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I’ve often heard people refer to the “vacation depression”, the feeling that something is missing when you return to daily life from a much-loved vacation. It’s not something I’ve personally experienced very often, though.
In the week since we came home to Medellin from our 10-day vacation along Colombia’s coast, though, I’m pretty sure that’s how I’ve been feeling. At first it was wonderful to come home to the comforts we knew before we left. I loved the familiarity of our furniture, our schedule, and our neighborhood. We were able to savor our vacation memories without the stress of jumping in to a new location.
Unfortunately that feeling didn’t last long.
I woke up in the middle of the night our first night home. I had nausea, which isn’t an unfamiliar pain to wake to, with joint pain and aches. My discomfort from the combined pains kept me up for the rest of the night and only worsened during the day. While I am normally able to rally myself to work and do my daily chores after sleepless nights, on Tuesday I was left bedridden. Muscle and joint pain, stomach ache, chills, and a low-grade fever made me miserable for almost 48 hours. I needed Ben’s help to move anywhere and I was in too much pain to consider eating anything but small bowls of rice or drink anything but water.
Although my sickness was over by Thursday, it took another three days to recover my energy from being sick. How’s that for double negative? I was exhausted from not sleeping well and fighting the sickness, malnourished from not eating well, and plagued by the resulting migraines and brain fog. By Saturday night I was ready to try and leave the house to walk to dinner with Ben and Whit, but we had to go slowly and stop every 10 feet or so for me to catch my breath.
I’m grateful my sickness wasn’t worse, and absolutely thrilled that Ben and Whit didn’t end up catching it!
The initial 10 days of our vacation plus the extra week of being sick was a lot of time to not work. By the time I was actually healthy and focused enough to open my computer, doing the 100 tasks related to being a travel blogger were the last things I actually wanted to do.
The time off and pressure to get back gave me some perspective on my work, and it’s not pretty.
One of my many tasks is to regularly check my website statistics. This gives me a lot of insight into my work: which pages people are reading most, if the traffic is coming from social media or a Google search, how long it took from being published to “getting found”, and traffic trends over time.
My focus when I write is for it to do well in Google searches. I do intense keyword research to find what people are searching for, then use SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques throughout my articles to help Google know to show my article as an answer to someone’s search. It can be a really complicated procedure, but the benefit is that Google traffic should always work for you by being shown to people who actually care about the topic, as opposed to social media traffic which is fleeting and up to the whims of people who happened to come across it.
The goal with driving traffic to my site is, ultimately, to earn more income. More people on my website means more clicks on the tours or products I recommend, which means more affiliate (finder’s fee) income. We thoroughly believe that we shouldn’t put all our financial eggs in one basket, so I’m hoping this blog can help us diversify our income streams in case our Amazon businesses go south (but hoping it doesn’t! Fingers crossed. Knock on wood. Throw some salt.)
Translation: I’ve put a ton of pressure on myself to make the most of this website as an alternative income source for my family.
It takes time for your page to show up as a search result on Google. Google prefer’s to show websites with a good reputation, so the theory is that if you write a thorough article with lots of well-targeted keywords it should start ranking in the first page or two of Google in 3-6 months. Following that logic, if I write amazing, targeted articles 2 or 3 times a week then my traffic should continually go up from all of the articles eventually ranking, right?
Well, that was happening for me. Until May.
Starting in May my traffic started to slowly go downhill. There were two big changes to Google’s search results ranking algorithm in June and September, and with each new update my traffic continued to slide. Cue my time in Medellin. Since we arrived here and got Whit settled into school, my day has been focused on getting my website traffic back. I’ve focused on writing new articles as often as possible, I’m researching the newest Google techniques and updating old articles all the time, and I’ve renewed my focus on Pinterest traffic with an almost unhealthy vengence.
The results? My traffic is a year-long low. With the only two real forms of judging this complicated system of blogging both being down (traffic and income) I’m left with one conclusion: It’s failing. And I’m not used to failure.
I can’t help but feel like I’ve wasted my time, I’m letting Ben down by not making steady money, and I’ve shirked my motherly duties by spending money on private schools when we travel so I can work on something that isn’t producing.
After a few cry sessions to Ben and catching up on important messages from the LDS General Conference we missed, I’m realizing that these statistics shouldn’t matter. I tell myself that my work is still being seen by a ton of people, even if it’s not growing the way I expected. I remember that my family is the most important thing to me, and I double my focus on being present and fun when Whit is home. And, most importantly, I realize that I need to separate this one aspect of my life from determining my self-worth and compartmentalize whatever stress, failures, or pressure I feel from it.
That all sounds so good, right?
Well, like a lot of things that sound really good, it’s easier said than done. Seeing the cold, hard truth that something I’ve been working on for 8 hours/ day for the last 3 months (and 18 months before that) isn’t just not working but actually getting worse is a real slap in the face.
I try to talk myself out of it, but I’ve been pretty down the last couple of weeks. I put on a happy face for my family then eat some chocolate cookies. Gluten free and tasteless with a glass of lactose-free milk, since I’ve been on a strictly GF and non-dairy diet since I finally talked to a Gastroenterologist about the health issues which have been keeping me up at night with near-constant stomach pain.
So maybe it’s not post-vacation depression. Maybe it’s actually depression.
Shout out to Ben, my incredible husband, who took such good care of me while I was sick. He carried me in and out of bed, brought me food, helped me get dressed, and so many other things which I was too weak to handle. Even after my illness went away and I was just trying to regain my strength he never complained about my lack of ability to do things around the house and help with Whit. He handled everything at home for almost a week, then listened to me sob about the pressure and failures of blogging multiple times (and only tried to solve my problems briefly!). I love you, Ben!