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My journey through last year #007

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In this episode of the podcast we have Carrie Dils on.

You’re probably used to listening to Carrie speaking on her Office Hours podcast, or maybe you’ve learned from here in one of the many courses that she produces. But today you’re going to hear about a completely different Carrie, a more personal one.

You see, last year was a turbulent year; a year of many events. Some of them were amazing, some were not.

Perhaps the most remarkable event of all was a really transformational walk that Carrie undertook with her father. This was no ordinary walk. It was a walk on the other side of the planet. Over 500 miles across the north of Spain on the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrim route used to this day. We follow the journey that Carrie took and the ways in which it altered her life.

I’m sure that we’ve all had thoughts of going off to the other side of the world and trying something completely alien to us. This is that story.

Could you cope with the lack of connectedness which the modern world requires? Would you enjoy the mile after mile of walking? Would you love the changing landscape? Are you going to be prepared for the return home and the fact that you’re a changed person?

Carrie then opens up about the year after the walk. Her relationship with two if her best friends has changed, possibly for good.

But, guess what? The WordPress community, so loved by Carrie, is there to offer he support as the new year arrives. There to make sure that she is ready to face new challenges. Carrie is ready for the future.

Interviewed by Nathan Wrigley.

We hope you enjoy the show, please do subscribe on iTunes or Spotify. We’re always looking for feedback, if you have any thoughts or comments, please do reach out.

And remember… Together we can #PressForward 

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Podcast Transcript

Nathan Wrigley: 00:00 Welcome to episode seven of the PressForward podcast. Thanks for joining us again and if this is your first time with us, I hope that you find it useful. You can get this podcast each and every week by subscribing to us on iTunes or your favorite podcast player. Just use the buttons on the episode pages over at wpandup.org forward slash podcasts today we’re going to be hearing from Carrie Dils, but before that I wanted to take a moment to explain what this podcast is all about. You see the PressForward podcast is created by WP and UP there are charity working in the WordPress space to support the WordPress community. The help is freely available at wpandup.org or you can call +44(0)20 3322 1080 this support is available for all sorts of reasons. It might be to do with mental health, physical health. Perhaps your business is going through a tough time or you’d like to update your skills, whatever the reason might be, please reach out. Nathan Wrigley: 01:34 It’s so easy to just keep pushing problems down, hoping that they’ll go away ignoring things until they cannot be ignored any longer. Of course, it might not be you. You might know of someone who you feel could benefit from some support, whoever it is, whatever it is. We’re here when you have a need. As if the recording of this podcast, we’ve provided 792 hours of mentorship and amazing 3,302 hours have been donated by the many people who were volunteering for WP and UP, so we’re very serious about supporting the WordPress community, but we’re just getting started and we’d welcome your help. Did you know that May, 2019 is mental health awareness month. A chance to shine a light on the issue of mental health at WP and UP. We’re trying to gain a better understanding of where our resources should be targeted and if you feel able to help us, we’d love you to complete our survey. Nathan Wrigley: 02:40 It’s a WP and UP.org forward slash go and it’s honestly quite fun to fill in. If you’d like to support WP and UP financially, then please go to WP and UP.org forward slash give if you’d like to get involved with WP and UP, then please visit WP and UP.org forward slash contact or look for the social links in the footer of the websites. Sponsorship is also an option and sponsoring WP and op is a great thing to do. You’ll be helping with the important work that we’re undertaking and you can be featured on the podcast like this. The PressForward podcast is brought to you today by Green Geeks. Green Geeks offers an awesome managed web hosting platform that spelled for speed, security and scalability while being environmentally friendly. Enjoy a better web hosting experience for your WordPress website, backed by 24 seven experts supports and we thank Green Geeks for their support of the PressForward podcast. Nathan Wrigley: 04:26 Carrie Dils has been a mainstay of WordPress for many years. Ever since I started using WordPress, she was there creating content and working on exciting projects that always piqued my interest. She’s been prodigious in the amount of work that she produces. Be that as a developer, a podcaster, a blogger, or a course creator. Everywhere I looked there was Carrie producing something that I was keen to consume, Carrie likes to round off her year with a year in review, blog post, a chance to sum up what happened in her business during the course of the year. They’re always interesting reading and they always gave you an insider’s look at her business. This year though, Carrie decided to write a completely different post because she’d had a completely different year. The normal explanation of our business dealings was replaced by something much more personal, uh, year in and about her. Carrie Dils, the person and some of the events that had shaped her year. It’s a piece of writing, which is very open, laying out the highs and the lows. It captures a moment in her life and does not sugar coat anything. Often these kind of posts read backwards from the destination. They write about the journey, getting from the to the finish, and whilst Carrie’s story deals with a journey in the most literal sense of the word, it’s not about finishing more. It’s about being thoughtful about what you’ve been doing and realizing that there’s still more to do to get to the finish line. We discuss a few areas that are very personal and so this is a trigger warning that we will be talking about relationship difficulties. If you want to avoid this, you can skip this section which is roughly 30 minutes in length. I started by asking Carrie why she chose to write such an open and honest post about the year just gone when she could have just kept her personal life. Well, personally Carrie Dils: 06:48 I think a lot of it was just where my head was at the time. 2018 was a difficult year personally and frankly it was probably know from talking to the folks on this podcast and then elsewhere that you know, sometimes when life gets a little bit overwhelming, it’s hard to even really have space in your head for business conversations. So that’s just where I was at the point in year when I would usually be reflecting on how things went in the business. Like I know I don’t even have the space to get there right now. It’s just I need to kind of release just all of these other things that have been going on. Nathan Wrigley: 07:26 Many of us would long to break out of the routines that were in go off and do something completely different for a few weeks. Perhaps spend some time with your family. This is exactly what Carrie did, but she didn’t decide to go and sit on the sand and stare at the sea or relax in some other way. She decided instead to go for a walk with her father, a really long walk most of the way across Spain. Carrie Dils: 07:59 Sure. So, uh, my dad and I did a walk called the Camino de Santiago. It’s, there are multiple routes, but they all culminate in Santiago, Spain in a cathedral where supposedly the bones of St James are buried. And so it’s a sort of a pilgrimage and people do it for a lot of reasons. We didn’t set out necessarily to do it as a, it’s a pilgrimage more of a, my dad suggested it and it sounded like a really neat thing to be able to spend time with him and also take on like the physical challenge so we took five weeks and for traversed Spain. Nathan Wrigley: 08:41 Spain it turns out is quite large and so this walk was going to be quite long to undertake something like this, you need time to prepare to be fit enough to know that you’re going to make, I ask Carrie if she was typically someone who looks after her physical health. Carrie Dils: 09:02 I could certainly stand to to be, I’ll say physical activity is important. Fitness, my fitness has kind of gone by the wayside. But there’s a, a phrase that I learned, a Latin phrase that I learned when I was researching and preparing for the Camino called Solvea tour and Bolando and it means or roughly translates, it is healed or it is cured by walking. And that was something that phrase resonated so strongly with me because before even even knew the Camino existed or started planning that trip, getting out and just taking walks, there’s always been just kind of an important way to clear my head. And one point would have called myself a runner and uh, and I’ve always just enjoyed being outdoors and walking around Nathan Wrigley: 09:55 The walk that Carrie on the took with her father has a long history of being a pilgrimage route. People complete the long and arduous walk to transform themselves often in a spiritual way. I wondered if there was a component of this in Carrie’s desire to walk halfway across Spain. Carrie Dils: 10:17 I think it was mostly, it was just the opportunity to do that with my dad. He’s, he turned 70 in 2018 and I think was kind of maybe getting in bucket list mode or uh, just, you know, thinking about his own mortality and, and wanting to, you know, create these experiences and memories in the time he has left and which, I mean, he’s perfectly good health, but one never knows. And I’ve always had a very close relationship with my dad, so it just, it sounded like a really, uh, just amazing experience and memory to create with him. So it was more about that then seeing Spain, but it certainly did not hurt that, you know, it was going to be in walking across incredible countryside. Nathan Wrigley: 11:06 If you’re going to walk 500 miles, then I guess you’ll need to prepare. I suppose that you could just book a plane ticket and then stop walking, but it’s such a long way. I wanted to know if there was anything special that Carrie and her father had done to make sure that the whole journey went to smoothly as possible. Carrie Dils: 11:28 Oh yes. We planned extensively and you know, despite all the planning, there’s still ended up being surprises or just unexpected things along the way. But we read, you know, lots of forums and I guess tourists sites or you know, things that had information, blog posts from people who’d walked the Camino. And so kind of trying to prepare us for the journey itself, but also based on the time of year we were going, um, what we could expect weather wise and, and how do you do all of this and also end up with a pack that weighs less than 15 pounds or whatever. I think mine was like total weight was 13 pounds. And so yeah, tremendous amount of preparation went in. But even that said, if I were to do it again, uh, I would know better. Nathan Wrigley: 12:20 So after all the preparations, you’ve now got to actually walk the 500 miles. Let’s just say that again, to let it sink in 500 miles. It’s a long way. Even if the terrain is a flat, Carrie Dils: 12:40 I had envisioned that it was, you know, the, I knew that the first couple of days going through the Pyrenees would be a lot of climbing and you know, vertical ascent and descent. But I was thinking it would be fairly flat from here on out. And I guess in all of my planning and preparation, I just never looked at an elevation map because that was not the case. It was, you know, of course some segments were easier than others, but I mean you got some straight shots or flat shots. I’ve seen say that there were also plenty of climbing. And when I say climbing, I don’t mean like you’re using your hands climbing a cliff face or anything. I just mean you’re, you know, you’re headed uphill and surprisingly the downhills can be just as difficult as the uphills. It’s a muscle. I discovered a lot of muscles I didn’t know I had because they were sure. Nathan Wrigley: 13:33 I’ve heard that people who climb mountains talk about breaking the ascent up into small sections to make it seem more achievable. I’ll walk to there then reset. Now I’ll walk to there. I thought that perhaps Carrie in her father might’ve needed to have done something like this too. Carrie Dils: 13:57 Yeah. You know what, it really was at one point I talked to my, I said to my dad is like, this is our job, but we’re going to get up every day, had its own routine. You know, you get up, you throw all your stuff in your pack and you know, you try to get off, maybe get a cup of coffee and get off by seven in the morning or so, so that you can get the bulk of your walking in before the heat of the day comes on. And so we’d frequently start out walking in the dark, which just headlamps and uh, I think it’s, I’ve slept too many times since then, but I want to say we averaged maybe around 15 miles a day. So yeah, your number was pretty good. And I got, I was trying to get, I did a lot of conversions of kilometers and miles when I was over there. So sometimes I get my, my kilometers in my miles backwards. Nathan Wrigley: 14:51 To us, the listeners, it seems like such a romantic thing to do. Go off to a foreign country and replace your routine with something extraordinary, something memorable and life changing. But was this In fact, the reality whilst actually doing the walk was this enjoyable, worthwhile, Cathartic, a chore. Carrie Dils: 15:20 It was all of those things. I am very glad that I did it. I’m very glad that it’s behind me. It was a chore that Cathartic is as well. You know, I am, I’m not a mother Nathan, but I have heard other mothers say that as soon as they birthed the child, they’re like, I will never ever have another child. Uh, but then with the little bit of time and space, all of a sudden, you know, let’s, let’s add to the family. And I think that’s kind of the way I feel about the Camino. When I first finished it, I thought I would never ever, I’d be an idiot to every Tuesday again, but with a little time in space, I’m like, oh no, that would be fun to try again. Maybe take a different route than the one we took this past time. So, I don’t know. Nathan Wrigley: 16:10 This walk took a long time and that meant a long time away from normal life carries life became something completely different. Something other from her usual routine. I wondered if she had missed her normal life for whether the journey had left her with a desire to try new things when it was all over. Carrie Dils: 16:35 I did not miss. So I didn’t do any work when I was there. I had wound down projects and obligations before I left and you know, thankful that I’m in a work situation that enabled me to do that. And so there, there was no expectation from anyone that I would be answering emails or it’s a matter of fact, I even had an auto responder on my email that says I’m going to get back and delete all of these messages, so please reach me after such and such a date if you really want to talk. You know, I thought I would get, uh, you know, the shakes or miss connectedness and I did not, it was so nice just to be completely unplugged. Now I still have my phone with me so I could, you know, check in with my family and post photos to Instagram from time to time. But on the whole being offline was fantastic and then when I came back it was really hard to get back into just sort of the the regular nine to five grind. Somebody else might’ve been invigorated, but I think just because of other personal things happening in my life it was, it was hard for me to reboot and get back in a work frame of mind. Nathan Wrigley: 17:43 A topic that we’ve covered on this podcast a few times already is the idea of switching off from the online world, the possible benefits of shutting off notifications or making the phone in accessible during certain parts of the day. I wondered if Carrie had enjoyed this aspect of her journey. Did she enjoy you being disconnected? Carrie Dils: 18:08 Yeah, I think so. I guess it was also, it was easier because I was not in my normal environment. I think had I been at home, it would have just seemed odd or you know, just like just me and the crickets here without, without their devices turned on. But I’m just going to be an out in wide open country. I don’t know. I guess I didn’t, I really didn’t miss it. And also the physical challenge of what I was doing took up a fair amount of, of mental energy. So between, you know, kind of what my eyes were taken in, in the, in the work that my legs were doing, it was good not to be distracted by, by the digital stuff, you know. So this was kind of a, we’ll say a hotly debated topic, but in our preparation for the trip, we read, you know, people were very opinionated about do not take your devices and you know, you don’t even need a smartphone. Carrie Dils: 19:00 Just all you need is a map paper map. And, and other people were like, okay, well I’m gonna take my tablet or my laptop. I want to be able to work in evenings. And people debated kind of what was the right approach. And in the end there was this kind of theme that cropped up again and again, and it was everybody has their own Camino. Camino means walk or road or path. So the idea of what’s what’s right for one person that they want to stay connected, then that’s great. That’s their Camino. If somebody else wants to completely turn it off, then that’s great. That’s their decision and that’s their Camino. And for me, I did make a conscious decision ahead of time. I’m gonna, I’ll have some books on my phone, some audio books and some physical books I will post on Instagram and I’ll be able to facetime with my family. And that was really, I think I cheated, maybe check Twitter once or twice, but on the whole I disengaged from social networks and um, it was, you know, that was my Camino. Nathan Wrigley: 20:07 I think that’s an event like this could have the capacity to change your life in a deep and meaningful way. You’ve been away for so long, doing something so different that it feels like this walk is now your normal life. So I asked Gary if the whole experience had caused any lasting changes. Carrie Dils: 20:31 I don’t know if the trip necessarily changed me, but I think starting how, let’s, let’s call it the American election season in 2016 when things got kind of nasty online and it didn’t matter which side of politics you on, it was, nobody had anything nice to say. And they’re just kind of this overwhelming negativity on, on social media. And at that point, I mostly disengaged from Facebook. I went through, I call it the great friend purging of, of 2016, uh, just, uh, pared way down. And that’s not a commentary on if somebody got removed. That’s not a common, uh, personal commentary. That was just my choice to, to be less present there and not, not to just have negativity in front of me all the time and turned off all my notifications. So if I, you know, if I get a mention on social media or I get a new email, I didn’t have notification. Carrie Dils: 21:28 It’s been a couple of years since I had notifications turned on for those things. If I wanted to check, I would have to proactively go and check. So I think, uh, so I’d already kind of started that before Spain. And then you know, that span experience can realize. I honestly don’t, I don’t miss it a ton. I mean there’s, there is, there’s an aspect to maybe this is a testament to so many good people in the WordPress community. Like when I would quote unquote cheat or go look on Twitter, it’s just as I miss people, I wanted to know what people were up to, what people were doing. But other than, you know, kind of that social curiosity aspect, I don’t feel like, I still don’t feel the need to know every single thing that happens or just be constantly plugged in. Nathan Wrigley: 22:16 I’ve never been to Spain, so I don’t really know what it’s like, but I’d love to go there. There’s a whole slew of other places that I’d like to go as well. And I wondered how they ended up doing this exact walk in Spain and not some other location. Carrie Dils: 22:36 It was my dad’s idea to do the specific walk as opposed to where’s the Appalachian trail? And on the east coast of the US and the Pacific coast trail on the west coast. And I there, I mean there are places you can do long form hikes all over the world. But he had watched a movie called the way with Martin Sheen and I think kind of been inspired by it. And so I, you know, then I went and watched the movie. And so I think it was not just that we would be able to do this walk, but that will be able to do it in a quote unquote exotic place or in, you know, in a, in a landscape that was completely unfamiliar. So that was kind of the reasons behind choosing that, that specific walk. But that said, Spain is just, it’s beautiful countryside. It’s an every, every day than landscape changed. Carrie Dils: 23:26 Just a little bit like there, there were days when we were just primarily walking through the vineyards, so their, their wine country. Um, there are other days when we were in the mountains and it’s, you know, you’re just the animal, you know, farm animals all around you. There are other days where you were walking through tiny villages where you had to step aside. So the, the, the cow, the cows could pass. It was, you know, uh, and this is true all over Europe, but you know, the US is a, is a young country, relatively speaking. And so when we talk about old buildings were talking about things constructed in the 17 hundreds or 18 hundreds. And when you get over into Spain, I mean the, just the history and the age and some of these things that you’re looking at in places where you’re standing or, oh, no, spiritual is the right one. Carrie Dils: 24:20 Exactly the word I’m looking for, but just kind of an awesome, this about it that, you know, how many people have gone there before you, how many lives, you know, births and deaths. And it makes you feel, not insignificant, but it certainly puts things in perspective. There’s a, um, I don’t know why this is kind of randomly coming to my mind. There’s a movie called under a Tuscan Sun and it’s a woman that’s in our midlife and I can’t remember what the crisis in her life was if it was a divorce or a death or something. But anyway, she finds herself going to Italy and you know, in this beautiful countryside and being exposed to a culture that’s more intimate and familial and the importance of food and sitting down together and having meals in anyway. So that’s a Hollywood thing, but it’s sounds like a, also a reflection of what real life experiences. Nathan Wrigley: 25:16 I decided to move the conversation on away from Spain and onto the other aspects of Carrie’s year. As with all people, life is not always going to be how you would like it. And although Carrie status in the WordPress community means that many of us know of her, most of us don’t know what’s really going on in her life. In her blog post, Carrie talks very openly about some difficult times that she faced. Carrie Dils: 25:47 Yeah. And you know, if anybody reads the article where it was previously read it, then this is where we are alert. I had a couple of kind of seminal moments or circumstances in 2018. One was the loss of my marriage after 14 years of marriage, my husband and I decided to part ways and that was, you know, the culmination of many years of things not being, you know, ideal if, and I don’t know if you could even say ideal in anybody’s relationship, but you know, a best friend he is was my best friend. And um, so just kind of the emotional toll of deciding to pull our lives, pull out our lives that have been obviously so tightly wound together for over a decade. And so just deep loss there and frankly uncertainty over or not, whether, you know, these are the right decisions to and, and then that coupled with the loss of another dear friendship and alcohol played a role in that. Um, my friend is an alcoholic and said some, some deeply hurtful things and anyone who’s been exposed to alcoholism, whether it’s yourself or a family member or close friend, no how damaging that can be. It’s a, it’s a truly ugly disease. But through years, like all in not one fell swoop, but in a relatively short period of time. Uh, the two people, I would say we’re the closest, uh, my closest confidants, those relationships were falling apart. Nathan Wrigley: 27:26 I continued by asking Carrie if she had found something that had worked for her, helped her to get through this difficult time. Carrie Dils: 27:37 Yeah, certainly. Certainly my relationship with God, I’ve prayed a lot. Um, not necessarily going to church, but just praying directly to, to God and then relying on a network of, of friends. And you know, you mentioned earlier that you know, well known in the WordPress space or whatever, and sometimes that is kind of weird to me, but when I’m made it, or when I shared anything publicly about a struggle, the response from a community of some case people I know, but in some case strangers was just overwhelming and really precious that people who, you know, have maybe interacted with one of my courses or some on the content, somewhere along the line would, would just reach out with kind words. And in that, that meant a lot to me. So I think knowing, knowing that there, you know, my physical physically close friends in Texas where I lived and uh, and then also an online communities pulled me through. Nathan Wrigley: 28:49 If you were to go back just a few years, there was no such thing as an online community. Your friends were likely people that you had met at some point. Carrie speaks of friends in a different way. Some of them are people who she’s met while stop as a friends who took her courses or are involved in WordPress in some way to these online friends occupy the same meaning in her life. Do they have equal status? Carrie Dils: 29:21 Yeah, it’s, that was so unexpected. But you know when I started in engaging people in the WordPress community, you know, at first online and then, you know, it was probably almost a year into it before I found out there was something called a WordCamp and you could go interact with these folks in person and yes some those people have become my closest friends and there is a real life component cause over, you know, over the years we’ve been able to see each other in person. At events and I think my friends that, so my real world friends that, that I know from like my hometown and stuff, I think they think it’s really bizarre that I have these friendships with people online. But yeah, Canada has made the, the value of those friendships, even if they were pulled over Twitter. Nathan Wrigley: 30:13 So it was an extraordinary year, but that year is now gone. I wonder if Carrie had actively thought about putting that year behind her and making a conscious effort to start a fresh, Carrie Dils: 30:29 to start by saying the 2019 is, has been an incredible year so far in in a very positive way. I don’t know if it was instinct or, or what, but there was very, a very much wanted a physical separation from, from my city and from just a place with a lot of memories with my ex husband. And so in January I lifted up my car and left town and I’ve been on the road ever since and currently situated out in California. By the time this is published, I’ll probably be in a different state. But just exploring, seeing beautiful places, camping, visiting friends I’ve made in the WordPress community along the way. I’m kind of taking the opportunity of this life of people in and having an adventure in it. And uh, it’s been really refreshing, physically refreshing, mentally sort of, I don’t know, it’s like the Camino stateside. Nathan Wrigley: 31:33 That’s a lot of change. And from the sounds of it, good change. Carrie is doing the Camino after the Camino. Only this time hanging out along the way with people from WordPress. I was curious about how many of the people that she’s currently visiting come from the WordPress community. Carrie Dils: 31:57 Pretty much. 100% well let’s, I’ll say 95% and that’s another thing that’s so wonderful. It’s WordPress or is, you’re all over the world and having been in a part of the community for, I don’t know, five or six years now, it’s like, man, you can just put your finger on the map just about anywhere and you’ll find somebody free WordPress not too far away. So that’s been really cool to kind of play in my travels around getting to, getting to see folks. Nathan Wrigley: 32:30 So the WordPress community has been a real benefit and support to Carrie on. Maybe it has to you too, but some of us are yet find it and take our first steps in it. I asked Kari what she thought were the best ways one might get involved and make that all important start. Carrie Dils: 32:51 Yeah, probably the easiest way is, I mean there are a lot of different ways we work with WordPress is to find some sort of online community that works with the same themes are same plugins or does agency work like you do or I mean whatever it is. Find some people that you have something in common with in the WordPress realm and then insert yourself into those online communities and just, you know, you start being helpful and being friendly and, and meeting people. And then if ideally if there’s a local WordPress meetup, go and meet people in person. And I know not everybody for the more introverted that might be kind of uncomfortable for the in person. So, you know, start online. But yeah, you’ve got to, you’ve got to put yourself out there a little bit. It doesn’t mean you have to like go vomit every bit of personal information like I just did on this podcast, but uh, you know, start small, work your way up. Nathan Wrigley: 33:55 Remember that WP&UP is here to help you visit WP and UP.org or call +44(0)20 3322 1080. The PressForward podcast is brought to you today by Green Geeks. Green Geeks offers a specially engineered platform that gives WordPress users web hosting that is designed to be the fastest, most secure and scalable hosting available in multiple data centers. They WordPress hosting makes deploying and managing WordPress websites easy with automatic one click install managed updates, real time security protection, SSD raid 10 storage arrays, power cashier and expert 24 seven support to make for the best web hosting experience and we think Green Geeks for their support of the PressForward podcast. That’s it for this week. Please let us know if you’ve enjoyed this podcast. If you’re finding it useful or helpful, you can reach out to us at WP and UP .org / contact. Remember, there’s a serious point to all this though, and that is that WP and UP is here to provide help and support that help is available for you or people that you know, and it can be easily accessed at the wpandup.org website. Please spread the word about this new podcast. Tell your friends and subscribe on iTunes or your favorite podcast player. Together we can #PressForward

Nathan Wrigley