It’s Time to Zag. Wanna Join?

From a travel show about smoothies, to training for the game of life, to who knows what's next? That's the beauty of zagging.

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Fun fact I’ve never shared before:

This post you’re reading began six-and-a-half years ago with the half-baked idea of a TV show about making smoothies in The Philippines.

So yeah, things have changed. Now it’s time for another big change—or shall we say, a zag.

And maybe my story will have you consider zagging, too?

Consider this.

2016: Making an Exotic Fantasy Reality

In late 2016, Kim and I hiked past a garden in the Banaue rice terraces and I remarked, “Isn’t it cool how every place we visit seems to have its own special fruit?”

“Yeah, or nut, or drink, or whatever,” nodded Kim.

Back then, half my meals came poured out of my Vitamix, so this got me thinking, “Makes for funky smoothies!”

Kim perked up. “What a travel cooking show concept! Go around the world making smoothies out of exotic ingredients found in those locations.”

“Bourdain with a blender!”

“Imagine hosting that show….”

“Ooooh, and I have the perfect name, ‘Blending In.’

We fantasized about this for the rest of that day’s hike. The next day, we flew south to Busuanga island. And we figured, Why not give this “Blending In” idea a spin?

Kim and lady holding the "Hello Hello!"
The one and only “Hello Hello” smoothie.

2016: Successfully Blending In

Asking everyone we met, “What ingredients do you think could be in a smoothie that best represents Busuanga?” was a surprise hit! It warmed us up to all sorts of characters and got us invited into their gardens, speed boats, and bars. And it culminated with our creation:

The “Hello Hello.”

Honestly, the adventure would have made for a decent TV episode. Too bad we didn’t have video cameras. We did, however, have a photo camera and the inclination to write about our experiences.

So with that, BlendingInTravel.com was born.

Driving around Kenya.

2017: Dumping the Smoothie Concept

Within a few months, our Busuanga blog posts were getting hundreds of monthly Google searchers.

People seemed to appreciate all our posts except one: the “Hello Hello” recipe. Nobody cared to read it.

So we dumped the smoothie idea and remixed the blog as being about our off-the-beaten-path travel experiences. To reflect this, we changed our domain:

  • ❌ Out with BlendingInTravel.com.
  • ✅ In with TheUnconventionalRoute.com

In 2017, we blogged about our trips to Thailand, Savary Island, New Orleans, San Diego, and Kenya. It was fun. And it was motivation to travel extra curiously. But it was just a hobby.

Until we got booted from our apartment.

Chris and Kim in Colombia.
Kim and I packed our bag(s) for the Paisa life.

2018: Going Hard Down The Unconventional Route

In late 2017, we got notice that our cheap, central Vancouver apartment was being demolished.

We dreaded having to pay way more for a crappier apartment.

So we didn’t!

We paid way less for a better apartment in Medellin, Colombia instead.

Why not? I’d recently sold my share of the hostel I co-founded and given up on my bug protein and butter start-up. Kim’s grain-free granola business wasn’t big enough to tie us down. And Vancouver’s depressing winter was coming.

So, from December 2017 through May 2018, we lived in “The City of Eternal Spring.” There, we met curious characters, had adventures, and discovered places that popular Instagrammers and bloggers didn’t mention. So we blogged the crap out of them.

I gave The Unconventional Route my all. Kim supported me part-time. By December 2018, traffic crossed the 50,000 monthly pageview threshold for joining Mediavine, a company that algorithmically places ads on blogs.

Travel blogging technically became my profession.

Pretending to work during lockdown.

2019-20: Broadening My Focus

Putting yourself in uncomfortable environments, exploring off the beaten path, and connecting with curious characters doesn’t have to stop when you put your suitcase back in the closet. Plus, I didn’t want to have to travel all the time for the sake of content.

So, in 2019, I started sharing more of my adventures in other areas of life: fitness, relationships, careerpeeing.

These posts didn’t get nearly as much traffic as our travel stuff. But I enjoyed writing them and it gave me the excuse to treat life as a big, adventurous trip.

Then COVID removed travel from our foreseeable future in 2020. I rolled with that punch and veered into full-time personal development blogging.

But Kim didn’t join me. She went off to do her own thing.

Maybe she saw something I couldn’t?

Chris hiking along flat trail in Cape Town.
How do I go up from here?

2020-22: The Going Gets Flat

The steady traffic gains I’d been making since the Blending In days hit a plateau in August 2020.

To regain momentum, I created my newsletter and focused on growing that. That kept some awesome readers along on The Unconventional Route journey with me, but it didn’t attract many new ones.

Next, I tried tapping into a new audience with YouTube. That taught me some new skills and gave me a new medium to play around with, but it only attracted a trickle of attention.

All the while, I never stopped researching, experimenting, and challenging myself, then writing about it. These adventures caused my life to get better and better in all areas…except my business. The Unconventional Route stayed on the same dang plateau.

Something was fundamentally off.

Chris on his computer looking concerned and fed up.

2022: Hitting the Breaking Point

A confluence of three things compelled me to make my next move in mid-2022:

  1. Semantics. I got tired of people instinctively perceiving “unconventional” as meaning “different for the sake of being different.”
  2. A coaching session. Josh Zimmerman asked me, “Where do you see your business in five years?” and I didn’t have an exciting answer.
  3. Research on regret. I learned that to minimize long-term regret, you have to take action on things you might regret in the short term.

My takeaway?

If it ain’t workin’, break it.

So I decided to break The Unconventional Route in half.

2023: Time to Zag!

I forked over a few thousand dollars for a nice and short domain name that I hope won’t cause me the same semantic angst as “TheUnconventionalRoute.”

I hired Paul Kelsall to make the site look credible.

Then I removed all the personal development content from The Unconventional Route and put it onto this brand new site:

TheZag.com.

2023-💀: What’s Next?

My mission with The Zag is to help you to proactively push your life in exciting directions.

First and foremost, I’ll try to lead by example. Secondly, like a personal trainer for the game of life, I’ll challenge you to exercises and strategies that seem to work.

That’s my plan for now. Six-and-a-half years from now, I expect to be somewhere even more different than I was six-and-a-half years ago. And I’ll keep zagging from there.

What about you?

If you want to keep zagging with me, I look forward to your company!

Thanks,

Chris

PS: Moving forward, Consider This emails will come from my new, 63%-shorter-than-chris@theunconventionalroute.com email, c@thezag.com. Shoot me an email at either!

About the author

👋 I'm Chris. Everything you read on TheZag.com is my fault. This site is like a gym for your comfort zone, full of challenges to make your status quo sexier. Join my 'Consider This' newsletter for a fun new challenge every 10 days. Try it!

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The Zag shares my adventures off of the boring beaten paths of life and ideas for finding your own unfollowable path.