The Occasional Traveller turns 10

Singapore’s National Day is a special day for me not just because it’s a much coveted public holiday period, but also because on this fine day back in 2010, I finally had the time to sit down and write the very first blogpost on The Occasional Traveller. I have cleaned up a bunch of my less-refined posts by deleting or rewriting them to be more useful to readers, but this post about my awesome dive trip to Cebu I mostly edited the photos to fit and left it as is for posterity. 

10 years, wow how did that happen. 

The Occasional Traveller Turns Ten

When I started the blog, I mostly did it with the intent to document my own travels as a reminder to myself NOT to forget to travel in future, and also as an easy way to share information with my friends and families about my past trips. Back then there was no thoughts about SEO, or evergreen content or even monetisation. The Occasional Traveller was purely a place for me to write about my travels in a more public sort of travel diary.

The Occasional Traveller Old Logo
This was a very early rendition of my logo back in 2010. I think I started using the logo in its current font when I shifted to self-hosted in 2011

The blog has inevitably gone through a fair amount of change in these past 10 years. The first couple of years were very much me doing my own thing as one of the few travel blogs in Singapore back then, but I guess things really took a turn in 2012-2013 when I participated in the Omy Blog Awards (now defunct, hah!) and my little personal blog started getting a bit more traction beyond my own circle. The scene has changed a fair bit, and not many travel blogs from when I first started are still around, though it’s great to see that many more have popped up in recent years.

Singapore Blog Awards 2013 Booklet
This was in 2013

When TOT started getting noticed, collaborations and trip invites started coming in as well. While I probably would have continued travelling more whether or not this blog was in existence, the blog has taken me to places I might not have gone on my own and allowed me to discover new awesome things around the world. For that I will always be grateful. Blog activities have given me the opportunity to meet new people and friends and widened my circle that much more.

Bene
My first press trip was back in 2013 to Bali thanks to Sheraton Bali Kuta. I was really stoked about being invited overseas for the first time!

I’ve always been picky about the corporate collaborations I take on, partly because I didn’t have to rely on the blog as a main source of income thanks to full-time work, but I have to say that monetising TOT 2 years ago has been a welcome source of side-income, especially in my freelancing days without a steady full-time income coming in.

Those of y’all who’ve stuck around long enough will know that besides the blog, I actually had a decent run at an online (and offline) shop that sold travel-inspired goods (really just a way to feed my own penchant for cute travel goods) around that time as well. I’ve also learned a helluva lot about running a blog and web stuff, and while I’m no expert, it’s actually helped me in my day job more often than not.

TOTshop PublicGarden OldSchool 2011
Besides the online shops, I was also doing a lot of popup flea markets too

I’ve been blogging long enough that this blog saw me transition from Occasional Traveller to somewhat Frequent Traveller for awhile when I took my career break. Then freelancing for another 2 years before coming full circle to where I am today, yet again The Occasional Traveller, juggling wanderlust and the need to earn money to travel.

What I’m most surprised and pleased about is how writing on this blog became a gateway into expanding my portfolio to other sites, and even other publications. I wrote a lot for myself back then, but it was hard to imagine writing for a larger audience, or that it would even be something to rely on in my future. It’s pretty gratifying to google my name and see my work pop up. (I do that because I’m a little paranoid that weird stuff gets linked to my rather uniquely spelled name). 

BootsnAll
My first commissioned writing assignment (not counting my regular feature writing gigs) was a diving feature on indie travel site BootsnAll – I featured Indonesia, Galapagos and Iceland in this article and am happy to say I’ve hit 2/3 of that list to date. I got paid US$50 – definitely not a rate I’ll take now.

I always try to write something that I’m proud of, and of course there are some duds but there’s also been a fair bit that I’m proud of. You can see more recent works in my portfolio, but some of my older personal favourites to date:

Matador Network
How to piss off a Singaporean was written in 2013 as a series and perhaps the first (and only) time an article I wrote went majorly viral. That said, because it was on the Matador and other platforms, that didn’t really translate into views on my end, but writing this piece was fun
The Day I Forgot To Travel (And How I Learned To Remember)
The Day I Forgot To Travel (And How I Learned To Remember) was written for The Planet D as a more personal article about how I started travelling more and travel blogging. Aka TOT’s origin story.
Seoul Grevin Wax Bae Yong Jun
I wrote a piece for Urban Adventures about my first in-depth encounter with Hallyu and the Korean wave while on a media trip in Seoul thanks to KTO. While I definitely wasn’t a fan then, it did kick me off on listening to Big Bang music (it makes me really productive when writing) and eventually sent me down a Kpop road, and now I even watch Kvariety and the occasional Kdrama too.
The A List Cover - Street Spray Love
This was my first cover story for the A List! They’ve since removed the older articles but you can still read the original story on my blog

Fun fact: Early on I actually avoided using my full name in my bylines or on the blog because I was trying to keep my online and offline lives separate, though I’ve found in recent years that my portfolio has probably helped me more than hindered me. At the very least it’s a great talking point when going into an interview.

Last year as I realised that TOT was in its 9th year, I contemplated whether to do something a bit more spectacular for the blog’s 10th year. Maybe a big giveaway or pick somewhere epic to travel to and blog about, but given the damper that 2020 has been so far and how busy I’ve been in my day job, I actually nearly forgot about the blog’s anniversary again so I pretty much only have this post to commemorate this day for now (let me think about it), but here’s hoping I’ll be writing these posts for future milestones as well.

Tioman 2010
Ever since I started blogging in 2010, the longest time I’ve been in Singapore without a holiday was a period of 8 months, after a dive trip to Tioman and prior to my first solo trip to Seoul.

For a lot of people these days, the blog is a business and that’s great for them. For me, I’ve always been clear that while I’m happy to earn from the blog, it’s ultimately always going to be an expression of myself and while I probably could do a lot more with it in terms of growing its reach and writing more, I’m actually quite happy that I have full control over how things happen on TOT, whether or not they truly maximise the potential of this blog or not.

The Occasional Traveller has been instrumental in defining who I am and how I’ve grown this last decade, though it really is just one part of the bigger piece that is me. Who knows what lies down the road? While TOT may evolve as technology improves and platforms change, but I want to keep the core and intent of The Occasional Traveller intact – that it records my past travels and inspires other busy working people like myself to remember to travel more.

And of course to you my lovely readers, whether you secretly stalk my Instagram or just drop by because you’re looking for some travel help, thank you for being there. What would a blog be without anyone reading it, right? I always love it when I hear from readers whether through a comment or a personal email. I don’t usually talk about anything too intimate or personal – it’s just not me to lay my life out there for everyone to see, so I definitely don’t get the kind of feedback/responses many other bloggers do, but I do appreciate those of you who take the time to leave a note or even just spend time reading my posts. 

A really great way to leave your well-wishes would be to drop a comment on this blogpost telling me what your favourite thing about TOT is, whether it’s a particular article that I wrote or a picture that you like. I’d really appreciate that more than anything else :)

Thanks again everyone for reading, cheers to another 10 years and more ahead!

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