On New Year’s Day, I realised I wasn’t going to meet my deadline.

I’d approached my book with the best of intentions: I was going to document the writing process through a series of blog posts; I was going to remain active and post once a week; I was going to continue with my freelancing; and I was going to finish the final draft of my manuscript months in advance. What it came down to was that I didn’t want to let you guys down. I didn’t want the site to become a graveyard full of monthly summaries and silence. I wanted to continue with what I’d always done, just with a couple of extra hours of book writing thrown in every evening.

I signed my publishing contract in September, a few weeks into a two-month stint in Chiang Mai. I even managed to finish my first draft a few days before I left. 80,000 words in two months. 80,000 clumsy, awkward words that were so terrible I wouldn’t show them to anyone. But it was fine. I had plenty of time to work on my edits.

So I decided to travel for the rest of the year. Because that makes sense, I know. I didn’t realise until the day after arriving in sweltering Yangon that it was near-impossible to write a book while travelling. There was too much sensory overload and too much to process for me to pull myself into a writing frame of mind. After a day spent exploring the incredible temples of Bagan, how could I possibly sit down in my guesthouse that night, deliriously happy, and write about how it felt to be sexually assaulted by a backpacker in Laos?

I flew home in December, and I couldn’t bear to sit myself in front of my laptop over Christmas and New Year’s. I was getting to see my family for the first time in half a year and I wasn’t going to be rude. I was introducing Dave to my favourite parts of London in the hope I could transform his disliking of the city into love. I had friends to see, who I’d been planning to meet up with all year. I had dozens of freelance deadlines looming. I was trying to keep this site alive.

I’ll start editing tomorrow, I’ll start editing tomorrow, I’ll start editing tomorrow.

Lauren at Shwedagon Pagoda
This is the face of someone who’s pretending they don’t have a book to write

So, New Year’s Day.

On New Year’s Day, I sat down and was horrified to discover I didn’t have enough time. I had my first four chapters polished and finished — roughly 20,000 words — and I had 15 left to write/edit. In six weeks. 60,000 words in six weeks.

On top of that, I sent my finished chapters to a few people and their feedback told me I needed to rewrite everything. So I started from scratch. 80,000 words in six weeks.

Commence meltdown.

Insomnia is Kind of Awful

I’d never really suffered from insomnia before but at that moment, it hit me hard. I switched to an 18 hour workday with six hours of sleep. Up at 6 a.m., to bed at midnight. The problem was, when I immersed myself in something so deeply, it was hard to just switch off my brain. Instead, I’d lay with my eyes squeezed shut while my brain thought of alternative phrases to everything I’d written. The next morning, after two hours of sleep, I’d drag myself out of bed while it was still dark, open my laptop and start the next 18 hours.

I Cried a Lot

Whenever I was taking a break from writing, I’d head to Amazon and read the one star reviews of other travel memoirs, applying them to mine. “Everyone’s going to hate my book!” I’d wail at Dave for the 92nd time that hour.

My Relationship Became Strained

You know what’s a killer aspect all guys look for in girlfriends? Someone who doesn’t go outside, can only talk about one subject, cries all day, and fidgets all night. If I could do this again, I’d write my book in a different country to Dave. It’s the closest we’ve come to breaking up.

Highs. Lows. Highs. Lows.

A typical five minutes worth of emotions while I was writing: Euphoria! Depression! Relief! Crushing self-doubt! Terror! Confidence! Panic Attack! I’d alternate between thinking, “Hey, I actually quite like this. I’m pretty proud of this after all.” and, “I’m the worst writer in the world! Nobody’s going to buy this! I don’t even know how to write a book! I’m only going to get one star reviews!” How Not to Write a Travel Memoir — my next project.

And the Panic Attacks

It’s ridiculous that writing a book about how I conquered anxiety gave me the worst anxiety of my life.

What’s Outside Like? My Skin is Transparent

When I was eight years old, my teacher gave everyone in my class five different plants to place around their house. The aim was to expose them to different living conditions and see which ones would thrive. I put one by the window, one outside, one in the bathroom, and one in the airing cupboard. I put the final one in the dark, cold cupboard beneath the stairs, and I am that plant.

I look like a vampire and I think I’m wilting.

My Laptop Almost Died

I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had because, let’s face it, these things have a way of happening to me.

First there was the ominous “Service Battery” notification.

Then my laptop stopped showing me how much charge I had left in said battery — it kept turning off at random times while I had no idea what was happening.

Then I dropped my charger and it broke in half. But somehow it still works if I hold it in the wall.

Against the Odds, I did It

I emailed the final draft of my manuscript to my editor four minutes before midnight on the day of my deadline. I wasn’t expecting to feel anything but exhaustion but I broke down in tears the moment I hit send. I was proud, euphoric, excited, terrified, anxious, sleep-deprived, and a thousand other emotions I can’t put into words. In case you missed my Facebook update, here are the during and after photos of the book writing process.

Now I’ve just got to pull myself through the editing stages with my publisher.

I Deleted and Re-Wrote This Post Multiple Times

Because my god am I privileged. Like, for reals I’ve just sat here and written a thousand words on how my life is so tough because I have a book deal, and I can afford to take months off to work on my book, and I have a supportive family and boyfriend, and THE SUCCESS IS TOO MUCH. I panic whenever I write a post like this because I feel like I come across as a spoilt, whiny brat.

I want to acknowledge that this is all an unbelievable first world problem, but I also want to explain my absence, and give you a behind-the-scenes look at what things are like behind the smiles and sunsets and Instagram photos of Spain.

I Moved to Spain!

I needed a base, and Spain felt like the perfect fit. I needed to stop travelling to finish my book and I wanted to experiment with nesting. Whenever Dave and I sit and talk about the future, the conversation inevitably shifts onto wanting a home we can return to between trips, and wanting to own more than five items of clothing. Just, I guess, wanting to own something.

We moved to Granada as an experiment. We have friends here. The weather is great. It’s cheap. The food is delicious. I can speak around a thousand words of Spanish. Mostly related to items in the classroom, but it’s the most fluent I am in a second language.

So, go on. Ask me about Spain. Ask me about Granada.

“*Mumble mumble*. The Alhambra? *Mumble*” would be my response.

I’ve been in Granada for two months and seen the streets that lead the way to the nearest supermarket. I’ve been to about four restaurants. The good part is that I’m spending something like $700 a month here.

But now I’m free and I’m ready to explore. I’ve got another two months here and I’ll be taking advantage of the free tapas while remembering what it’s like to be outside. Who knows, maybe I’ll visit the Alhambra, too.

2015: All About Europe

I’m not sure if I’m surprised I quickly discovered I’m not in any way ready to settle down yet. Whenever I get myself a base, I euphorically declare that I want to stop moving. The feeling lasts for around two months.

I’m restless already. After a month in London and two months in Granada, I’m spending more time plotting routes across Europe than I am working. Buying a house somewhere cheap and having a place to call my own sounds incredible but I’m certain I’d end up spending two months a year there and the rest of my time travelling. That kind of seems like a waste of money right now.

Travel makes me happy. I’m not ready to stop yet.

I’ll be in Granada until May, and the rest of the year will be spent hopping around the continent to a mix of familiar favourites and new destinations. First stop, The Netherlands, followed by a brief jaunt around Scandinavia before returning to the UK for my birthday in June. I’m going to try and cram a visit to Paris in there somewhere because that’s got to be my biggest travel oversight. I can’t believe I’ve never been!

From there, I’m going to spend time in Iceland, Italy, and Slovenia up until September when I’ll be all about the solo travel. Dave’s turning 40 this year and is planning on walking the Camino de Santiago across Spain for 4-6 weeks to celebrate. I originally planned on doing the same but on a different route, so that we could have a shared experience while keeping things solo, but then I remembered I don’t like walking. Instead, I’m hoping to explore more of Eastern Europe. I’ve already set my sights on Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Greece.

Lauren's sprained and swollen ankle
This is usually what happens when I try new things. I fall over and can’t walk for months.

Personal Challenges: New Things

If you’ve read anything I’ve posted on the site, you’ll know I have a gaping chasm where my life experience should be, even after four years of travel. 2015 is the year where I rectify this.

52 new things in 52 weeks.

Throughout the year, I’m going to be forcing myself out of my comfort zone in an attempt to gain more life experience. The only rules I’ve given myself are that it has to be something I’ve never done before (obvs.), it has to be something that scares me, and it has to be something I wouldn’t have done last year.

At the end of the year, I’ll be publishing a huge post to share everything I did and how it affected me. If I’m still alive, that is.

San Ignacio, Belize

A Change of Direction

Travel blogging makes me happy. A lot happier than freelance writing does. Setting book writing aside for a moment, I’ve been focusing more on the latter over the past couple of years and it hasn’t been enjoyable.

Of course, the issue then becomes, how am I supposed to make money? Working on Never Ending Footsteps as my sole job is the dream but I don’t make all that much money from it and shouldn’t I be diversifying rather than shrinking my income streams?

Just like trying to decide if I want to travel non-stop or buy a house, I’m a mess when it comes to what I want to do work-wise. Is this what it’s like to be a millennial? I’m so confused.

It’s made even more confusing by knowing that Never Ending Footsteps is doing better than ever. Despite having posted something like 10 times in 2014, my traffic is at its highest, I’m making more money than ever — though it’s still meagre in comparison to my freelancing — and… I can’t think of anything else. Let’s just say things are better all round.

What I’m trying to say is that I didn’t uproot my life back in the UK so I could do something that makes me miserable. While I’m not going to focus solely on this site for now, I’m going to be portioning a lot more of my energy over here.

What does this mean for you? After I finish going through the edits with my publisher this month, I’ll be back open for business and writing more posts than ever!

And Finally

You guys. I have the best readers in the world. Thank you so much for your patience and understanding while I let myself turn into into a hermit. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the hundreds of supportive emails and Facebook messages and Tweets you sent to cheer me on. They helped me get through one of my toughest times in recent years and I’m so appreciative. I can’t wait to share How Not to Travel the World with you all!

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