Just recently, I received an email telling me that my blog domain was up for renewal at the end of the month. I have it set for automatic billing so I don't have to do anything (can't take the chance of forgetting the billing date one year!) but it did get me thinking about my start as a blogger. It's hard to believe that it's been 9-1/2 years since Hope's Cafe "opened for business". When I began blogging, it was as a product reviewer. My mom had been doing it a short time and since I love writing, being able to try new products simply by promising to share my thoughts about it in a blog post seemed like an incredible opportunity. As any blogger can attest to, it's slow starting. Fortunately, I was able to get in before influencer blogs became the "thing", so I had a pretty solid network in place by the time product review blogs gained popularity and companies were overwhelmed by the amount of people asking for free product.
One of my favorite aspects of blogging has been the travel pieces I get to do. Many times over the years, we would plan a family vacation and then I'd reach out to local businesses, restaurants, hotels, attractions, etc to see if they'd like a feature on Hope's Cafe. I've been able to do and see some pretty fun things through this. Branson, MO; Orlando, FL; Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg, TN; Austin, TX; Chicago, IL; Tampa, FL; Clarksville, TN; Nashville, TN...these and so many other cities have companies that have graciously hosted myself (or myself and my family) in exchange for a blog article. I love to travel and in my dream world, I'd be a travel writer getting to visit foreign cities and countries for work. I can't imagine a much better job than being hired to travel and write about it!
As I look back over blog posts from the past 9+ years, I've seen how my writing has developed. Writing product reviews certainly improves a person's creative writing skills! Once you review two or three of the same type of product in a 1-year span, you have to get creative about how to describe the product without sounding redundant. Of course, there was also growth in being able to write a negative review without being overly harsh. If a product didn't work as promised, simply seemed cheap, or I had a bad experience with it, I always reached out to the company first to make sure they were okay with an honest (meaning not completely positive) review. Thankfully, these aren't common so I don't have to deal with it very often.
Another bonus I've received from becoming a blogger has been the wealth of fitness and health information and products I've learned about. 9 years ago, 24-year-old me thought I was pretty healthy. Sure, I ate some junk food but I was in decent shape, did a lot of outdoor activity, and didn't tire easily. Now that I'm a little older, I realize some of that was simply the energy of youth! Honestly, though, I've been privileged to work with some great fitness brands that introduced me to workout routines, healthy eating habits, specific foods, and exercise tools that I never would have known otherwise. Off the top of my head, kettlebells and high intensity interval training have to be my two favorites. I was able to work with a company doing an 8-week kettlebell fitness program near the start of my blogging journey, and kettlebells have been an important part in my exercise regimen ever since. High intensity interval training came later, but again, it's something I incorporate into my schedule every week. While I wouldn't consider myself a fitness blogger, it's something I really enjoy getting the chance to write about because it means I'm learning about a new way to stay healthy and fit.
So, almost ten years later, I have to say I'm pretty satisfied with the blogging journey I've had. Sometimes I slow down and take a step away, but I always find myself coming back and enjoying the writing, talking about products and programs and places that my readers may have never heard of, and just having a space to share my thoughts about things. Here's to the next 10 years!