April 2011 was a big month for Vagabond Journey Travel. New projects were started and old ones continued being developed. I found myself buried inside a blanket of work, busy ticking away, plotting, hoping, smiling. This past month marked a turning point for Vagabond Journey Travel, it was the stake in the ground where we turned from running the site as a hobby to a business. We made some good headway up the mountain this month in some regards and slipped back down some scree in others. We are now working out the kinks, developing areas beyond the travelogue, while trying to build some foundations up to this castle that I’ve built in the air.
“Some of you may worry that you have built your castles in the air. Fear not, that is exactly where they should be built. Now put a foundation beneath them.”
This was the analysis of where I currently stand by a long term reader named G. I never met him before, but he mysteriously jumps in at times when I could use a little clarity about the road ahead. It is much appreciated.
VJT month in review
VEx — Vagabond Explorer Magazine
This has been one of the largest projects that I have ever attempted under the Vagabond Journey heading. Vagabond Explorer magazine is in full swing. Craig from Travelvice.com has really put this project together — literally — as his graphic design and layout work has been beyond outstanding. I must proclaim here that this magazine is really going to look like a magazine. Craig is also stepping out of the established mold of what pdf magazines tend to look like (digital carbon copies of print mags), and is taking full advantage of the particular attributes that a digital publication can harness.
If you wonder where I have been this past month, it is stuck deep in this magazine. The wheels are turning, and it is all coming together. 85% of contributions are in, and some have even been assembled into the final product. It is me and Craig from here on out, we are getting over the hump and into the final stretch. Lots of work to go, but the first issue of Vagabond Explorer should be out by June.
The travel guides section of Vagabond Journey are also coming along well. This was an incredibly huge project that was began in January of 2010 and it is finally coming to fruition. A good team of researchers and writers have been assembled, and new guides are being added and adapted by the day. We are currently looking for more researchers to submit content to these guides — particularly those with travel experience in Africa, China, Southeast Asia, or Western Europe. With continued hard work I predict that this travel guide will be a excellent travel resource by the end of this year.
If you are interested in working as a travel research intern, please fill out the application on the internships page.
Wiki Vagabond will also soon be blended with travel guides. In point, there is no reason for one site to have two world travel guides (Dave TLWH logically pointed this out to me a long time ago), even though one is a Wiki and the other is a researcher compiled guide. Another reason for this merger is that Wiki Vagabond lost its Wiki functionality in a WordPress upgrade last autumn. Since then, the developers who make the plug in that enables the wiki functionality have only been producing substandard substitutes that don’t really work. I have grown embarrassed about having a wiki-less wiki for so long, have grown worn of waiting for a product to be developed that may never be adequately finished, and do not have the money to hire out coders to write our own wiki program. In point, I have closed the doors on this project. The pages of Wiki Vagabond will be compiled into the travel guides, and these guides will be constructed to better encourage contributions from other travelers.
The Dreaded Day came for Vagabond Journey Travel: our hosting company told us that we were regularly going over the alloted CPU usage for our virtual private server hosting package and that we would need to upgrade. They also turned VJT off for four hours in the middle of the day without prior notification (something that I am not pleased about), which lead to at least 1,000 people not being able to access the site. We have now come up with a temporary plan with our current host — we are essentially paying for twice as much virtual private server space — but are paying just about the same amount as a server all to ourselves would cost. So we are shopping for a new host.
New Review Sections
Making purchases in these days of almost infinite choices is becoming exceedingly difficult. There was once a day when you went to one or two nearby stores had to select your travel gear from what they had on stock. Your choices were very finite, you picked from what was being sold in your town, which ultimately made choosing less difficult from a lack of options.
Now, as online shopping has greatly matured, these days of limited choices seem like the far past, as we have grown accustom to being able to easily browse through hundreds of options before making a decision. Choices have become a barrage, and I have found that I am sometimes brought to a standstill without any bearings on this great sea of options.
For who could decide if one backpack is better than another just by looking at them on a website?
Who wants to spend countless hours wrapped up in online shopping conundrums?
In this age, trusted advice is perhaps more highly valued than ever before. I don’t want to waste time browsing all over the internet just to make a guess that some piece of travel gear may be adequate or not, but I also don’t want to take a chance at purchasing a substandard specimen of a product that I plan to use for years. I want good recommendations from people whose opinions I trust, I want to be guided through the realms of infinite choice by people whose opinions I have confidence in. To these ends we have created two new review sections on Vagabond Journey Travel.
Travel Gear Reviews is just that: tests and reviews of items that can be used in travel. Rich Poulter has taken the lead in testing various pieces of travel gear, and is reviews can be found at:
- Rab Travers Shorts
- Screw Pop Tool Review
- Paramo Maui Cargo Shorts
- Tresspass Tico Trousers
- Tresspass Prednost Booots
There is also a new Book Reviews section on VJT, where the best in travel literature is explored and expounded upon.
This past month I took a flight from Rochester, NY to Bangor, Maine, found a corner of an upstairs bedroom, and put up the barricades. It really does not matter where in the world I am right now, as I am putting all energy into current projects. I hope that after a month or so more of hard work I can come up for air again and take a look at what is going on.
VJT is not only about travel, but is also about making a living on your own volition. Sometimes this means sticking your head under water, putting your nose to the grind stone, and travel in a more figurative than literal sense.
Our next destinations are looking like they could be the Northwestern USA or Andean South America for a few months before taking the long road across Eastern Europe and Central Asia. I want to get back into high alpine territory, I miss the mountains — Petra also needs to quickly return to Spanish speaking countries to keep up with her bilingualism.
Readers vote for destination
Without a doubt, readers have voted for the Eastern Europe/ Central Asia route of travel on the voting form on Choose Next Travel Destination. Voting is to remain open until we buy a plane ticket.
I was offered a job in a fish processing plant this summer. This means working 14 hour days, 7 days a week for 6 weeks. Work includes free accommodation, free meals, and free airfare up from Seattle. It sounds like hell, but, ultimately, good vagabond work. I did the math, and I should be able to take out around $3,500 from this month and a half of work. The problem is that I would need to spend this time outside of VJT related projects. This would pretty much grind the site, promotion of Vagabond Explorer, and just about everything else to a halt. I tried to train my wife to be able to take over the reigns during times like these, but she is currently not willing or able to do so.
So I am looking at benefits and drawbacks to each option: A) I go to Alaska, make enough money to travel on, or B) I keep plunging head on into VJT and really work to promote the magazine and try to make the most of this project which is intended to provide me and my family with the long term funds to travel.
This summer is a critical time for the future of VJT — my decision should be obvious.
I am digging into the possibility of doing a Vagabond Journey line of guidebooks. To start, they will be one city or regional guides, but may grow to include entire countries. This would be a line of guidebooks for long term travelers, expats, or people looking to work and stay for an extended period in certain places.
I would like to publish a series of guidebooks that I would like to use. It is my impression that there is a huge gap between what the current big guidebooks offer and what a large body of travelers want. Currently, the Lonely Planets, the Rough Guides and their ilk just seem like shopping guides to me, as directories which tell people where to spend money around the world. These books are written for the “majority” crowd of travelers, but I believe strongly that there is a huge minority that these guides don’t offer much for. I know that I have absolutely no interest in 85% of what is printed in a mainstream guidebook, while there is a huge amount of information that I do want but is not printed. I also know that there are other travelers who feel the same.
VJT needs a new homepage. What I want requires technical ability beyond what I have, as well as a layout/ design capabilities that I truly lack. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I need to hire out for this.
I am horrible at graphics, I completely lack any sense of what makes a visually appealing layout. I really need some help with the header graphics of this site. They look fine how they are, but fine is not what I am going for here — I need this site to be crisp every which way around.
Vagabond Journey Ground Zero
I do not have the money to even think about this. But the wheels of pondering are not constrained by finances. I would like to create a Vagabond Journey ground zero somewhere in the world. I would like to create a traveler’s infocenter, rest house, hostel, beer haus, travel gear shop, research library, all around cool place to hang out and talk about world travel. I would like to put Vagabond Journey on the map, literally.
I do not believe that it would take a vast amount of money to do this, and if I would allow myself to dream about this a little farther than what is warranted I could see an “investors” scheme coming together.
The problem with this plan, of course, is that I would not want to be there over one season of any given year. I would need to be able to run the place remotely for three quarters of the year, which would mean that I would need people on the ground that I could trust. . .
This line of dreaming has gone way too far.
Donations this month topped $115, which fell short of our goal of $150, but was great considering that I’ve made less travelogue entries this month that I have since 2005. Those who’ve made donations this past month or will in May will receive a complimentary issue of Vagabond Explorer. Just click on the “donate” button in the sidebar to make a contribution!
This is were we stand now in the beginning of May 2011 on Vagabond Journey Travel. As always, all comments, advice, recommendations are welcome.