Another year, another few stories to tell.
One of my favorite posts I wrote last year was 2016 in Places, a meditation on a year of movement.
I started that post with this sentence:
“As I go into 2017, I’m faced with a big choice: do I choose to keep chasing places, for another little while, or is it time to settle down and devote myself to enhancing my relationships with people?”
As you’ll see, I ended up choosing places. Places gave me a lot this year. I leave 2017 with a greater breadth of stories and experiences. But my feeling is 2018 will be defined by people. We will see.
For now, here’s what happened to me in 2017.
Since I posted “My First Travel Blogger Freebie,” it’s continued to be one of my top-performing posts, both in views and in comments. In fact, it’s already one of my best performing posts of the year.
Turns out, getting free travel is a thing lots of people are interested in! Who knew? 😉
So, with that said, here’s how I leveraged my first sponsored stay as a travel blogger into a second, bigger travel brand partnership with Habla Ya Spanish Schools, in Bocas del Toro, Panama. That’s where I’m writing you from, now.
I am staying and studying for free, in exchange for some content.
Here’s how I got here:
For a lot of people, the term ‘travel blogger’ conjures up images of endless free airline tickets, hotel stays, and tours in exchange for what is — basically — content advertising. My readers will know that’s not what I do.
I had just been accosted by a stranger on the streets of Pokhara, Nepal. This man was no tout though, and his offer intrigued me.
“Do you like chess?!” The man had yelled at me, from the stoop of a nearby cafe.
“Love it!” I’d responded.
“Would you like to play??” He asked.
Before I had even given it a second thought, my legs were taking me across the potholed street and up the steps, where I shook hands with my new friend: an old Malaysian man with an impressively white beard.
My encounter with the man down by the lake upset me so much, I just started walking up Lakeside with nothing in mind except putting as much distance as possible between me and him.
His harassment had made me so uncomfortable, and totally ruined my idea for the day. All I had wanted to do was sit on the side of the lake and read a book — was that too much to ask? Apparently.
That was my first negative interaction with a Nepali person so far, and it shook me up a little bit.