’ve yet to figure out.

I considered not writing about any of this publicly. I thought that maybe I should wait until I had really done something and felt like I had successfully dealt with my inner battles. But I think it’s sad that a lot of content creators nowadays don’t let others in on the process—we make it seem like a shameful thing to let the world know we’re struggling. We joke with others that we’re having a “quarter-life” or “existential” crisis, but honestly, many of us are. Many of us don’t know what we’re doing and we’re constantly questioning our path, whether we’re killing it at a Fortune 500 company or just sitting around the living room all day eating Doritos in our underwear. I don’t want to be just another blogger that only shares the ups and hides the downs. I want everyone to know that it’s okay not to know. That it’s part of the process, and it’s part of being human.

However.

I did recently go to a certain travel blogging conference, and it did provide a lot of answers to many of the questions I’ve been dealing with lately. But more on that later, because boy do I have a lot to update you guys on.

Barrel Head Brewhouse in San Francisco

Los Angeles, Outside Lands, and Las Vegas

Let’s start from the beginning.

The last time I posted here was in July, the month I returned home. After getting settled in and doing a helluva lot of adulting (going to the DMV multiple times, getting a gym membership, all that fun stuff), I returned to LA to visit Joel and some friends. The week mostly consisted of hanging out and eating good food.

Santouka’s shio ramen in Culver City, AKA my favorite ramen outside of Japan

Catching up with the LA crew

Gamjatang (감자탕), a spicy potato and pork stew, at a restaurant in Koreatown

The following week was Outside Lands (you can see the recap video here), which was way cooler than expected. OSL is a music festival in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, and I’d never been before, despite living in the Bay Area for over a decade—mostly because I couldn’t justify spending Coachella-like prices on a festival that wasn’t, well, Coachella.

But I made a last-minute move to sign-up for volunteering and got accepted immediately! I paired up with Clean Vibes, who gave me a weekend pass in exchange for 5 hours of my time cleaning up the fields after the festival each night. I could enjoy all the shows uninterrupted, did good for the planet, and paid next-to-nothing (there was a $25 application fee, which was for the t-shirt we got at the end) for the whole experience. Not a bad deal if you ask me.

(You can find more about Clean Vibes here. If anyone’s interested in learning more specifically about what it was like volunteering, comment below and I might make a separate post about it!)

I had a great group to hang out with each day, and saw some amazing performances. In fact, I’m pretty sure Florence and the Machine was the best live performance I’ve seen, ever. Acts like Gryffin, The Weeknd, and Jamie XX were there as well.

Famous chimichurri fries from 4505 Meats

Odesza at sunset :,)

The next weekend I headed straight to Vegas—was I crazy? Possibly. Was it worth the lack of sleep? Definitely. I’ve been to Vegas a lot, but this was my first trip with a small group of girlfriends. We ended up front row to the Chainsmokers, made it in to the DJ booth at the day club, and spent a solid 36 hours without sleeping. Good times.

I took a break from being out of town for a few weeks in order to get settled into my new place in San Francisco. That. Is. RIGHT, my friends, ya girl is officially living in the city!

#Adulting

While I’ve been in the Bay Area since middle school, I’ve never officially lived on the other side of the bridge (shout-out to East Bay). It was a dream of mine every since I was a tiny teeny-bopper, and one that I never could quite justify making a reality after I graduated college. I was saving hard for our year abroad, and it didn’t make sense to spend $1500 on a crappy apartment when I could just suffer a 3-hour daily commute while living rent-free at home.

But I’m officially all grown up now and living on my own, for real this time. I’ve moved into my first post-college apartment.

I found a really great deal on Airbnb Sublets (it’s a thing) for a place in Cow Hollow, shared with three other roommates. It’s relatively quiet and everyone mostly keeps to themselves, which I’m fine with. I like the area so far (yes, I live in the Marina and yes, there are a lot of fratty white people here and no, I don’t care) and I’m excited to explore my little slice of the city over the next few months.

Just the view from my rooftop (!)

Austin & TravelCon 2018

And because I just can’t seem to sit still for long, I also traveled to Austin last week! I’ve never been to Texas and had heard so many great things about Austin as an up-and-coming city, so when I heard that Nomadic Matt was putting on his first ever travel conference, I knew I just had to go. I bought a ticket back in February the day it was announced (lol @ me being extra).

I arrived on Monday evening and had a few days to explore the city before the conference was in full swing. This involved a lot of lines, melt-in-your-mouth BBQ, unforgiving heat and humidity, many nights at Sixth Street’s bars, and exploring breweries and taco trucks with fellow attendees who were also there early.

Hubbaaaaa~

The conference itself was incredible—and surprisingly well run for a breakout event. I met some amazing bloggers in person (This Battered Suitcase, Travels of Adam, The Blonde Abroad, and Nomadic Matt himself, among others), and was inspired by some incredibly well-delivered keynote speeches (speaking of which, Oneika is officially my new role model in blogging and in life).

I had an intimate writing workshop with David Farley, a small-group photo walk with Expert Vagabond, and learned a lot about brand partnerships and content marketing from the experts. I also met a lot of great smaller bloggers that made me feel supported and, well, not crazy, for doing the things I do.

(P.S., Tickets are already on sale for next year’s event in Boston, during summer of 2019. If you like meeting cool people and have a weakness for open bars, I suggest swooping on a ticket before they sell out.)

I had to skip out on the conference a day early in order to make it back to LA in time for a friend’s wedding (it was beautiful and there may have been tears and truffle fries involved).

Ready for a New Season

So what’s next?

First and foremost—a warm hello to fall! I’m hard-core #basicwhitegirling right now because I love, love, love everything about autumn. I’ve always been a cool weather kind of gal (I’ll take cloudy skies and cozy knits over bikinis and palm trees any day), and I cannot tell you how heartbroken I was that we had to spend the entire season last year in South East Asia. That’s right—I was literally sipping beer while floating in the middle of the Thai ocean and worrying about where I’d find a Trader Joe’s cinnamon broom in Krabi.

So I’ve been on a cozy-weather fast for two years now, and YA GIRL IS SO READY FOR #PSL LIFE (except that I don’t really drink PSLs, but it’s honestly more of a lifestyle than a drink).In terms of travel—I’ll be in NYC early November, then LA right after that. Any suggestions for places to see (and by places to see, I mean food to eat) or people to meet, let me know in the comments!

And at a more macro level? I still don’t know what I’m doing with my life, but I do know that it’s important for me to stick this out. To keep writing, keep sharing photos, keep exploring the potential of content creation. I love it dearly and just because I don’t know what role The Travel Sketch will play in my life in the future, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t keep loving it and caring for it while I’m waiting to find out.

Also, a heads up—while I’ll still primarily focusing on travel, I’m considering expanding into other areas as well. If you have any topics you’d like to see more of on this blog (both travel-related and not), don’t hesitate to speak up!

Cheers to uncertainty and sweater weather,

Anna

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