Starting this blog, back in May 2007, turned out to be an unexpectedly life-changing decision.
Not only did it give me the chance to do the thing that I love, but it opened up a whole new world for me. Through Coffee Helps, I began to meet people who were to change the direction of my life. Some were readers whose encouraging comments gave me confidence in my writing. Some were fellow bloggers who became useful contacts, friends, and employers. Some connections developed into cherished friendships – a couple even blossomed into love and romance.
This little online catalogue of my embarrassing moments, strange encounters, and rambling thoughts gave me something I’d been searching for throughout most of my life: an identity. I used to be painfully shy, and there was no comfort or encouragement to be had from my awkward attempts at talking to new people. If I managed to pluck up the courage to introduce myself to a new person, the conversation would simply die.
“Hi, I’m Hayley.”
“Hello, I’m X.”
I didn’t believe I had anything to offer, and it showed. I saw myself as boring, uninteresting, awkward, and generally unwelcome – and so, perhaps, it was one of those self-fulfilling prophecies that was true only because I believed it to be true.
6 years later, I am a different person. Sure, I will always be a bit on the quiet, shy side in big groups of people, and I’ll probably never be the social butterfly who flits around the room making easy conversation with one person after the next… but I know who I am now. I’m Hails, I write, I travel, and I have stories to tell. I know this because the past 6 years of my life would not have been what they were without being able to write about them, and share my tales with an audience, however small. Turns out I’m not boring after all! You might have to work a little harder with me than with others to get the conversation flowing naturally, and maybe I do tend to babble when I’m excited about the topic, but I’m no longer scared to be myself.
This blog, and the people it’s brought into my life, has made me who I am today. The girl who realised she was not made for small town life, and packed it in to take off around Europe, writing about her experiences. The girl who learned that heartbreak and pain is all part of life, and makes for a better writer. The girl who crashed on the couches of complete strangers and made genuine, lasting friends through it. The girl who found herself housesitting in luxurious locations, sipping champagne by the pool as she wrote about her surroundings… and the girl who found herself homeless in an underground bus station in Estonia, with her clothes in a couple of tied bin liners at her feet. The girl who got travel articles published in a few different European countries… and the girl who stayed up all night writing 50 articles about dog food or green tea, and leeched off the free wifi outside fancy hotels so she could submit them and earn enough money for her next train ticket and a decent meal. The girl who went to Korea on a whim and became an English teacher there for nearly 4 years. The girl who took part in vodka ceremonies with nomads in the Mongolian wilderness, walked on the Great Wall of China in the freezing snow and ice, rang the Peace Bell in Hiroshima. That girl. That’s me!
Sometimes I can’t quite believe it – but then I can go back and read all the stories I’ve written here, and it gives me a feeling I never used to have. Confidence mixed with happiness mixed with the assurance that however bad things seem, there’s a whole world of options and opportunities out there. However much pain you’re in, time really does heal. However financially dire things seem, there’s a way to get back on your feet again. However badly your plans go wrong, you can find a way around it. However spectacularly you fall flat on your face, people will always help you to get back up again. I have 6 years’ worth of blog posts to prove it!
Life is a Choose Your Own Adventure story, and you don’t know what will happen until you make your next choice. This is my 1000th blog post, and I would never, ever have imagined where I’d be writing it, back when I was writing post number 1 – or indeed, the story that the next 999 posts would eventually tell. One page at a time. Post by post.
I might not be getting paid for it, and I might never be a published author or a known travel writer, but I am doing what I love. That’s all I need – and it’s because of this blog, and all the people, adventures, relationships, experiences, and opportunities it’s brought into my life. To someone who doesn’t write, my attachment to this jumbled collection of words and stories probably seems weird, and it’s not something I can easily explain. It’s my baby, you see. I created it, I nurtured it, I watched it grow, I’m protective of it, I’m proud of it. It has brought so much into my life. I love it. It’s mine.
Thank you, my humble little blog. I can’t wait to see what the next 1000 posts will bring us!