“Hunt for the un-Googleable.”
Sophy Roberts, journalist and author of The Lost Pianos of Siberia, was sitting in front of packed bookshelves, talking about travel writing. I was sitting curled up on my living room couch with my laptop in front of me, watching her talk about this form of writing in a way I’d never heard anyone discuss the genre before.
The online Arvon class felt almost academic, as Sophy’s words pushed me to think more deeply about what travel writing is and can be. But the one phrase that stuck with me, popping into my head unbidden in the weeks and months afterwards, was this one: “Hunt for the un-Googleable.”
When it comes to the blogging world, the idea of something being “un-Googleable” is heresy, the worst possible outcome. Everyone is constantly talking about SEO, algorithm updates, and which keywords will get you to the coveted top spot on the first page of search results.
Maybe that’s why the phrase stuck with me, and appealed to me so much, because the truth is (whisper it) I don’t really care about that side of blogging.
That technical aspect is important, of course, but it feels to me like a side show to the real thing – to the writing. What I care about are the stories: stories that I find interesting, and think other people might enjoy too. Places that have histories I want to learn more about, and people that have fascinating tales to tell.
I had grand plans for the blog this year. Publish at least one blog post a month! Update the most popular blog posts from the archives! Redesign the entire site! Share more travel photos! As you can see, these plans never really came to fruition: I’ve been busy in my day job, and outside of it my writing often felt bogged down by the list of non-writing tasks that come with publishing a blog post (the tech updates, the formatting, the keywords, the social media).
As I mark 12 years of writing at Stories My Suitcase Could Tell, I might not be meeting the lofty goals I set at the start of the year, but I’m okay with that. As writers further along the road than me always say, it’s not really about the finished product. It’s about the process: the process of getting the words on the page, even if no-one else has seen them yet. And I love that process. There is nothing quite like the feeling I get when a sentence finally flows, or the haphazard pieces of an article click together cleanly.
Besides, I have got a lot of words down on the page this year.
I’ve written in the early mornings before work, in local cafes on weekends with cookies to keep me motivated, in snatched minutes at lunchtime at the kitchen island. Since November 2022, I’ve written six blog posts and countless articles, including interviews with best-selling author Karen Swan, Scottish artist Hope Blamire, travel blogger Kay Gillespie of The Chaotic Scot, and Immerse Hebrides founder Norma Macleod.
And my 12th year of blogging has seen some milestones of its own, even if the blog posts have been less frequent than ever. In the spring, I received an email from Coinneach Macleod (AKA the Hebridean Baker), asking if I would contribute a short piece about my favourite “secret” Outer Hebridean location to his new cookbook, The Hebridean Baker at Home. (Luckily for everyone involved, he wasn’t asking me for a recipe!). Although I haven’t seen the book in person yet, I’ve seen photos from its release in the UK last month, and to have my words printed in a real-life book? Wow. That’s pretty much all 8-year-old Katie ever dreamed of (as well as seeing the world, of course).
In the last few months, I’ve also been named as a finalist in three different industry awards: the Travel Media Awards, for my interview with Coinneach in Scottish Islands Explorer; the AITO Awards, for my blog post about Eastwind Hotel in New York; and the Traverse Creator Awards, for my piece on an autumn weekend in Lisbon.
These moments will never stop feeling surreal to me.
In a year when I’ve at times felt a bit unsure of my writing, these nods of recognition have meant a lot – as have the notes from you, whether in the comments here, on Facebook and Instagram, or in replies to my newsletter. Writing is for the most part a solitary and unglamorous pastime (I’m writing this at 6.30am in my pyjamas!), but the community that has grown up around this wee corner of the internet since I started it at the kitchen table in Lewis 12 years ago means so, so much to me.
Sometimes I can’t quite believe everything that has happened in the last 12 years as a result of this blog, from interviewing celebrities on red carpets and staying in some of the world’s best hotels, to sharing my love for the Outer Hebrides with all of you who feel the same. And I want to keep telling all these stories – especially the “un-Googleable” ones – even if that means at a slower pace, for many more years to come.
“Hunt for the un-Googleable.” I think that’s a pretty good mantra to take into the next year of Stories My Suitcase Could Tell. Here’s to year 13…!