bye-bye bird

I've been drafting, deleting, and re-writing this post for the last I-don't-even-know-how-many months. With all the upcoming exciting travels, posts left waiting to be published, and general love of this space, it might seem like it's come out of nowhere. It's odd I admit, given everything I have to share and write about in the next two years already mapped out. But, this has been coming. So, I finally wrote it all down. And, man, it feels good. 

Then, before posting it, I pulled a mini Ed Sheeran {seeing as I'm neither famous nor watched like the Ginger Bandit himself}. And it felt real good to get back to the basics. Only having WeChat installed on a Chinese phone and my trusty old e-mail account was refreshing. The people who want you in their life make time for you. They find a way of getting ahold of you.

I realized in my little tech-detox that I got away from posts being read with reference to my personal relationships on other peoples' sites. I didn't have a feed filled with the new blogging and paid post promotions-- the kind that's gone so far from the beauty of what it was in 2011. Back when it was about authentic sharing or when a poorly snapped pic could be posted on Instagram without causing a 20 follower loss because it accurately captured a moment. The superficiality that has manifested in social media, combined with the headache algorithms and the numbers game of "likes", "followers", and analytics can be both fun in its challenge and exhausting in its time and energy consumption. All those games can really put a person in a creative slump. Especially when the articles that get the most clicks feel regurgitated-- the pieces you can find on Pinterest a hundred times over. 

I guess I've become bored of it. 

I love travelling. I've been doing it since before I was even old enough to understand the privilege of it. Since before numbers or grid aesthetics mattered. Since before I could write about the places I went. The "look-away-and-ponder" pics are more than a little fun to take and they tend to end up being my favourite shots. But remember when they weren't an unspoken requirement for social media success? Remember when we wrote whatever we felt like sharing without considering SEO? I'm not good at playing by rules set out by other people, especially because I don't like games not requiring a board and cards.

What I'm saying is...social media has changed. Blogging more than just about any of it. The whole scape of the internet is drastically different than it was 7 years ago. 

In February of 2011, I started this silly little blog. That was back before blogging was trendy. There were a few lifestyle bloggers that had made names for themselves on the inter-web and a handful of fantastic travel photographers had started making the transition from nailing pics to nailing blog posts.  For the most part, blogging as a way of making an income and as a place people went to for trip information or entertainment wasn't much of a thing. Not everyone had a blog yet, and not everyone needed to share everything. Back then, it was weird to write about your life on the internet. Brave or vulnerable even. Not anymore. Now, it's almost expected, and we all know how little I like doing what's expected. 

Back then, I was a silly little girl who liked to go places and document all her silly little stories along the way. About her first and second heartbreaks. About her visa rejections, which she took as personal failures. About the oceans she crossed for her soulmate. About lost luggage and found purpose. About where to find the best brunch in cities around the globe. About the hikes she went on. About her travels across 5 continents and the person she was becoming along her journeys.

I have the heart of a romantic when I look at the world. An eternal optimist down to the last drop. But, despite the cheery way I choose to experience life, I'm not ignorant. And I'm definitely not silly.  

I will always be 'silly little kiwi'...

...but after everything I've experienced...

...I'm no longer a silly little girl.

I'm not silly about love, waiting ever so patiently for timing and fate to align, hoping that for once the story of two people who sacrifice everything for one another despite distance and visa restrictions end up in a cozy house in the mountains of the South Island playing a certain guitar. That two people so magnetized to one another, tethered inexplicably, connected in their cores despite being the human equivalent of parallel lines eventually intersect.  I'm a romantic but I've grown into a realist as well.

I'm not silly about travel, thinking one day I'll be satisfied by what I've experienced and the miles under my feet, thus locking my passport away for good in a safe box, ready to settle down somewhere. I probably won't be content no matter how many stories I have to share about how their aunt went skydiving and hiked the Inca Trail and fearlessly made mistakes in the name of adventure. I know a part of me will likely be eternally restless and that that will always make my life both richer and more difficult. I know I'll always keep traveling, relentlessly pursuing something new. Until I can be "home" in New Zealand, I will likely find no rest. I'm a romantic and a realist and also a natural traveler.

I'm no longer silly about the world I live in. I know that people won't magically switch to renewable energy or stop consuming for the sake of consuming. I've seen first hand that organizations meaning to do good have to allow minor demons to thrive in order to keep bigger devils at bay. I know that often the children you see on the Oxfam commercials live happier, more gratitude filled lives than those raised with different opportunities. I understand that I was born into a sort of privilege simply because I was born with light skin. I understand that the troubles that have come with my American passport are nothing compared to those from other countries and that I'm lucky to have a passport at all.  I am a romantic and a realist and also a natural traveler and also aware. 

I'm no longer silly about blogging. Every girl who's ever studied abroad and her mother has a blog. Some are super authentic, others are detailed with helpful information, and others still include mind-blowing photography. But there's also a lot of shit on the internet. People want followings because numbers mean attention which brings traffic which brings affiliate links, monetary opportunities, and freebies. All good things. Things I've gotten to reap the benefits of a lucky number of times. There are benefits to social media, which I've written about. But there's an overwhelming amount of junk on every platform. It has all become overrun by ads and suggestions to pay to promote your links. The authenticity of it all exists in a totally blurry territory. I am a romantic and a realist and also a natural traveler and also aware and also... 

...ready. 

This blog started as a way of keeping in touch with my family and friends while I traveled. It evolved into a diary of sorts. It's become part personal traveling narrative, part informative travel content. 

But, in truth, it has always been first and foremost a love letter. 

A love letter documenting the love story between a silly little girl and her soulmate. The love story between a silly little girl and the people in her life who she cares for in a deathless way. The love story between a silly little girl and every country she ever traveled to, and she's busted her way through more than her fair share of them {though she's still bound to wander around forever}. And the love story between a silly little girl and herself-- finding that love, nourishing it, discovering the empowerment that comes with its acceptance. 

Last year, I learned how to say 'no' by way of recklessly saying 'yes.' So, when asked if I'd continue into my 8th year of blogging, I took a hard look at what I've created. I re-read the love story of the last 7 years of my life.

And I've decided to say, 'no.'

Silly Little Kiwi has been an inseparable part of who I am. I travel and I write and I love and I share it all. It's a part of my being in this sort of ridiculous way. Writing is something I've always loved, and being able to share my voice with people has been connecting. At times it's also been cathartic. Like dance, like running, like travel...I'm equally as tethered to writing and creating on this little corner of the big bad web. For better or for worse, in sickness and in health. I write because it's a part of who I am the same way that travel is-- I am never without a boarding pass in one hand and my notebook in the other. 

But this year is all about challenging myself. Since my most recent birthday, I've sort of stepped into my skin in a way that has me hearing my own voice more clearly. And what I'm hearing is that I want to try something different. For a while at least. For forever at most. 

What I've discovered in this space has been a strange dichotomy. On one hand, I've had free hotel stays and cafe visits. I've made friends and received messages from people that have sparked opportunities. I've gotten gifts and a slew of new experiences. On the other hand, I've found nastiness online. People can comment easily on any platform, feeling qualified behind a keyboard. It's a mixed bag of 99% goodness and 1% absolute filth. 

I've found community and collaboration through SLK. People who've e-mailed me seeking help to find birth control in foreign countries or who've written about how I've helped them find the courage to travel somewhere exotic. That community is a large contributing factor in why I've continued this long. That and my innate desire to express my experiences in words online. 

The humble opportunities that I've had thanks to blogging, even in this micro-corner of the inter-web have made me love doing this whole thing. I've learned that opportunities exist for any blog of any size if you treat people well and embrace online community. I can only imagine the intense reward and insane drive that lies behind the wall of perfectly curated presets belonging to those blogs with hundreds of thousands of followers. I never minded the "work" because I naturally yearn to create.  I feel my best when traveling, creating content, and writing from that deep well that exists inside me. However, lately, if I'm honest...

...it's all felt majorly cliche. 

There are talented badasses out there. People who make me clap out loud to myself after seeing their pictures or watching their videos, etc. Friends like Kirstie Hall and those I've been a long-time admirer of like Brooke from World of Wanderlust. Their authenticness makes the internet feel like a hug, the way it's supposed to be. 

Regardless of all the ups and {very slight, almost unnoticeable} downs I've discovered by way of online writing, I've never regretted it. Even the most cringe-worthy overshares. Even the shittiest photos, back when I had a pink point and shoot digital camera that documented the many frozen cokes Benner and I skipped classes to buy. The truth is, that blogging is the most meaningful, isn't it? 

Most of my favourite posts are the ones that read like absolute rubbish to the rest of the world. The posts with mentions of Keegan's rapping or Simon's handiwork hanging a paper lantern in my dorm room. One's featuring Ferg Hall hot takes while playing monopoly in the common lounge. But even those posts now almost seem to "require" some kind of encapsulating theme or pseudo-spiritual enlightenment. It can't just be a silly little story if you're looking to build a brand like Polkadot Passport or World of Wanderlust {both of whom have serious photography skills...}. 

I've never regretted writing about even the most seemingly mundane of days because those are the moments we carry around with us. On any of my travels, it's the slightest of moments I think about. You think about things like that kiss in the rain under the bleachers at a Turbos game. You contemplate the hard decisions you made alone so that your partner wouldn't have to carry the burden. You remember the time you ate fish and chips on the floor learning about the socio-economic problems of New Zealand with your new friends. You laugh to yourself about the time you attempted to run hills while your mate called after you to make sure you hadn't collapsed. 

Those moments matter. Writing about them matters. Honouring them matters. 

I'll say it again: honouring them matters. 

This site will stay up in case I change my silly little mind or find myself falling in love with it again like you do in all the most significant romances. On the off chance that blogging and all that comes with it finds a way back to its roots. And because I want to honour all I've written by leaving it up so that those who might also think it matters and those who also feel like honouring it can visit it now and then. But I'm leaving on the high of knowing I made it into something small and humble. A source of part-time income, catharsis, community, journaling, and joy.

So, kids. What's next? Where travel is concerned, I'll be hopping around my old friend Asia for the next little while before taking on Africa! And I'll be filling up notebooks and SD camera cards along the way. But I'll be sharing it differently. How will you be sharing it all? I'm so glad you asked. For the most part, I simply won't be. Not unless you're a member of the inner circle. I will keep my Instagram, though I won't be posting consistently or at "high engagement" times. Just whenever I feel like it. I also plan to continue creating more video content, purely because I love having those candid moments to look back on. 

I've thought about this long and hard: what pseudo-wisdom I can bestow as my parting words {for now}. I wanted to get them "right" but quickly realized that I am inarticulate, most especially where advice is concerned. All I know how to do is travel really hard and love even harder. So that's what I plan to continue to do and that's what I want you to do too. 

Travel really hard, really slowly, and with a conscious cultural mindset. And, as hard as you travel, I implore you to love even harder than that. 

Most goodbyes aren't happy. I should know...I've said some of the most brutal, heartbreaking farewells. But this blog's goodbye isn't one of those. Things in my world are full-on and chaotic and changing at a more rapid rate than I'm ready for in too many areas to count, not the least of which is my location. But I wouldn't dare complain about this ever-evolving life because I cultivated it. All I've ever wanted is people to love who love me back in equal measure and places to go. And I have both of those things. I have good people and my travels are continuing. That's ultimately all my silly little heart ever asked the Universe for-- travel and relationships that no distance can shake. And, man, it has delivered. Tenfold. 

I love you all more than I can stand for taking time out of your day to read my silly little posts on this silly little space over the last seven years. Thank you for traveling along with me. Your support has brought so much joy and opportunity into my world. I am so happy I've had SLK to remind me of how far I've come, not just in physical miles journeyed. 

I'll see you when I see you and I will be back writing. Maybe here or maybe not. As I mentioned before, you can find me writing as a freelancer for The Nanjinger and video-ing bits and pieces of my life if you like. But, this is it for SLK. Whether it's for a month, for a year, or forever. The kiwi {ironically a flightless bird} who jumped from plane to plane and continent to continent is gonna take a rest.

If you've made it through this post, kudos. I'm ready to make myself some tea and watch Travel Man. I used to sign off my love letters with "always" and I feel like that is the only fitting way to sign off here whether it be a forever thing or a  for a while thing. 

Always, T. 


*Silly Little Kiwi's affiliate links and partnerships will remain open and active for browsers of the blog to use. 
*Tara Tadlock, the writer of this site, is still free for collaborative projects. For freelance work or to connect, visit the SLK 'Work With Me' page.