connections, friendship

Other Human Beings

Other Human Beings

I don’t usually post on Mondays, but this Monday is different. Guess why…

It’s my blog’s six-month anniversary, exactly today! My first post, Origin Story, went up on August 22, 2015. And then I went camping for a week and mostly forgot about it, and when I got back I think there had been around ten pageviews, probably all of them from friends of mine in real life (and a big heartfelt thank you to those friends for being my first visitors!).

That feels like a long time ago now. And since a lot has changed on The Yachtless over the past six months, I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect a little on the experience of blogging thus far—on what it has meant for me…and what it hasn’t meant.

If you had asked me in August why I was starting a blog, I would have said I had two reasons:

1) I had spent a long time feeling trapped and helpless in regards to my student debt, and I thought the blog would help me feel more empowered – like I was, in some small way, doing something about the debt rather than letting it emotionally control me (even if “doing something” was simply writing about my journey).

2) I needed something to get me through my final semester of grad school, something else to focus on that would keep me from succumbing to Crazy Dissertation Brain.

Check and check. Blogging definitely helped with both of those things. Now, as for other potential benefits…

Here’s what I haven’t gotten out of blogging:

  • MONEY. Most of my feeble attempts at making money off of this site can be found here, in case you’re interested, haha. I also have occasional Amazon affiliate links scattered around, but usually they’re accompanied by a note suggesting that you not use them—in other words, marketing at its very finest. It’s possible I might try harder to “monetize” (as they say in blog-speak) in the future, but that’s just not where I’m at right now.
  • Any type of decent understanding of Pinterest. I do have an account, but if you take a look you will quickly see that I don’t know how to use it properly.

Here’s what I have gotten out of blogging:

  • Connections with other human beings
  • Encouragement from other human beings
  • A sense that I’m not alone in my struggles with debt and financial worries, because: Other human beings.

(Pssst! Other human beings = YOU.)

Even though I’ve been blogging since August, I only learned about Google Analytics a month ago when my friend Claudia from Two Cup House told me about it. As it turns out, there are a lot of things you can do with Google Analytics to examine your website traffic, but the one that I really get a kick out of is the real-time map that shows the locations of users who are currently on your site:

The bubbles appear and disappear as people navigate to and from your site. (FYI I placed these two bubbles myself using PowerPoint just as examples.)

Sometimes I like to click open the real-time map and watch the bubbles appear and disappear for a minute or two. Want to guess why I do it? Here are your choices:

A.   I have waaaaaay too much time on my hands these days.
B.   Maps are cool.
C.   It is seriously amazing to realize that it’s possible to make small connections with people all over the world. Look, there’s someone in Australia! Looking at my blog! Crazy!
D.   All of the above.
E.   All of the above, but mostly C.

And the answer is…E. All of the above, but mostly it’s just amazing to think about how this blog gives me the opportunity to make real (albeit sometimes very fleeting) connections with people who I would otherwise probably never get to interact with. The fact that it is possible to communicate with individuals in far-off places is not exactly a groundbreaking concept in 2016, but blogging has made this feel truly profound to me in a way that it didn’t before.

(And by the way, if you didn’t already know that website owners are, by default, able to see information about the general locations of their visitors, and other non-personally-identifying demographic information, that’s something you should know. With the exception of the real-time map, however, it’s analyzed as group data, not as data about individual visitors.)

One final thing. I’m aware that the one of the main “rules” of blogging is that you should always provide useful information to your readers. And there are indeed many wonderful blogs out there that provide tons of useful information. But I don’t think this blog is really one of them, at least not right now. And while part of me sometimes thinks it would be cool if I had more helpful tips to give out—like about how to spend less money or how to make more money or how to invest your money—I’ve decided that I’m okay with continuing to mostly just share information about my own experiences. (Though if I do happen to pick up any helpful tips, I’ll try to pass them along!)

I’ll actually even go one step further and say that, for whatever it’s worth, the number one reason that I personally read other blogs is not to get useful tips—though this is an excellent and very much appreciated side benefit. Rather, I read blogs because I want to get to know the authors as human beings, to follow their stories, to be inspired, and to have the opportunity to read about and discuss interesting topics (for more on my philosophy on blogging as an interactive medium, check out this post.)

That’s it, I think. This post is really just meant as a huge thank you to you. Please know that the connections I’ve made in these past six months with all of you—whether through emailing, commenting, or just visiting and reading—mean a great deal to me.

I usually put a comment prompt in at the bottom of the post, but I can’t really think of a specific one today. So feel free to comment on whatever you want: Blogging! Camping! Maps! Useful information! Australia! Pinterest! Potato Pancakes! Butterflies! Donald Trump!

Oh, also, I may not have useful tips, but I do have podcast recommendations. Lots of them.

42 Comments on “Other Human Beings

  1. Well SINCE we’re allowed to comment about whatever we want on this absolutely amazing post, and because I know you’ll appreciate / have thoughts about this: I’m sooooo close to caving and joining the fancy gym near my house.


    I’m a bad personal finance blogger if I join the fancy gym, right? (Maybe if I write about it it’ll be better?) Hahaha I’m mostly joking – I just know joining the fancy gym was a thing you’ve mentioned before, and a lot of your rationales (like “I wouldn’t buy it and then never use it”) really resonate with me.

    Plus it’s by far the cheapest unlimited yoga you can get in my town, at $60-ish a month – they even have hot yoga! Whereas the “cheap” hot yoga studio is a cool $100 for unlimited classes. (Or 4 hours per week, every week, in volunteer time, which is way more expensive in time-dollars than $100 for me. When I read about those studios that let you volunteer for like, an hour a week for free classes, I just weep. 4 hours/week is standard in Ottawa.)

    1. Oh gosh, Des, I just have so many thoughts about the gym membership question. It’s sooooo tough. I can never figure out the US/Canadian dollar thing, so I’m just going to pretend they’re the same. $60 a month for unlimited yoga plus other stuff?? That’s amazing. This is the fancy gym you’re talking about? (The fancy gym I’m looking at is $100/month, plus random “sign-up fees”, “annual fees”, etc.)

      I think one thing I’m trying to really think honestly about is: am I going to use the fancy gym in the warmer months? I think historically I do much more indoor exercise in the winter than in the summer…so that’s one strike against anything that requires a membership. But then again, it’s cold a LOT here! And I know it’s colder even more often in Ottawa.

      Either way, I don’t think you’re a bad pf blogger if you join a fancy gym! I do think you should write about it though. 🙂

  2. One of the reasons I stared reading your blogs is because so many of my fellow PF bloggers are doing nothing BUT tips and SEO/money driven piece. While I respect their decision to do whatever they like, it turns me off from reading, so thank you for writing juicing content I can dig my teeth into and happy 6 months!

  3. Congrats on your 6 month anniversary!

    I just discovered Google Analytics too and I also love the maps!

    I started my blog about a month ago, and the community aspect of blogging definitely surprised and pleased me the most. I have already “met” so many great bloggers and I love readings their stories. I thought starting a blog would keep me accountable on paying down my debt, and it has so far. But reading other peoples stories is probably helping me more.

    1. Thanks, Michelle! It definitely sounds like you and I have had similar experiences with the personal connection side of blogging. It’s been really surprising to me as well — I didn’t necessarily think it would be possible to have meaningful discussions/connections on a virtual plane. But I’m glad to be wrong about that!

      Oh, and the accountability thing that you mention is definitely a new and important motivation for me as well. When I first started the blog I was still in school so wasn’t paying down the debt at all, but now that I am making payments, I can see that blogging will probably motivate me to pay off more of the debt faster.

  4. Happy 6 months, Sarah!! I am so glad that you came back from your camping trip & decided to continue writing. 🙂 It’s amazing all that you have accomplished since you started (nailed your dissertation! received a new job! your avocado seed is growing!) I love coming to your blog because of the transparency & content. Whether it’s about convergence, merry-go-round thoughts, or analyzing laundry calculations – I always know I am going to receive a great, true to life experience from you & your writing. Thank you for that!

    P.S. I need to start digging into your podcast selection. Yesterday at the gym I listened to “This American Life” (which I believe I heard about from you!), and was BLOWN away. You have great recommendations!

    1. Thanks, Alyssa! And isn’t This American Life amazing?? I’m so glad you checked it out — I’d be interested to know what episode you listened to. There are so many good ones. I’m also really into Reply-All these days. And The Moth. Oh gosh, so many!!! 🙂

  5. I have also enjoyed the interaction and camaraderie of blogging–and haven’t monetized the site. We are open to doing so in the future, but I wanted my site to primarily to be helpful to others who were frustrated with their finances. It was a pleasant surprise to learn how encouraging the PF community is. Congrats on your six-month anniversary!

    1. Thanks, Kalie! Yes, this community is so kind and encouraging. I feel so lucky to have accidentally stumbled upon it! 🙂

  6. I agree with Tonya: I’m so glad you write about your personal thoughts and experiences, instead of trying to give helpful tips. There are so many blogs that I no longer read because they’ve switched to more of a tips format once they became popular, or achieved their initial goals. And I understand there is a market for it. But some of us find more inspiration hearing about what others are doing, not being told what we should be doing. I think it builds a sense of camaraderie, knowing that there are others out there that are going through the same struggles as you.

    Congrats on the 6 months! I hope you’ll be around for a long time to come!

    1. Thanks, Cindy. I find a lot of inspiration in hearing about what others are doing too. It’s interesting how that works. I think you’re probably right that it’s about camaraderie, about knowing that we’re all experiencing our struggles and successes together.

  7. Happy semi-anniversary!

    If it makes you feel any better, I’ve been blogging for around 7 and a half years, and since I haven’t put forth much serious effort, I still don’t make a ton from my blog. I want to change that, but by and large my site is a place for me to vent, think things through and get support.

    And even after all these years, I’m still shocked that people come to hear me ramble. Sometimes I do present useful information, but a lot of my posts are more about our journey through life (which seems to consist of a lot of stumbling) than tips and tricks. Those are great, but they can be found anywhere. I feel like most blog readers come to follow a life story and/or adventures.

    I like to think that I’ve helped some healthy people gain a little more insight into dealing with chronic illness (and how not to deal with chronically ill people). And sometimes my efforts teach someone something new. But I’ve probably gotten at least as many useful tricks from other people as I give.

    And if you want to get more serious about Pinterest, hire help. I put it off for a long time because I didn’t want to deal with yet another social media platform and I couldn’t rationalize paying someone. But I’m definitely seeing some growth, which is helping some with profits. So… my two cents.

    1. Whoa, seven and a half years! That’s an eon in blogging time. Was this all on the same blog or have you had several during that time?

      I really do think that people generally like to read about others’ journeys — at least, I know I do. I think we can learn a lot from each other, in addition to getting and giving support and encouragement. And since lots of people (myself included) have relatively little insight into chronic illness, I think the perspective and insights your blog offers are of great value.

      Sigh, I have such mixed feelings about Pinterest. I think it’s less that I want to be into it and more that I feel like I *should* be into it. But I think if I ever decide to get serious about monetizing, getting Pinterest help will definitely be part of that process.

  8. Blogging is awesome. I used to just read and comment. It’s been so much fun to contribute too.

    Also, butterflies make me think of summer. I want it to be summer. I can’t wait to go swimming and have our first bonfire.

    Congrats on six months!

    1. Hahaha, I want it to be summer too! I can’t complain too much since the winter in Boston has been abnormally mild this year. But I’m definitely over it and ready for bonfires and swimming. 🙂

  9. I can’t believe you’ve only been at it for six months! I feel like you’re an old friend, and a blogging pro. 🙂 You definitely bring a much-needed voice to the PF space, and I love that you don’t try to act like an expert (that’s always an aim of ours — we’re just trying to share our journey, and get annoyed when other civilians act like they know everything!). Especially after reading the New Yorker piece that just came out on MMM, I’m feeling especially grateful for our non-sanctimonious blogger friends, like you. Congrats on the milestone! Here’s to many more.

    1. Aw, thanks! It feels like more than six months to me too. And I’m really glad that you guys focus on sharing your journey — to me, journey-sharing and good writing are really what’s compelling about blog-reading, and your blog delivers on both counts! 🙂

  10. Hi Sarah
    I’m reading your blog all the way from Australia – so that bubble is at least some of me 🙂
    It doesn’t matter how far away we are, we have something in common, and that is what what makes the connection valuable.
    Love reading your blog ….

    1. Ah, the Australia contingent! I think I picked Australia as an example because it just feels so far away from the Northeast U.S. But now that we’ve got this newfangled Internet thing, it’s actually not that far away at all! 🙂
      And I think you’re right: it’s all about having things in common. Thanks for reading!

  11. Congrats on making it to six months and cheers to many more anniversaries. I too never focused on generating revenue early on and three years in, I still don’t. Instead, I used my blog as a body of work to serve as a portfolio for high paying writing gigs. That has paid in great dividends as I’m sure it will for you too. Also, don’t worry so much about what a blog is “supposed” to be. You have a voice and that’s the best part of any blog. There are plenty of blogs out there clearly writing to SEO and just trying to earn some money. But a blog with well-written stories and a strong voice is rare. Embrace that path and keep producing great content!

    1. Thanks so much for the encouragement. 🙂 Reading all of these rules and tips for bloggers makes my head spin, so I’m trying to just focus on doing what I want to do on this site, which is to write stuff I feel good about and to connect with others. The other stuff can be pretty distracting, so my goal is to avoid getting too caught up in it.

    1. Haha, I like the tips! Where’s that T-shirt?? 🙂

      Yeah, I can relate to the journal thing — I definitely get a kick out of it when I publish some of my own random musings in a post and people click over to read it (or they click over, and then get caught up in something else and don’t actually read my post; I’ll never know!).

      I’m really trying to get up the courage to be more honest around here so that I can potentially share unpopular opinions when I feel like it. Not that I have all these burning unpopular opinions that I desperately need to get off my chest, but I just want to feel like it would be okay to write something that someone else might not totally agree with. I’m working on it! 🙂

  12. Congrats on everything you have accomplished. And I needed the boost of just being me on my blog. Sometimes I get all caught up with “I don’t have anything to say that hasn’t been said.” But no one has lived my life, so I still have something to say. And so do you! And I’m glad you’re saying it!

    1. Thanks, Maggie. 🙂 I definitely can relate to that feeling that I have nothing original to say. But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I feel really strongly that people’s stories (mine, yours, whoever’s) are far more compelling than cold, hard information. I love that you talk about your own life on your blog, so definitely keep it up! You definitely have things to say!!

  13. One of my favorite quotes in law is “the life of the law has been experience, not logic.” The fact that you are sharing yours brings a breath of fresh air into a room too often filled with the 20 best ways to save money on X. So thank YOU for sharing your voice! Keep it going!

  14. Happy 6 month! You’re very right about the human connection from blogging. It’s amazing how many great people I’ve met/talked to since started blogging. It’s a great community.

  15. Congrats!

    Like Abby, I’m a mastodon in the PFsphere (going on a decade!) but it’s not a moneymaker specifically because I prioritize story over anything else. Also it’s my writing therapy outlet so what price can you really place on having support and community at your fingertips?

    Well, some people can have both but some people are FAR more talented than I 😉

    If you’re a storyteller, and I’m sure you are, I’ll happily keep reading. There are a thousand and one blogs to advise me on things I already know about money. There aren’t but a few storytellers who can make me care about them and want to know how they’re doing this week.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement. And that’s so cool that you’ve been writing for such a long time! I definitely feel like this has been a writing therapy outlet for me as well — something I didn’t necessarily expect but am very grateful for. I’d been doing scientific, academic writing for so long that it feels like an amazing gift to finally have the opportunity and motivation to be writing something else.

  16. You’re welcome. 🙂

    I started my blog last March, and you’ve totally run circles around what I’ve done so far! It’s great to know that there are others like me that are as interested in personal finance as I am. I am pretty confident that you’re gonna go far with this blog. Keep it up! 🙂

    1. Don’t diss your blog, Vic! Your blog is awesome. And definitely, the community factor in blogging is huge. It’s funny because I hadn’t really anticipated that part when I started, but it’s been more important than anything else in blogging. 🙂

  17. I hope I can find ways to make money off of my blog, but even if I don’t, it’s still worth it. Like you said, blogging allows you to connect with other human beings. I am blessed to have a couple of close friends who “get” frugality and my extreme frugality approach to paying off my debt. That said, most of the people I know don’t really “get” it and find it odd. It’s awesome to be able to connect with so many other bloggers who actually “get” it.

    1. Yeah, it’s definitely cool to have the chance to find other people online who are working towards similar goals! 🙂

  18. Congrats Sarah! I’m only a month or so behind now where you’re actually up to in your posts 🙂 haha
    Must say the biggest take-away and favourite part of this blog is that you mentioned Australia here 😉

    I’d say as a proud Aussie we do tend to punch above our population # of roughly 24 Mill, although being one I would say that ha

    Awesome and keep on blogging, you’re doing a great job!

    1. Haha, yay Australia! It really does feel incredibly far away from Boston, which is why I used it as an example. 🙂
      Thanks for the encouragement!

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