January 2017. It’s the last day of my two week’s notice and when I leave the office, I’m no longer a full-time employee working 9am-5pm Monday-Friday. Far from it. I have quit my job to pursue creativity.
Nervous + anxious, both excited and terrified, I look for a sign that I made the right decision. I know nothing about the blogging business, did I really just leave behind a steady income to take a chance on this?!
Scrolling through my Instagram later that evening, I came across a bright, colourful picture of a laptop set picturesquely amongst fresh fruit, smoothies, palm trees and a glistening swimming pool. I recognized the handle as one of my favourite bloggers and inspirations, theblondeabroad.
I scrolled down to read the caption to see where in the world she may be working from today, and my heart skipped a beat when I saw this single sentence:
I’m hosting a blogging retreat
IS THIS REAL LIFE?? Hallelujah. Prayer emoji. Hands in the air emoji. Sweet baby Jesus emoji (just go with it, I was on a roll).
Reading on, I was engrossed in the details of what sounded like an experience too good to be true. It wasn’t until I stepped foot into the gorgeous villa that first day that reality sunk in.
It wasn’t too good to be true. It wasn’t even what I envisioned in my dreams (or whilst neurotically staring at the ceiling nervously anticipating the unknown)….
It was better.
Arriving at the Villa, I was met with open arms, smiling faces and a delicious mojito to calm any residual anticipation. It didn’t take long to realize that the TBA team and these aspiring bloggers were going to develop a powerful and lasting connection over the course of the 10 day blogging retreat. Night one and we all just clicked.
During the blogging retreat, 11 badass babes and myself were introduced to another side of the blog industry that we were dying to learn but couldn’t seem to find anywhere else. We eased into the course with WordPress and an introduction to the business, and by the end of the 10 days we were experts in SEO, Brand Collaboration, Photography, Content Strategy, Time Management and Productivity (something so important when working from home and starting your own hustle). We became well versed in every aspect of the beast that is Social Media in 2017 and delved deeply into Kiersten’s successes, failures, lessons learned, and invaluable industry experience.
12 of us girls left the blogging retreat with all the ins and outs and insider tips that Kiersten learned through trial and error in her first two years in the industry. TWO YEARS in TEN DAYS. Plus all the tricks she has acquired since then, ultimately leading her to where she is today.
Some days, my fingers couldn’t type fast enough as I sat there soaking up Kiersten’s knowledge. Looking around the classroom, we all looked like school kids watching a Backstreet Boys concert. Wide eyed and awestruck at the brilliance that is theblondeabroad.
The Blonde Abroad
I had always admired Kiersten and the business she built with TheBlondeAbroad.com. She is relatable, funny, inspiring and informative. But more importantly, and something I found so evident getting to know her, she is a genuine human being that wants the best for people. That was one thing the fellow girls and myself agreed upon and talked at lengths about. We all felt so incredibly blessed that she took the time, with her right hand chica Lauren, to come up with such an incredible blogging retreat for us, carving out 2 weeks of her insanely busy life to share the wealth.
The Blonde Abroad brand is the epitome of authenticity, and I would be hard pressed to find a better mentor to have introduce this business to a group of aspiring bloggers.
Set amongst vibrant, cascading rice terraces and smelling of sweet jasmine, The Palm House Villa is a paradise within a paradise. The villa is straight out of a James Bond movie, complete with floor to ceiling glass windows, concrete walls, outdoor showers with fresh flowers hanging above, and an infinity pool built for Victoria Secret photo shoots.
I can work with this. I can concentrate here. I can create the career I’ve always imagined in this setting. I’m already more relaxed than I have been in years.
The food at the villa (the chef’s come with the rental if you stay there!!) was a pescatarian’s nirvana. Colourful dishes with a balanced mix of western and Indonesian cuisine waited for us before, during and after our intense classroom sessions. Meals were always nutritious and delicious (I know that sounds like a breakfast cereal commercial, but in this case it’s actually true).
From fresh fish, fruit, to the Indonesian deliciousness that is Mie and Nasi Goreng, I was pleasantly surprised with how good the food actually was. I wanted to take one of the chefs home with me in my pocket to cook all my meals for me at home. Those smoothie bowls sure beat the toast and peanut butter I ate this am.
What I Learned – The Takeaways
To express all the lessons learned and knowledge gained from this blogging retreat would warrant it’s own separate website all together. But of the plethora of things, when I step back and look at the person I am after leaving, this is the big and juicy stuff:
HEALTHY MINDSET: The confidence I needed to go in the direction of my dreams.
Imposter Syndrome is real in this business, but every time that creeps in, I close my eyes and think of this experience, I listen to Kiersten’s voice in the back of my head, and I keep typing. I keep moving forward, and keep learning. The experience gave me that mindset, and that is everything to me.
NEW OUTLOOK: Strategy.
For the first time, I look at blogging in a new light. Entrepreneurial. A business. A multi-faceted enterprise. Everything I do now, is done strategically. From the research I put in, to the time I post a photo, to the layout of a blog post, to the schedule in which I operate on a daily basis. I’m still growing, but I know I now have the foundation and the skills to be successful.
SKILLZ on SKILLZ.
Skills I would have never been able to learn on my own, no matter how many times I tried asking google.
Cascading style sheets? Before this I thought those belonged in the bedroom. Search Engine Optimization? For sure, just you know.. optimize the search engine 😐 … Brand Collaborations? I’ll just go hide under a rock because no, I AM NOT reaching out to companies. You crazy.
Those are all thoughts I had before coming to this retreat. Now I’m a mah-effing expert and it feels Ah-mazing.
So if you’re:
- Thinking about taking the plunge and learning some invaluable skills from an industry GURU
- Looking to uplevel your photography, and visit stunning Cape Town
- Just want to spend some time immersed in culture, good vibes and learning valuable skills to better yourself…
- Want to hang out with one of the most inspiring women I’ve met to date then…
In my opinion, you don’t have to look any further than The Blonde Abroad Escapes!
Kiersten is hosting a photography tour in November, and has some exciting new experiences lined up for the new year as well!
Feel free to reach out and ask me any questions!! Would love to help xo,