Four years of dreaming and doing

Taj Mahal, Agra, India.

This was the photo on the original Breathedreamgo blog header.

Celebrating the four-year “blogiversary” of Breathedreamgo

TODAY, AUGUST 23, is the four-year anniversary of Breathedreamgo. Back in August 2009, I rushed my web designer / builder, Jennifer Johannesen of, to get it ready to launch on Ganesh Chaturthi, birthday of the elephant-headed god of luck and auspicious beginnings.

lord-ganapathi-picture-ganesh-wallpapersAugust 23 was the day the site was launched, but of course the idea for it was born much earlier. I started blogging, casually, when I first travelled in India in 2005-2006. I have written about this journey many times, including in My StoryA woman’s voice and 7 years of blogging. I was at the lowest ebb of my life, when I thought I might be finished with life, and needed to do something to get my life re-started. So I decided to take a huge leap of faith and go travelling, to India, for six months.

It worked: The trip gave me a muse (India), got me writing, connected me with a long-buried wanderlust and kick-started my life in so many ways. But as many people discover, sometimes the real journey begins when you get home. Since arriving back in Toronto in June, 2006, my life has taken a completely different course, with some highs and lows that have totally surprised me.

Pitfalls on the road less travelled

There is a reason it is called the road less travelled, the path less travelled. It is not easy to step off the straight-and-narrow and live by your wits and your heart’s desire, as I have done these last few years, and especially since launching Breathedreamgo.

When I got back from my first trip, I was still not fully recovered from losing my mother (will I ever be?). And I was determined to finally try and become the writer I always wanted to be. The writer I always felt I was meant to be. But my timing was god-awful. I was launching out on my writing career as the publishing world was flailing in the wake of the digital revolution.

I persisted, as writing was a compelling desire, a huge piece of unfinished business that was taking up most of my emotional energy, and I was flailing too. And then I had an epiphany.

In June 2009, I was at a conference for authors and publishers and the atmosphere was dreadful; doom and gloom hung in the air like a bad smell. On the third day of the conference, I didn’t want to return, didn’t want more torture … but as I was in the shower I suddenly saw that to be the writer I wanted to be, I had to establish myself on the internet, and make a name for myself. And then the words “breathe dream go” dropped in my mind, like they had been put there by some outside force.

I jumped out the shower wet and naked and ran to the computer to search the name, and finding it completely unique, buy the domain, get the gmail account, and everything else I could think of.

Making it up as I went along

And then I spent the summer trying to decide what BreatheDreamGo would be, and went through several ideas until I settled on a WordPress-based blog. I didn’t even clearly have the idea of a travel blog in my mind, just a place to practise writing and pursue my obsessions and become a platform for the print writing I still wanted to do.

Photograph of me signing Song of India by Yianni Tong

Photograph of me signing Song of India by Yianni Tong

But as the blogosphere evolved do did I, and so did Breathedreamgo and it slowly metamorphosized into what it is today. I re-launched it several more times, with a new design, updated back-end and clearer focus. And over the past four years, as the travel blogging profession materialized from the margins, and social media exploded, I made Breathedreamgo an active travel blog, and became part of that world, co-founding Toronto Travel Massive, founding WeGoSolo and even training to become a certified travel agent.

I’ve spent everything I’ve got, poured all my time, money, energy, passion and talent into this career, travel writing, and this blog, Breathedreamgo.

And now as I am sitting here on the eve of my fourth blogiversary, I am wondering if it was worth it. Pursuing my dreams has often been a nightmare, in fact. There is a reason it’s called the road less travelled. I’ve suffered more professional rejection than I ever thought possible. I’ve read more emails and had more meetings with people who wanted something from me, but wanted to give almost nothing in return, than I ever thought possible. I have not made any gains financially — in fact, the contrary. Sitting at my computer most of the day and evening has contributed detrimentally to my spinal health, and I’ve put on weight. I probably spend too much time alone.

I have had successes, too, and some of those are greater than I ever thought possible. My biggest successes I cannot share with you, because they are emails I get regularly from people who are inspired by my writing. These are my emotional paycheques and I treasure them. My second biggest joy is the many, many sensitive, intelligent and thoughtful comments people leave on my blog and on my social media channels. I am very proud that I attract these people; I wish I could tell each of them how much their words mean to me.

Breathedreamgo is top India travel blog on Google

Another career milestone: making it to number 1 on Google for search term “India travel blog”

I’m proud to have been published in some excellent magazines and newspapers (though not for awhile now, as I grew demoralized from sending query letters that were never answered). I’m proud to have been interviewed by some of the world’s leading media outlets. I’m proud that I have managed to wrap my head around the technical aspects of running a blog to the degree that my SEO is really working: Breathedreamgo now ranks as number 1, or close to number 1, for the search term “India travel blog.” It wasn’t that long ago I was on page six.

I’ve won awards for Breathedreamgo — the first time in my life I have ever won awards. A recent high, and one of the milestones of my career, was being featured as part of the India Today cover story, in their independence day issue (if you don’t know, India Today is the Time Magazine of India). I am very proud that my blog is well-received in India, where foreigners’ writing is often criticized for being too romantic, or too judgmental, or too off-base.

India Today, travel, Mariellen Ward, Jaipur, Rajasthan

A career milestone: featured in India Today, August 15, 2013

But I think the thing I am most proud of is that I just went out there and did it. I threw my heart and soul into my travel writing, especially my writing about my transformative journeys in India, and into becoming a better writer, and building Breathedreamgo. And I threw myself into the fray of learning how to successfully navigate the choppy waters of social media; and how to become internet savvy and technically proficient; and how to monetize and become a smart businessperson. And. And. And.

Before I went to India for six months in 2005, I had never been on a big trip like that. And before I launched Breathedreamgo, I had never created anything I deeply cared about. I have never staked myself to something, going through all the euphoria and despair of trying to succeed. It is painful, exciting, humbling, life-changing and aging.

I don’t know what the future will bring — right now it feels like I will need a miracle to prosper in the financial sense. But at least I will not regret taking “the one less traveled by.”

Thank you for coming along with me

Thanks to everyone reading, and everyone who’s ever read, and especially to everyone who’s ever commented or sent me emails or supported my projects. You know who you are.

And a special shout-out to my sister, Victoria Ward (whose blog about the arts is coming along nicely) and to photographer Andrew Adams, whose photos often grace this blog, and to Michael Tieso of Travel Blog Success, who is the only person I let under the hood of Breathedreamgo.

P.S. Watch this commencement speech by writer Neil Gaiman, who says everything I would like to say about being a creative professional. But so much better.

If you enjoyed this post, you can….

Get updates and read additional stories on the Breathedreamgo Facebook page.

Buy Song of India, a collection of 10 feature stories about my travels in India. E-book version is now only $1.99.

Subscribe to the free — and inspiring! — e-newsletter, Travel That Changes You.

16 Responses to Four years of dreaming and doing

  1. Destination Infinity August 23, 2013 at 6:44 am #

    I can safely tell you that I measure up to your standards at least in one aspect – The financial aspect 😛 I have stopped bothering about it nowadays and I just take the take the guided route. I am no longer able to determine what blog post is published on my blog and when – not even that!

    BTW, congrats on being featured on India Today. I will check if the backdated edition is available for purchase in any shop nearby here…

    Destination Infinity

  2. Prasad Np August 23, 2013 at 7:15 am #

    Congratulations Mariellen, and wishing you many more milestones of success in the coming years. Indeed a lot of hard work and passion has gone in building Breathedremgo into what it it is today,.
    Prasad Np recently posted..Lizards Seen in Hyderabad in South IndiaMy Profile

  3. Sylvia Fraser August 23, 2013 at 8:13 am #

    Congrats, Mariellen, your list of accomplishments is a long one, and I’ve been privileged to watch you grow as a writer and a person. I’m sorry that you haven’t had the financial breakthrough that you need to look forward to a tenth & twentieth anniversary. The mills of the gods grind slowly.

  4. Andi August 23, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    Congrats!! I hope you’re so proud of yourself. 🙂

  5. Caroline @ Traveling 9 to 5 August 23, 2013 at 11:03 am #

    Congrats on 4 years! Beautifully written post – I agree with the simple fact of being proud that you did it! You threw caution to the wind and made your dream come true – not many people can say that! Good luck on the next 4 years 🙂

  6. Vinayakan Aiyer August 23, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

    Hi Mariellen,

    10 minutes into meeting you…I knew you are perhaps the most sensitive person I have met in my life. Just the person I am …I may have done or said things that may not vibe well with a sensitive person. But at all times…I have had this admiration/reverence I have not given to any writer in my life.

    It just takes someone very, very special (like you) to write about India. Some of the western travel writers who have made a big name for themselves writing about India – I find them rather pedestrian. I will not go past second page of their books….but to your blog, I come back….again and again…just like you go back to India again and again.

    You were born to write. You were born to tell India’s story to the world – which is the most complicated job in the world but only a sensitive person can do that job….and you my friend – totally excel in it.

    Warmest regards, Vinayakan
    Vinayakan Aiyer recently posted..Pro Single IdeaMy Profile

    • Mariellen Ward August 23, 2013 at 10:51 pm #

      V, it is you who are a special sensitive person, and it is me who is lucky to have met you, bless you. I hope we will always be friends.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..Surrendering to the Goa vibeMy Profile

  7. Shivya August 23, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

    Congratulations Mariellen! The heart and soul you pour into your blog shows in your every post, and continues to inspire me. I love how you refer to them as “emotional paychecks”, and I think there are only a lucky few who go through life receiving their fair share. You deserve every bit of success that comes your way.

    See you back in India soon! x
    Shivya recently posted..Suryagarh, Jaisalmer: A Splash of Royalty in The Desert.My Profile

  8. shubhajit August 23, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    I wish you very best for your endeavor.

  9. Doreen Pendgracs August 23, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    Hi Mariellen: Congrats on all your milestones. I certainly know how difficult it can be, and how hard you have worked.

    May the future bring you much abundance spiritually, professionally, and financially.
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted..come Chocolatouring with us to SwitzerlandMy Profile

  10. Alana - Paper Planes August 23, 2013 at 8:24 pm #

    This was one of the most open and honest posts about blogging I’ve read recently – thank you and good luck for the next 4 years!

  11. Renuka August 24, 2013 at 3:33 am #

    Congratulations on your success! I really like the way you write! I read your posts on Delhi and it felt great to know about my city from someone else 🙂 After reading it from your viewpoint, I feel like going back to Delhi and rediscovering it!
    Renuka recently posted..7 Offbeat Experiences In Our ‘Touristy’ DestinationsMy Profile

  12. Shalu Sharma August 24, 2013 at 7:59 am #

    Well done Mariellan. Your blog is very resourceful and I am a frequent visitor as you would know. Would love to meet you one day, I am sure we will cross paths one day. Best wishes to you.
    Shalu Sharma recently posted..A study trip to India becomes sexual harassment tripMy Profile

  13. wanderingeducators August 24, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

    Love this. And thank you for sharing your journey – it is inspiring!
    wanderingeducators recently posted..Not all of China eats rice!My Profile

  14. moumita August 26, 2013 at 1:21 am #

    your writing always inspires me and help me to fall in love with my own country once more…many a times I have seen India though your eyes and everytime I saw it it rekindles in me the joy of living into this beautiful world

  15. Srivaidya November 12, 2013 at 6:35 am #

    Hello Sir,
    I like this post and the Content of this Blog is really Nice. It’s a knowledge Based Blog.
    Thanks for share this type of Blog.

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