If three short years ago someone told me that I would one day become a blogger and travel with people I met online, I would have been seriously concerned about my future and my sanity. I barely even knew what a blogger was until I basically became one. And then meeting people online? That seemed sure to become a Dateline story. And although I absolutely love a good Friday night with a glass of wine and Dateline NBC, it’s most definitely NOT the reality star I “hope” to become.
Fast forward to my life today and wow how things have changed. Although I’m the happiest and most “career content” I’ve ever been, to be completely honest, my least favorite question these days is “do you work?” or “you’re a blogger?” and then immediate side eye and head cock. The answer is yes and yes. Although usually my answer is simply “it’s a long story”. Don’t worry, it took Mark a while to get it too.
So while we are on a trip down honesty lane, I would also go as far as to say that these days, I sometimes feel as though most of the world (minus those who know and love me 😉 ) is just as confused by me and my career and my life as they are to this world of blogging. I get it. I totally do. And then about a year ago, in the midst of this crazily exploding blog and social media world of mine, I found a little community. Not your typical neighborhood or mom group. A community called Instagram. A community that actually (for the most part) says amazingly positive things about the work that you post. A community that shares your work and helps you build your “business”. A community that remembers your name and asks about your kids. And it was in that little square icon on my phone that I started “meeting” the most amazing women. Women who shared my exact passions and my exact path.
So let’s fast forward again to last September when I was invited to New York City as a Better Homes & Gardens Stylemaker for 2015 (READ MORE ABOUT THAT HERE). It was there that I actually got to meet one of my IG buddies in real life… Shauna with The House of Silver Lining. And we hit it off immediately. Like chatted all day and hung out all evening. Fast forward again to several months ago when Shauna mentioned a girl’s trip to her beach cottage in Naples, FL with several other bloggers who I had also gotten to know online. It took me about .5 seconds to decide. Tell me when and where and I will be there!
So last Wednesday I packed up and headed to the Atlanta airport solo for the first time ever. That meant I had to actually pay attention to things. For the first time ever… #kiddingnotkidding. I landed in Ft. Myers at 2pm and met Bree with Z Design At Home from Texas and Tana with Your Marketing BFF from Arizona. Shauna picked us up at the airport and we drove to Naples to literally the brightest, cutest and most beautiful not-so-little beach cottage I’ve ever laid eye on…
Our first half-day in Naples, we stopped for a late 3pm lunch at Panera on the way to the cottage and just hung out chatting until we picked up Erin with The Sunny Side Up at the airport around 10pm that evening. The following day, we slept in and then lounged by the pool and chatted for hours and hours and hours. Mark was like “What could y’all possibly have to talk about? You just met!” Shockingly, an absolute TON. From blogging to sharing ideas to venting to simply talking about our families, we literally did not stop for four entire days. And for the record, these ladies are even MORE beautiful, sweet, relatable and encouraging in person as they are behind that little IG square. So honest and real and fun. A breath of fresh air. Thank goodness because I would be stuck with them for the next four days ;-)…
The funniest part was when Erin and I showed up totally twinning in our black one pieces and then realized we had waaaay more in common than even that! From daughters named Addison to the fact that we started dating our hubbies at 14/15, both got married at 20 and both got pregnant at 26. The list kept rolling on and on. Now if only I could get her to ditch sunny San Diego and move across the country to my tiny little town. Or better yet… Whatcha think Mark?
And here’s Shauna lounging on the cutest little flamingo float…
That evening we got all dolled up and hit the town for a late dinner. And as you can only imagine with FIVE bloggers in one house, we took lots of photos! But I cannot even tell you how fun it was to be with girls who love to document their lives through photos as much as I do. At the same time, I cannot even tell you how long it took for ALL five of us to agree on a single photo. We were literally laughing so hard we were crying at how hard on ourselves we each were, and crying always makes for great pictures 😉
The following day I gave each of the girls a “SQUAD” Tee I’d bought for them back home and we headed to the beach! But not before more photos!
And then more photos…
So I know exactly what you are thinking, everything looks so posey and perfect. Well, let me let you in on a little secret, it wasn’t. First, I got to Naples with a sinus infection, then woke up Thursday with a migraine and had to run to Walgreens for a refill on my Imitrex, then Erin and I BOTH woke up with pink eye Saturday morning and had to go to the CVS Minute Clinic on our very last day!!! Just in case you needed a reality check 😉 Other than that it really was SUCH a great trip (minus the humidity you could cut with a knife) and we are already planning our next! Here’s a look at what we did most of the day into the evenings… Pictures, chatting and blogging!
SHOP THIS POST!
Although meeting friends on Instagram may not exactly be the norm, I do think it is SOOO important to find your own “squad” of some sort. Those you can call and vent and chat, those who get you, those in similar careers or situations, friends of any and every kind. And I truly believe that giving yourself that time and having a supportive partner who allows you that time is key. Admittedly in my first days, months and even years of mommyhood, I had a difficult time with that myself as far as finding those friends and even allowing Mark that time with friends. Fast forward eight years and I cannot imagine my life without it. Without that in each of our lives. And although a career is not for every mommy out there, for me it was what I needed and wanted in my life and I’m blessed to have found friends who cross both of those paths with me.
Are you hoping for a similar path and want to grow your Instagram? Here’s my tips…
Although my life has gotten crazy over the last six months or so and I may need to re-read these tips again myself, I can say that I do somewhat know what works… First, seek out those with similar interests/businesses with similar followings (follower numbers) in similar situations. For me, when I first met these ladies, I was/am a home decor blogger with (at that time) around 30k followers with small children. I was able to quickly and easily relate to all of these ladies and build connections. From there, I started following their lives on IG and their blogs as they started to do mine and we commented heavily on each other’s pages. We started hashtag series together and blog hops that not only helped our pages and blogs but also one another’s as well. We re-posted each other’s images to help them gain a following and wrote sweet notes of encouragement to one another often. In the end, I 110% believe that building one another up can ONLY help build you up as well. We are all in this crazy life together and there’s room for us all to grow.
XOXO, Brittany Hayes