Tag Archives: blogging

“Always say yes to the next adventure” – Interview with Susan McNulty of The McVagabonds


Susan and Ryan of The McVagabonds – Photo provided by and used with permission from Susan McNulty

Today’s interview is with Susan McNulty, a travel blogger at The McVagabonds, and a friend of mine. We met during our AmeriCorps VISTA year, and now she and her husband are adventuring in Europe after completing a long road trip from Seattle to Pittsburg!! In this interview, Susan shares about some of her travel and blogging journey so far, one of her ongoing Europe bucket list items, and the best advice she’s ever received.

Name and Blog:
Susan McNulty, half of The McVagabonds!

Fun fact about you:
I love food, both eating and cooking it. I love it so much that I decided to go to culinary school a few years ago, and trained at The Art Institute in Pittsburgh. I have a dream to one day eat my way through France.

Funner fact:
I’m working on getting to all four “corners” of the United States, a list that I made up a couple of years ago after moving to Seattle. I’ve been to Bellingham, Washington (top left); San Diego, California (bottom left); The Everglades, Florida (bottom right). Once we get back to the States next year I hope to make it up to NE Maine to get to all four points!

Funnest fact:
My husband and I are currently on our longest trip together: travelling around Europe for six months! We love to explore new places and have since the day we got married, but this is by far our biggest endeavor to date. We’re using it as a trial run to hopefully spend part of the year travelling from here on out.

What do you think has been essential to your success as a travel blogger?
I’m quite new to the blogging game, so I’m only just now starting to hit my groove. I think I’ve started having little milestones because I’ve been treating it like a job. Every day I have a certain amount of time set aside to write and edit posts, upload photos and reach out to other bloggers via comments. I think it’s been good in many ways, especially with helping to find my voice as a blogger.

What was something that surprised you about blogging?
How much I’m enjoying it! I’ve kept a journal since I was young, so I’ve always had a record of things that have happened in life. But with blogging, my journaling is taken to a whole new level. I’m able to add photos and include more facts and history. Plus I’m able to share my experiences with friends and family which they appreciate, especially when we’re abroad.

If you had to describe your blog in 6 words or less, what would you say? 
A collection of adventures and memories.

Who or what inspires you?
I think travelling, and all of the people I’ve met along the way, inspire me. There’s a big world out there, full of people so different from myself. I love meeting new people and learning from them. They inspire me to be a better, kinder and more conscientious person.

What is your all-time favorite bucket list item (of yours or someone else’s)? 
I have an ongoing bucket list item for our time in Europe: eat one pastry in every city we go to and document it. Before we left Pittsburgh a dear friend of mine told me I had to eat a pastry in Paris all by myself, no sharing with my husband. The idea not only stuck with me but it grew from there! It was the first item on my European bucket list and by far my favorite – who doesn’t love pastries?

If you aren’t doing anything related to travel, what are you doing in your free time? 
I’m an avid reader, so I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting books. I love going into second-hand shops and finding new-to-me books that have a history of their own! I’m also obsessed with my dog, who stays with my parents when we travel. We go for walks, try out new dog parks and area always on the lookout for new doggie recipes.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Always say yes to the next adventure, no matter what it is. Don’t be afraid of life! I’ve been living by this philosophy for the last couple of years, and it’s been working out pretty well so far!

Readers: Join me in thanking Susan for sharing her time, stories, and advice with us! If you want to learn more about her, check out her blog The McVagabonds, with all the links to the usual social media sites.

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How to Get Dreams Out of Your Head

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of two huge blogs. In this keynote speech from the 2013 World Domination Summit, he shares his path to living his dreams and the story of becoming a professional blogger. Or, in his own words:

In this video you’ll see my full keynote and hear about:

  • How I started my first business at 9
  • The words an ex-girlfriend said that changed my life
  • The 4 words that started me blogging and changed the trajectory of my life
  • A close encounter I had with Russell Brand in a mens bathroom
  • Where to look for your ‘next big thing’
  • The two questions I ask myself every day that have unlocked some amazing opportunities for me

Oh – and at the end of the video you’ll see me as you’ll never have seen me before (it involves wearing tights)! [description quoted from ProBlogger.net]

The case for bucket lists: a reflection on Kel Rossiter’s op-ed

Last week an op-ed by Kel Rossiter came out in The Seattle Times, titled “The case against bucket lists.” He’s against bucket lists as he sees most people pursuing them, with his main points being that bucket lists…

  • should be only for people imminently kicking the bucket
  • define and confine us by
    • encouraging people to collect experiences as objects
    • being used like activity resumes for social status

His solution was that bucket lists shouldn’t be a list of things to get through but “a list of things that truly, deeply and authentically inspire us. Let our list be about what we want to do, see, accomplish and learn while we are alive. Beyond define, beyond confine, let our lists liberate us.”

While I react rather defensively to his title and the tone throughout the article, I mostly agree with it (though not the imminently dying part).

So let’s talk about the death issue first. It’s not a topic many people like to talk about. In fact, even saying I have a bucket list makes some people uncomfortable because it reminds them of death.

As far as I know, my death isn’t going to happen any second now. However, I’m aware (as many people are) that death is a daily possibility. I’ve had experiences with the deaths of friends and family members, and I know several people with chronic life-threatening diseases. I also have friends from around the country and the world who live or grew up in circumstances where at any moment, increasingly common violent acts end lives.

Because death is a reality, whether or not I have a doctor saying I’ll die soon, it makes sense to me to appreciate every moment and make the most of the time I’m given, no matter how long it is (I think Kel and I agree on this).

My bucket list (and the retrospective list) help me appreciate many of the things I’ve been able to do, see, and experience, and to remember the people and stories around those events. However, Kel argues that this isn’t the case for most people, that instead of appreciation, it generates “a checklist of accomplishments that can be rattled off at a cocktail party.”

He writes:

“when we begin to view experiences […] as material objects to be placed in a bucket, something of the experience itself dies. Just as you can’t put water in a bucket and call it a river, you can’t put experiences in a bucket and call it life.”

I agree, but based on the people I know, I don’t have the sense that bucket lists cause this type of thinking. Apparently, the bucket list people he meets are very different from those I meet. Those I know (and me too) don’t approach list items as one-and-done collectibles. It’s not saying you “did Seattle” because you went to the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, and drank coffee at the original Starbucks. It’s not doing an activity just for the sake of crossing it off the list because it’s one more thing to brag about.

Yes, sometimes you do things on the list and never do them again, for a variety of reasons. For example, racquetball was on my list (added after I met a few people who really enjoyed it and I thought it might be a good experience). I tried it once, to see what it was like, and I never plan on playing again, because I really didn’t like it. But that’s the same the approach I use when deciding to pursue recreational activities whether they’re on my list or not.

Perhaps that’s the difference – the bucket list shouldn’t be a checklist of things that’s separate from our regular lives yet somehow still represents “truly living.” Instead, it should be a part of enjoying “the liberating world of play,” as Ken writes, “that captures the individual imagination” and inspires personal growth.

I’ve had people scoff at my list because I include so many “little things” like riding in a convertible, learning to flip/twirl a pen around my fingers, or eating in a restaurant on my own. It seems to me that those are the people that Kel is upset with, the flashy goal-gathering achievers that value only big accomplishments rather than celebrate daily experiences.

My list contains both big and small goals, and only the goals that truly spark something in my mind make it to my list, regardless of whether they’re things other people think should be on there. Despite having this public goal list blog, my list is really only for me. It helps me remember the things I want to do and to keep focused on making the most of the days I have, instead of wasting time on social media or video games.

Online, I use my blog as a place to write regularly, which is my most-loved hobby, and as a way to inspire other people to achieve their dreams. In real life, while I talk about my list often, it’s usually (I’m not perfect) because I want to find common ground to start a conversation (we all have dreams and things we want to do, whether or not we have it in an official list).

My list has helped me become more confident, more open to other people, and less afraid of new experiences. When I talk with other people pursuing life goals in a similar way, they tell me about experiences that have also challenged and developed them as people.

There’s a driving force in all of us, something that pushes us to want to experience more, and more deeply. Kept within healthy boundaries, this doesn’t prevent us from experiencing life as it’s happening, but can help us to live inspired and intentional lives, not for bragging rights, but for personal growth, as Kel encourages.

So he’s not really making a case against bucket lists as the title claims. He’s just cautioning us to make sure it doesn’t become the end goal itself, or get in the way of what’s really important. And that’s definitely something we can agree on.