Back to the Island

photo (52)

I sat in an immaculate hall of baubeled, eager bloggers pimping business cards and SEO tips at conference last month as an alien creature. Jeans, flannel, blistered fingers, burned palms, unattended hair. A seeming “nobody” in this menagerie of women spreading glitter and glean. Panelists taught what made a blog “popular” or “successful” through steps and systems, how to reel in the best sponsorhip deals, follow trends, and network while still “telling your story” through authentic narrative. I was drawing sandcastles in my notebook when it hit me. I was bored. Out of my mind. Not above any of it, just completely disinterested. 48 hours earlier I sat in the walk-in freezer at work, smelling of curry and deli meat, with a dear friend who is losing her mother. My two lives felt so starkly contrasted and conflicting. As a way to compartmentalize it all I decided that I wasn’t a blogger. The title felt like an epithet in my stomach with all the peacocking about, the fake humility, the who’s whoing. It wasn’t not real, it just wasn’t real for me. The lanyard around my neck read “blog like a boss,” which made me think that on some level I was a total and complete crasher of this party; a lady with a blog, who is not a boss, and tries to take her online life as seriously as she does her laundry detergent: all-natural, highly concentrated, and effective for a diversity of loads. I reveled in my outsider status, treating the conference as a gift and privelege to observe a beautiful and interesting club I will never really (nor need to) fit into. Here’s what I walked away with and want you to know: don’t subscribe to any dogma or outlook that has set out guidelines for you on how to get it right (life, relationships, your blog, etc). It just don’t work like that sista. Do away with the presets for happiness, success, beauty, etc. that influence your decisions, punctuate your thoughts, and shape the way you experience your life or the world. Be nutty. Be different. Don’t fit in. Be an Erin Brockovich.

I returned home in late January and put “it” all on the shelf. I was stimulated, concerned, excited, and without a real clue as to what it all meant or how I needed to move forward. Not just with the blog, but, oh, you know, just my entire life. Although I’d like to say the distance I put between me and this space was based on intuition, deliberate mindfulness practice, or some sort of Chris McAndless “let’s blow this popsicle stand” mentaility, it was more a product of real life demanding that I dedicate all of my emotional and physical resources to being a touching, tasting, hugging, cheerleading, apologizing, crying on the kitchen floor with a cookie and IPA sort of human. The kind of friend/daughter/partner that really was in the weeds asking tough questions, listening hard, and falling flat on her ass trying to comprehend what it is people seek and understand about love, loss, and their place in this world. I guess it was convenenient how time and the omniscient universe swept me away from the blog and the stirrings of the conference and into the crevices of my soul. There I found new truths and difficult realities that challenge everything I thought I knew about myself and others. The further away being “busy” and exhausted took me from Happyolks though, the more afraid I was to come back. How do I come back to an entity that forms so much of my identity, my passion, my deep and incessant desire to teach and learn that somehow now also terrifies me in it’s wonderful-ness? Honestly it’s the potential. In some way Happyolks represents the island where all the best parts of who I am and where I’m going live, and, right now, I’m treading water off the coast of that island looking at it and making sense of how I want to return and rearrange the furniture. Furniture… on an island. Yeah. Let’s go with it.

I was talking to my Dad on the phone the other day, trying to sort through so much of what has been flowing in and out of my life, so much of what I’m still just sitting in, waiting on, not ready to breech with you all here yet, and I told him that I felt like there was just too much. Too much of everything. Too much to say, but no real way to put it all together. No bows. No pretty message yet. Then I realized, with Dad’s help, that this unfinished business, this non-pretty writing and thinking is kinda what I’m after in the first place. Living a life interesting and challenging enough to write about, no matter how regularly or coherently that sort of life can be expressed. More bow-less, real life. Something that the majority of people can sink their teeth into. Not the promotion of some pinterestified version of living where we’re all regularly enjoying farm-to-table dinners in the middle of an open field in upstate New York with the sort of friends who look like they stepped out of an Anthropologie catalog. No. Not that life. Quite frankly I am suspicious of any person or entity that sells this hyper-kinfolked idea of honest living or community or happiness. It’s pretty, sure, but does it make you feel whole, does it light a fire in your belly, does it make you feel less alone? Doubtful. We are so much more than that. It glosses and reduces our realities to the easy, flowy, wind in your hair parts. That’s important, needed, but I want the big picture for you and for me. The tethered bits of the big picture and how, in that big picture, there are stretches when we don’t have time to shave our legs or take out the trash in the bathroom and, more than a trendy new speakeasy-style bar downtown, we rather enjoy a quiet night at home in our college sweatpants with carry-out Saag Paneer because the week nearly knocked us off our feet.

Shaun left for Chile this afternoon. I leave in 11 days and we will meet again to hike the 52-mile Torres Del Paine Circuit (see training photo above). Did you hear that giant sigh I just let out? It’s bringing me back closer to the island, I can already feel it teaching me how to swim forward again. We went out to dinner last night and considered squeezing in a shoot for ricotta scones and blood orange curd between one last trip to REI and the bank this morning before his flight. It has been the conversation of the past six weeks. Can we post? No. Not enough time. Too much. Best not rush it. Have faith. The build-up and the lack of emotional and physical resources to commit to you and this space is 150 percent reflective of the imbalance that is nearing treacherous levels in all aspects of my life these days. And that, my friends, is real. For so many of us. It is the tethered bits. It is the big picture. We lose our balance. We get lost. We laugh and we cry and we try and we do, eventually, figure it out. I’m here to tell you that it won’t be until the end of March that you hear from me again. When I return, I promise you this: it will be good. In the meantime, go live out and cherish the tethered and worn out bits of your life. You’re my hero for them and you don’t even know it.

  1. Winnie

    You are one of my very favorite things about the interwebs so don’t you dare ever change. Yours in “realness”, W


  2. Winnie

    ps. I hate Kinfolk.


  3. kelly

    “Non-pretty writing?” I think not. Your writing always strikes me no matter what you have to say and you’ve eloquently expressed what I have struggled with for so long. I’ve had some success creating distance but have such a long way to go. You just may have given me the push I needed — or my tethered and worn out bits, anyway. And I have a lot of those.


  4. Heather

    Lovely words. I love how you’re not afraid to speak the truth. All the best in Chile. Look forward to your return.


  5. Ashlae

    Well. One thing I know for certain: I fucking adore you to the moon and back.

    Oh, and if you need help rearranging the furniture on the island, lemme know. I’ve become quite the expert furniture rearranger. I don’t think rearranger is a word, but let’s pretend it is. Like those silly people who pretend they have effortlessly perfect lives and perfect hair, who attend dinners with perfectly set tables in a forest out in the middle of nowhere.

    What an exhausting way to live life. See you soon, darling.


  6. Ashley

    I have so much I want to say to this but the truth is I want to sit with you on the couch with warm drink in hand and talk about it face to face. I’d like that. So I’ll leave it brief – YES! Yes to your honesty. Yes to your call for the reality – the beauty and the ugly.
    Can’t wait to see and hear about your trip.


  7. Tiffany

    Honest words — very rare. Thank you for sharing. Until we hear from you again, have a great journey.


  8. Jacqui

    Your writing, and this space, have a realness that just doesn’t exist in many other places. It’s so good. Thanks for this.


  9. Jessica

    I could write you a novel in response to this post, but I’m ready to shut off the computer. To put it down more quickly, and simply—you’re amazing.


  10. Shanna

    Damn. That was good. You say so much I wish I knew how to say, but better than I would say it. Yes to the realness, to the searching, to the sometimes imbalance of daily life. Yes.


  11. Michelle

    Have a fabulous trip with as clear of a head as you can. Those scones can wait. Thanks for your beautiful, real words.


  12. Hannah Nicole

    And this is perhaps why I love your site so much. Honesty. Everything you said resonates with my heart. THANK YOU.


  13. sara

    you are you spectacularly, honest, genuine, self are the reason I adore this space. I always feel slightly less crazy when I read your stuff. Not because I relate exactly, but because I can’t make sense of the chaos I feel in my head. All the emotion and fear and confusion has no name, but then I read how you process and it makes me feel human. Still crazy, maybe in company of crazy, but the best kind of crazy because it means we are living and moving and experiencing. Thank you for making my life better by sharing your thoughts here. I have utmost respect for you, Kelsey Brown. Prayers and good juju for you two on your trip. Anxious to hear all about it. xoxo


  14. Laura

    Thank you. That was needed fresh air to me. I’m so so curious about your adventures and will be here when you return. :)


  15. Ashley

    Wow, oh wow, this post. You have such a way of expressing your thoughts, it is truly magnificent and unique. I read your words and can barely comprehend how you make sense of it all (this life thing) and at the same time have the ability to clearly write about it in a way that resonates with everyone who reads. Although, I will say you totally just burst my hip-vintage-dinner-in-the-woods bubble. I already have my outfit picked out and everything. 😉 Thank you for all that you do here! I cannot wait to see you back here (and maybe in Denver!) in March. In the meantime, have a BLAST!


  16. Jacqui

    Oh I just want to give you the biggest hug ever right now! And I would have been in the exact same position as you at one of those blog conferences. Totally out of place and bored! Probably why I’ve never gone.
    You, lovely lady, I know will have such a great trip! p.s. I’m a little jealous.


  17. Lana Pribic

    God Damn. How do you do it? How do you find that brutally honest voice inside of yourself, trust it, and follow it??!! You are incredible and a true inspiration.

    The whole kinfolk-esque lifestyle has been taking over the internet this past year and it’s so hard to avoid. I started off smitten and totally influenced by all of it, but lately have been finding myself, also, feeling skeptical and second guessing what it offers. Well, pretty pictures are pretty pictures, and everyone loves a pretty picture, but what is beyond there? Is it truth or is it a staged story claiming to be truth? Cause I am only interested in the former. But why the scepticism?

    I have been trying hard to find a reason for my recent reluctance to buy the magazine (not that you’re necessarily talking about the magazine as I am, I know), and my recent trip to the mountains/sea/trees helped, but you just put it all out there so brutally honestly . So, thank you for that.

    Have an amazing trip – we will all be waiting for you when you decide to come back.


  18. Laurie

    I loved your words, Kelsey. I cannot wait to sit over dinner one day and hear the stories you and Shaun will share. Like I told Shaun on the phone tonight as he was boarding his flight to Chile… mom heart bursts with pride and swells with happiness for where you both find yourself……and, the rock in my stomach is real. I shed alligator tears. This crazy beautiful life serves up immense joy, random confusion, and brilliant adventure. Watching you and Shaun blows me away. Thanks for sharing. Love you much!


  19. Danielle

    I read this immediately upon waking, and, oh my gosh. Thank you, Kelsey! For your honesty, thoughts, and prose. As a blogger, I appreciate them all more than you know. Wishing you an incredibly experience in Chile. I too am looking forward to hearing more when you get back.


  20. holly

    yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

    you have such an exquisitely and perfectly raw way of expressing what so many of us feel. thank you for being you and for making this world (and online world) a better place to live / be in, which to me, is the best thing one can do. safe travels to chile my dear! enjoy it…you are going to LOVE it.


  21. Emily

    Love it Kels! Love the blog. Love this post. Love your honesty. I have looked up to you for years and I think you and your heart are gorgeous! Have an amazing trip!


  22. Joyti

    You are my favorite person. I am completely in awe of your honesty and openness, bowled over by your incredible ability to communicate. It is truly beautiful.

    Have lots of fun and make good memories in Chile.


  23. Kathryn

    Oh yes. I went to a blog conference once. I’m not sure I’ll ever bother to go back. I can’t think of anything worse than trying to reel in sponsorship deals or increase my readership. I decided a year ago that I would only post something if I could tell myself that I 100% wouldn’t care if anyone read it or not and I’ve stuck to that. More and more, I value people who are authentic and honest and show me how they really live, not how they want the world to think they live.

    Much love to you guys. Have an amazing trip and come back here whenever you’re ready. We’ll be here for you.


  24. verena

    Wonderful writing and insight in your thoughts. Thanks so much. I’m so glad that I’ve discovered your blog as you are a new inspiration for me. Have a save trip.


  25. jane

    What a great post! Thanks for keepin it real. Can’t wait to hear more. Have a great trip.


  26. Prairie

    Wow. Now I’ve found a blog worth following. Truth spoken with eloquence.


  27. Art & Lemons

    I wanted to jump-up-and-shout-hell yes after I read this. Yes, to the writing life. Yes to you staying your course and writing with all the earthy matter one can muster in words, so much truth and beauty. Happy safe travels to you both!


  28. Melissa

    I always wanted to go to one of those confrences but every day life is a struggle to feel good enough as it is, why make it worse. Thanks for your honesty!


  29. Heather

    Your writing, your honesty, its amazing. It is why I (and I think I can be bold enough to say we) keep returning to this space. To come and read here is to feel a part of something real rather than the marketed, wrapped, “bowed,” packages we are fed in so many other spaces of our lives. It is inspiring. You are inspiring. I love this blog. As this blog taught me many moons ago “The sun never says to the moon, ‘you owe me.’ Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky. [hafiz]” So, Kelsey, I am here to tell you that you do not owe us anything. We look forward to your return, but we will wait. We love your island.


  30. Caitlin

    i so often feel the same way. blogs that portray a perfect life in the perfect house with the perfect kitchen making perfect food and having perfect relationships. i always think, “how can that be real?” i admit i get a little jealous before i realize that those projections cannot possibly be true.

    i love that you linked to into the wild. the first time i saw that, i became completely transformed. i truly admire chris mccandless and have gotten into many heated debates over his supposed “insanity”. have you read the book? it’s phenomenal in a different kind of way. there are days when i just want to leave everything behind and live a life of minimalism and solitude. days where i want to throw out all of my possessions. because i hate them. the things you own, end up owning you.

    anyway, thank you for writing this post. i really loved it. have fun in chili. i look forward to your return at the end of match. and if you don’t return, i totally understand why 😉


  31. patti

    So many of us refrain from speaking our truth, nonetheless make sense of it enough to put into words. I knew when you were born, eyes wide as you entered, this girl,……this girl was wide awake, ready to see the world with enthusiasm, & curiosity. When you were 3, I could no longer influence what to wear on an outing. You knew what felt comfortable on your skin. Twenty years later, you still know with every fiber of your being what is comfortable “skin” to live in. I respect and honor the way you traverse this life. It’s messy, this life we all live and your ability to transcribe your experience of it is remarkable. I love you beyond what is measurable. I honor you and your courage to be authentic in a world that so often tugs at us to be something or someone we are not.
    Next, Chile, wow….now hear my big sigh as well. My heart is swelling with excitement, emotions are vibrating inside knowing you’ll be off the grid, yet trusting you’ll be ever so present in my heart, daily thoughts & prayers for an extraordinary, safe journey! ~
    I love you so much ~ mom


  32. Laura

    Your reference to hyper-kinfolking KILLED me. That whole SCENE; the pro-level lifestyle blogging, the just-rustic-enough seasonal dinners in soft light on reclaimed wood harvest tables made by suspiciously handsome bearded dudes, the general strategy of staying “on brand” before being yourself; all of that bullshit fills me up with shame for having a blog and the internet in general. But spaces like yours bring me back to that sense of pride and fulfillment. There really is a community and a big boat load of honesty, in living + word, to tend to.

    Lovely lady, I wish you the most amazing trip. To be alive out there! Just amazing. Hugs x infinity.


  33. bobbi b

    My blog isn’t my life. Far from it. I’m not trying to make it more than what it currently is. Thank you for reminding me realize that that’s OK.

    Your writing is beautiful. Enjoy the journey.


  34. Melissa

    You are one huge breath of fresh air. The colorado kind of air, not the thick smoggy big city air. So lucky to have met you in person. Wish I caught more moments with you. My thoughts are still sitting on the shelf. I’m afraid to tamper with them. I think they’ll sit a little longer.


  35. dana

    loved every word. absolutely compelling and breathtakingly beautiful. thanks for your honesty and vulnerability. have a blast in chile, Kelsey. see you in march.


  36. Julia

    wow.. i’m a first time reader, your post today could not have been more timely. there are big life changes on the horizon for me, and i have been feeling overwhelmed and uncertain. in an effort to launch a new business, i have decided to start a blog.. i can’t thank you enough for your thoughtful & honest insight. i hope you have a wonderful experience on your journey, and i really look forward to reading all about it when you return.


  37. kristin

    If you have a pretty lesson in those words and I can wrap it in a bow it would go like this:
    Be brave, speak your truth & connect – for reals! Your words were the nurishment I needed to find today. Thank you for reminding me that vulneralbility is true beauty and grace. Chile Ahoy!


  38. la domestique

    I identify with so much of what you’ve said here and I’ve struggled with making sense of the same feelings. Lately I’ve felt the pull of something – the need to put my head down and make and do. The need for substance and something I can feel with my fingertips. The husband and I move to Ireland on April 1st and I’m excited for the new beginning. I plan on honing my skills as a cook and creating a workshop space in our new place where ideas are developed and community is created. It’s nice to hear your voice at Happyolks, and I’ll be listening from the Emerald Isle!


  39. Allyson

    This is why I love your writing- you are so courageous in talking about the tough, messy, uncomfortable parts of life. I admire you so much.

    Good luck and godspeed in Chile!


  40. alison

    Thank you so much for your honesty. I have been struggling with so much of the same thoughts…blog related and otherwise. Wishing you safe travels and an amazing adventure!


  41. leanna

    This post really speaks to me. I am brand new to this blogging world and some of what I see is so strange to me. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking that I want a “successful” blog and sometimes I find myself eating the ‘blogging tips’ and ‘best blogger practices’ right out of their hands, but what I really want is honesty and that is hard to come by. Thank you for sharing your truth! All the best on your great adventure, and thank you for inspiring me to eat well and be well :)


  42. chrissy

    I feel this way about my own blog very often, and I find myself blogging less and less the busier and fuller my life becomes. And that’s okay, because a busy and full life is kind of what it’s all about.

    Have a wonderful trip. We’ll be here when you get back. xo


  43. jess

    God- you are such a breath of fresh air……please keep writing this way…


  44. D

    This is so refreshing to read. After seeing post after post about “What I learned at Alt”, it’s nice to know i’m not the only one who was feeling a bit skeptical of it all. There’s no “rules” to blogging and it’s a good reminder to just be yourself, share what you want to share, and that no-one is really waltzing around in a perfect “Portland” life.


  45. Meshell

    Damn, I wanna fuck yeah to this all day long. My life has kept me from fully starting my blog, and I’ve come to be grateful of the refinement.

    Someday I’ll get a blog post out. For me.

    I appreciate this post so much.


  46. Shira

    This is just about, no, undoubtedly, one of the best things I’ve ever read on the internet. I am totally new to your blog having stumbled upon it I think through so many of the other lovely blogs I’ve discovered since ‘accidentally’ jumping into this whole thing in the last year. I’ve recently had to go back and ask myself what it was that got me started with my whole project —- the need to find that ‘island’ as you say. This post is just so wonderful in so many ways….sigh.


  47. Posie

    Your writing is so beautiful, and important, and means a lot to me. Enjoy Chile and the refreshing bracing feel of adventure and cool air and the outdoors on your skin and know how much it is important and awesome to accept and acknowledge that life is a process, and it’s the living (the sweatpants & take-out moments and the pretty dinner-in-a-field magical surreal ones) each day that make it all what it is. As Annie Dillard says, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”


  48. Natasha

    This is so refreshing to read. Sometimes I feel I’m the only one suspicious of all the kinfolking and pretend friending and pretty lifeing. Because I know my reality is far from all those dreamy filtered pictures and nice outfits and styled life settings. It’s like I’ve been thinking it but couldn’t come up with the words to explain it. And I’m so happy you did. Because real may be less pretty in some respects, but it’s far more beautiful in so many others. It’s fulfilling and happy and sad and warm and hard and busy and lazy and nowhere near perfect, and that’s what’s so great about it. Sometimes I’m tired and overwhelmed and just want to eat chips and lay on the couch with my boyfriend and my cat, and I’m totally ok with that. In fact, I sort of cherish those moments as all others–the good and the bad. I just wish I could express that more in my own blog space. Working on it! Anyway, this is all to say that I love this post and all that you said, and I can’t wait to hear from you again!


  49. A-Man

    Well thought out and well written. Its nice to read someone exhaling and just realizing things.
    Keep on, Keepin’ on Kels!

    BTW Fave line I’ve read in a while: “…. tries to take her online life as seriously as she does her laundry detergent: all-natural, highly concentrated, and effective for a diversity of loads.”


  50. Courtney

    First of all, your realness and “non-pretty writing” are what hooked me the moment I stumbled upon your blog. You have a knack for expressing life and all the realness involved, whether it’s the good, the bad, or the downright ugly. I used to think I should be emulating that kinfolkian way of living, with the immaculately rustic vibe to everything… until I pinched myself and realized it’s not reality. Life is messy, and I’ve learned to embrace the chaos. Thanks for continuing to share your words in this space Kelsey. You are awesome :)


  51. Megan

    This was everything I needed to hear right now and more. Saying “thank you” for your honesty seems half hearted and just glosses over what I’m trying to say in a way, and doesn’t begin to convey what I mean. I’ve spent the last few months trying to mold my blog into “the perfect” food blog to get it to fit in – leaving me feeling like I was in highschool, trying to be one of the cool kids – then I remember high school SUCKED – the forced and contrived friendliness, feeling like a crow that put on peacock feathers. I’m still that “crow” and really – that’s OK. I can find my groove and forage my own road – as long as its fulfilling. Thanks muchly and I can’t wait to come back for more of your very pretty “non-pretty writing”. Cheer and have a GREAT trip.


  52. Amber

    Love this a ton. I love my food blog (and so many others, too!), but never attend the conferences, don’t keep an editorial calendar, and definitely don’t make money off of it, and have often felt that maybe I’m not a ‘real food blogger’ bc of it. This is such a nice reminder that we all go about it differently! PS. do come back to this space!! :)


  53. Barb

    Pretty writing is boring; it’s been worked on and edited and made perfect and so often seems contrived. This is not and I loved your story. No matter the age, we can go through these seasons in our life when a change is required. How I would love to walk those mountains with you but it’s not my time. How I so wish it was.

    I’m in Denver too…when you return would love to meet sometime!


  54. Abby

    I’ve just recently started following your blog, I was excited to find someone who echoed the voice in my head a little bit…and after reading this…yea I think you’re pretty darn awesome. Have a great trip.


  55. El

    You nailed it. Again. Safe journeys to you both. Peace.


  56. Anna

    I really enjoy the way you write so honestly yet so poetically.
    Thank you for blogging.
    Safe travels to you + yours.


  57. Flavia

    This post is the reason I love your blog. Thank you for writing so openly and honestly.


  58. Marie

    OH wow…this is a breath of fresh air. I cannot even tell you how much I appreciate this. All that glitz and glitter and surfacey-focus on appearance is nauseating sometimes. So pretentious and false. Thanks for writing this. I will come back to re-read this from now until March and won’t need a single post more. Enjoy Chile.


  59. Jess

    There must be something in the interwebs water, because I’ve been talking about this *exact* thing with my best buds lately – the pinterestification and kinfolking of life for public consumption on blogs. It’s frustrating at best and deflating and self-deprecating at worst (making all of these women feel inadequate that their lives don’t look like *that*, whatever *that* is), and I’m so thrilled to see this conversation bubbling up all over the place. More of these conversations need to happen and more writers who keep blogs (I also don’t really like the title “blogger”) need to break down these seemingly impenetrable barriers to domestic greatness and richness of life and experience, and just talk about real life for a change, whatever that means to them. Bravo.


  60. Stacy

    Yes, and thank you. This is a beautiful summary of your thoughts — who cares if there’s no pretty packaging or bow? I am with you all the way, and I’m grateful that you are honest enough to say these things and gifted and thoughtful and smart enough to say them so well. The presets aren’t honest or true; we are not all the same. Thank you for that reminder and your fierce willingness to not fit in the mold. Hope you LIVE WELL these next few weeks and feel it all deeply. xo


  61. Amanda @ Easy Peasy Organic

    thank you.

    from my kitchen floor, with a cookie and an amber ale (not an IPA girl),
    thank you.


  62. Aubergine

    I deeply connect with this post of yours, I feel many of the same things you are talking about but am not able to put them into words so well. Thank you for sharing so openly and eloquently.


  63. ash

    I love that you’ve been so honest. And I agree that it can be so difficult and potentially unrealistic to throw out content that is always tied up in a pretty bow. But I also think that you’ve perhaps reduced the honesty or sincerity of bloggers who churn out ‘pretty’ content but who nevertheless love what they do, who blog because it is a (legitimate) job, and who treat blogging as a business. I really don’t think that there is anything wrong or insincere with that – I don’t think that there is anything wrong with being able to view the concept of blogging from both perspectives. Nonetheless, I appreciate the insightful way that you have written about this, and I hope (I know) that you will find a way to balance all that you truly love.


  64. Sini

    I loved your honest words. Fresh and honest. Brave. Enjoy Chile!


  65. Marie

    Scratch my earlier comment. Well, not scratch it out completely I guess, but I should re-phrase. I don’t think I can make such a generalization about lifestyle bloggers who publish for income. It just wouldn’t be fair. Sure, I still appreciate your words (as always) and I think you make a valuable point (as always), but I disagree with you in that I don’t think we can fit all those hundreds of women into one category of baubled business card-pimping barbie doll types. People are much more complex than that, and many of these women are good, honest people, trying to enjoy life and do something good for their environments, their families and their readers. That said, I do think there’s a level of superficiality and Stepford Wives style competition that is ridiculous and needs to be addressed. And I thank you for opening that discussion in such an honest and raw way. Anyway, best wishes for you in Chile.


  66. Kelsey (Happyolks)

    Hi Marie, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. My intention was not to generalize bloggers who publish for income. I have dozens if not hundreds of amazing friends and colleagues who use their platforms to earn revenue. I honor those choices and have no right to judge or critique those pursuits. I think the first part of this post was a way to acknowledge that I happened to find myself in an environment where the level of conformity concerned me, as I believe women, in life and on the internet, do not need to prostitue themselves or “barbie-up” if you will, to find success or validation or happiness. I know that these words may feel acerbic or critical at some points but my goal with letting this piece of writing free to the internet is to come alongside the majority of people who are in some way choked and made less-than by the conventions and growing popularity of what appears “pretty.” Pretty is good. I happen to think Shaun takes beautiful images for this site. There is nothing wrong with wanting to create and share something beautiful. But we all need more than that. Honestly, this post, for me, in my head, is way less about the conference than it is about me coming back to a full and sometimes overwhelming life of choices and joys and hardships and how the blog has been made secondary to the REAL life that I, and we all, live outside the internet. How I have to say “fuck the rules” because the rules tell me I need to post consistently and respond to my emails on time and position myself to appeal to specific brands for advertising. Nobody has time for that. Maybe a small, small minority. And, most likely, I did not do a good job expressing how these experiences translate into the everyday. The guilt, the pressure, the social conditions that cause us to be less than ourselves and to hold back or pretend that everything is perfect. Anyway. I digress. Thanks again for your two thoughtful comments Marie and for engaging in the discussion.

  67. Marie

    Kelsey thanks so much for this response. I know there’s a whole universe behind your posts, and that you have so many thoughts that go unsaid apart from the ones you do express so poignantly in your writing. As you can see, you got me to thinking a lot about a whole gamut of issues involving the purpose of blogging, what it means to be a woman in today’s world, and the relationship between bloggers and their readership. All this was stewing in my mind from when I posted the first comment until now, and just for that I’m grateful to you. Concerning your thoughts above, I admire your courage in recognizing that we all need to come to a point where we are willing to “fuck the rules” to some degree in order to find our own place and our own voice that is free of conformity. That is certainly something that I am trying to learn more myself as I seek to have a better grasp on what my own purpose is. Again, thanks for your writing and for seeking to stay true to yourself and thus encouraging others to do the same.


  68. Mikey F

    I’m so thankful for this lovely post. I started reading you not so long ago, but after this I’m falling in love with your beautiful words and loveliy thoughts.

    Thank you so much!

    Lots of love,

    Mikey F.


  69. Denise

    Lovely, and well said. I felt the same way when I went to my first blogging conference some years ago – “why am I here?” Sure it was great to meet up with a handful of lovely ladies whom I have fostered lasting friendships with but overall … why? I suddenly was transported back to high school – and at my age it wasn’t something I was interested in. Rules about this and that, if you forget to dot an i the world would end, if you don’t SEO properly you are doing it all wrong, you write about things that bore so stop writing. It was interesting, and eye opening.

    I, continue, to blog because it is my corner of the world where I can do what I want and share passions that I love. I always broke the rules in school, why not break a few now! :) Voice your opinions, people can take it or leave it. I treat our blog as our home – we would love to have you in it, but once you enforce your rules, we kindly show you the door.

    Enjoy that hike – rest of the world will still be here when you get back! Unplug!!!!


  70. Jen

    Wow. Thank you.


  71. Adrienne

    This is why I keep coming back! You have NO idea how much this resonates with me right now, in this moment. I’ve been circling a similar island, feeling a bit uninspired, trying to balance it all, and put it all in perspective. Right now, I’m not ready to go back. I need some time to reflect, to find my voice once again. Good luck with the hike! That sounds like the perfect adventure. xo


  72. Nicole

    It is posts like this that make me wish I had more of talk-y blog, where I could say more things like this. Instead, I say them on bits of paper and then stuff those bits in the recycling bin. I know there are shades of gray in all of this, in the professional-blogger point of view, and in the artful-blogger point of view. But it is impossibly easy to get swept up in the very idea of blog conferences. I may be shooting myself in the foot for not being able to even consider going to such a conference, but I’m willing to bear the pain. I honestly haven’t met many people, many people at all, really, through blogging to whom I can relate, so this kind of blows me away. I have never felt the sense of “community” that many speak of. Some of that is me, and some of it maybe hopefully isn’t. I’m still not sure…

    Either way, I’m glad to have stumbled upon this post.



  73. Caroline

    Just wanted to stop by and say (again) how lucky I feel to have met you, Kelsey. These words that come from your soul speak straight to mine, and I’m inspired. Though it sounds like you may feel there are a multitude of uncertainties surrounding you, let me just assure you that, as someone who also experienced the frenzy of sugar-coated blogging, the strength of your convictions and your sense of self shine through more than you know. When uncertainty abounds, I always feel I can muddle through if I just kling tightly to my inner self. You already have an advantage in that I think you have a much better understanding of your inner self than most.

    I also love seeing some of the things we talked about at the conference come to life here because I know they are things you’ve been wanting to share. Enjoy the trip to Chile, and I hope we can stay in touch (I mean that in the most sincere, non-high-school-yearbook way.)

    Thanks for braving it to come back to the island. I know I’m not alone when I say we’re ecstatic to have you.


  74. Noelani

    This is my first time visiting your blog, and to put it shortly – I am already sucked in based upon this post and such honesty behind your words. I can’t wait to do some “catching up” on your old posts, as well as follow along on your future ones. Keep doing what you’re doing. The world needs more honest bloggers such as yourself! 😉


  75. Jennifer Allison

    thank you. thank you for the best bit of honest, meaty, encouraging writing i’ve seen in a long time. marinating my soul in this bit “don’t subscribe to any dogma or outlook that has set out guidelines for you on how to get it right (life, relationships, your blog, etc). It just don’t work like that sista. Do away with the presets for happiness, success, beauty, etc. that influence your decisions, punctuate your thoughts, and shape the way you experience your life or the world. Be nutty. Be different. Don’t fit in.”



  76. Angy

    On bended knee is no way to be free
    Lifting up an empty cup, I ask silently
    All my destinations will accept the one that’s me
    So I can breathe…

    Circles they grow and they swallow people whole
    Half their lives they say goodnight to wives they’ll never know
    A mind full of questions, and a teacher in my soul
    And so it goes…

    Don’t come closer or I’ll have to go
    Holding me like gravity are places that pull
    If ever there was someone to keep me at home
    It would be you…

    Everyone I come across, in cages they bought
    They think of me and my wandering, but I’m never what they thought
    I’ve got my indignation, but I’m pure in all my thoughts
    I’m alive…

    Wind in my hair, I feel part of everywhere
    Underneath my being is a road that disappeared
    Late at night I hear the trees, they’re singing with the dead

    Leave it to me as I find a way to be
    Consider me a satellite, forever orbiting
    I knew all the rules, but the rules did not know me

    Eddie Vedder



  77. Jamie

    Thank you.


  78. Kasey

    You are one of the realest people that I have had the pleasure of getting to know, without having actually met you in person, Kelsey. You’re not a blogger, you are a WRITER girlfriend. Nothing kinfolk-y or pinteresting about it, in the very best way. xo


  79. Liren

    I was there, and I just want you to know, you weren’t alone. I left that conference in such a flurry of mixed emotion, but I wanted to let you know that meeting you was one of the best things to have come from that weekend.

    Safe travels. I’ll be thinking of you and living vicariously through you – have an amazing journey.


  80. Willow

    Just breathing now.
    Taking it all in.
    Turning to my beloved and, perhaps, seeing at last what his passion for the earth may be about. Plain. Simple. Uncomplicated.
    Not at all like me.
    Well…not at all like the me I thought I used to be.
    Thank you for your blog, your grace, your words.
    And thank you for – by those things and a whole lot more – helping me creak open that door.
    A little more…


  81. Ajonjoli

    how many times I’ve had the same thoughts…. in my blog I talk about politically non-correct issues, I post pictures of my vegetable garden and the dishes I prepare with my produce, my breads, and my trips to the Alps, and I don’t care if I have 3 or 30 comments. At a certain point I was thinking in stopping, because I was not able to reach the level of “popularity” I was “supposed to” after so many years. But then I decided that, well…. ¡¡ al infierno la popularidad!! I was not going to change my style or what I write, or publish cupcakes or decorated cakes just because that’s what is popular. I don’t care. I have always swam against the current.

    What I seek is not perfection, or an ideal of perfect pseudo-rural life. I like blogs that are honest and authentic. Written by real people with a real life.

    Chile and Torres del Paine….. that’s where I’d like to be.


  82. Carrie

    I’ve always been afraid to go to the conference, because I’ve always worried about the exact same reaction from myself. Actually I was more afraid I would present some version of myself that made my stomach acidic. I struggle with blogging. I’ve stopped for 2 months with a strong desire to unplug. I don’t want to play the game. I want to live on my very not picture perfect farm with my toddler and enjoy it, never worrying that it doesn’t look “up to par” for the pictures. (I feel that way a lot.) What you wrote really touched me because many parts of it felt like a small part of a manifesto I’ve been developing for myself of what I really want. So much honesty! Thank you. I read your blog, and my family make and enjoy so many of the recipes you post, but I’ve never enjoyed a post as much as this one. It’s started to lead me away from this ridiculous notion of inadequacies and comparison. I hope your are enjoying your trip.


  83. Jude Blereau

    Loved reading this, it so resonated with me. Especially the ‘follow trends’ bit. If your travels take you to Western Australia, I’d love to quietly sit and eat, and talk, and laugh. x Jude


  84. gabrielle

    kelsey… i met you and shaun over 2 years go (on coronado island, with joe b.) i still regularly come back to this blog. your truthful voice & honest words make me realize that while this whole beautifully portrayed fake-life on the internet is nice to look at, it’s not REAL LIFE…. your writing is SO real and makes me feel the things i can’t ever express on my own! thank you so much, you were the kindest person when i met you and i always enjoy reading about your adventures and life lessons.. thank you, again! gabrielle


  85. Katherine

    Your courage and honesty in this post gave me more hope and inspiration to press on through my hard times than you know. This was a fascinating and breathtaking piece. Don’t ever stop being who you are and saying what you’re saying because I’ll be listening and so will many others. I really do admire your tenacity and hope that you continue to be as raw with your blog as you were here. I feel so fortunate to have stumbled upon this tonight. It was just what I needed…isn’t it always that way? with love, K


  86. nadia

    thank you for this, beautifully written and honest piece.


  87. Becky

    Oh girl… I LOVE this post. You say what many are too scared to say. As a no-name blogger since 2007, I had never attended a blogging conference until Alt and for many of the reasons why you felt like you didn’t fit it there. I just knew it would end up feeling like a sorority club or something. And it did in some ways, but also I was grateful to meet a few other bloggers who I wouldn’t have had the chance to meet otherwise … like you!! And for that I’m thankful. I just can hardly wait to hear more about your trip to Chile and when you return I want to hook you up with my cousin in Denver too. OR maybe I’ll bring the babe and come for a visit :)


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  89. Beck

    I just wanted to say how incredibly moving I found this post. Your authenticity and integrity really speak to me. Thank you.


  90. Yazury

    Hi, just would like to say that your blog is amazing. I discovered it some time ago and since then I have been telling all my friend about it. I LOVE the fact that you use a vast range of ingredients which take me back to the flavors of South America.

    You (and your other half) have a passion for food that you can feel every time you produced /write a recipe.

    Somewhere I read that success come to those that wait, which I think is not true, success come to those who have talent and work hard and I think you have both thing.

    So hope you keep writing (giving us inspiration) and enjoy life in full.


  91. Joo

    We will be waiting with bated breath…this piece was terrific. I wish you the best on your journey and hope to hear much more from you.
    Thank you…


  92. sarah

    Reading your words is so relieving – head clearing almost
    thank you. I think i shall have to ‘follow’ you
    oh this is lovely amongst all the glitter and shine


  93. Alan

    Everyone needs a emotional and spiritual break now and then. It’s ok to take some time to yourself and get centered again…


  94. heather bowes

    oh thank you, thank you, thank you. This was exactly what I needed to stumble upon. Exactly.


  95. lillie

    read, received, and feeling so grateful. just stumbled on both your return from Patagonia post (exhale, amazing!) and this post. so great to read today, thank you!


  96. Tiffany

    Holy Shite woman – go tell it on the mountain, that was good! Thanks so much for this – I’m a new follower, but I’ll become an old one.


  97. joelle @ on a pink typewriter

    I agree,to the umpteenth degree.

    Favorite part: “go live out and cherish the tethered and worn out bits of your life.”


  98. Natalie

    Well said lady. I too returned from that conference reeling. I envy that you were able to separate and discover those tidbits about your experience while you were there. I got lost in the business card dealing mayhem. I think about you often, and find that one of the very best moments of that whole conference weekend was meeting you on night one and sharing a love for the simple on the internet (oh, awelltraveledwoman). I have yet to read your post about your trip, but I have no doubt that it was everything you needed for this moment in your life. I hope that home is feeling like a refreshed place for you. Maybe we can cross paths again if I make it out to Colorado, hopefully on a trail.


  99. Cate

    I hopped over to say congratulations on being a Saveur finalist and realized I never commented on this post- one of my favorite posts from any blogger this year. I’d love to finally go to a conference to meet people in person (since I’m seriously socially awkward online), but all of the recap posts I’ve ever seen make me totally cringe. The emphasis on clothing, swag, etc. Just so not me.

    Maybe one of these days I’ll finally make it off-island to a low-key conference… assuming those even exist! Maybe I’ll have to organize one in Hawaii :)


  100. Misi

    Love your blog. Especially the vidoes!


  101. janice

    Just read Back to the Island to arrange furniture. Ha! And Happy Mother’s Day even though you may not be a mother – you are our madre today for your guiding intelligence through the written word.


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  105. victoria

    This is my first time reading your blog, and I am so touched by your sincerity and your quest for deeper meaning in this strange, wide-open stratosphere. Well done, and happy travels. xo


  106. Kai

    I’ve only just started reading your blog, and I keep thinking, “HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS BEFORE???” I love your writing. I feel like the things you say are my own heart speaking, my highest heart that knows what the hell is up, that is committed to the crazy and the mess and the love and the fierceness. I’m so glad you write the way you do. Thank you thank you thank you.


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