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June 2011 VJT Progress Report

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June 2011 proved to be one of the biggest months in the history of Vagabond Journey Travel. This month saw some soaring highs and some very deep lows, it showed where we are going and from where we have come. We walked up to the top of a pinnacle this month, looked over all sides, fell off, and then thought seriously of giving up and, proverbially speaking, returning home.

But, as things have always gone when the path ahead looks uncertain, we decided to keep plunging on ahead. These are both exciting and disappointing times here at Vagabond Journey: our new projects have bloomed but our old strategies have bit the dust. We are both surfing big waves and being creamed by the tide, we are galloping into the future while facing the fact that we may be going out of business, we are expanding as we contract.

I think this is a quintessential sentiment of running an internet based business this decade: things look good from one direction, horrible from another, but all eyes must fall at some point down to the bottom line: the dreaded fraction between income and expenses. We struggle with this daily at VJT, this is, in a big way, an essential part of this journey.

In the months that follow we will either kick ass and take names, make this into a profitable business, or drop back for a while into hobby status.

Vagabond Explorer

The Vagabond Explorer Journal came out this month. It is a 55 page pdf magazine that you download and then view on a computer, an Ipad, a tablet, a data phone, or a kindle (compatibility coming soon). This magazine is packed full of vagabonding feature stories, wisdom, knowledge, tips, news, how to information, and lore, with articles that span the globe and, in a very real sense, time. This is not a regular travel magazine showing the “life on the beach” BS world of self-indulgent tourism, no, this is a travel magazine showing what happens under the surface and, in some cases, under the covers of this big planet. Our goal at Vagabond Explorer is to get in there and get into the deeper sides of travel, and the stories in this issue cover inter-cultural love, sex, postmodern travel, the end of nomadism, hopping trains, travel tips, cubicle ditching, stunning photography, reviews, recommended travel gear,  and a play by play of what really happened in Japan when the earth shook and the sea claimed entire cities.

This journal is the future of VJT. If it goes down the entire ship goes with it. I put my heart and soul into the operation. I did the editing, assembly, and a portion of the writing and Craig Heimburger from Travelvice.com put over 200 hours into the layout and design. I must say that even though I am the editor, Craig is the star of this show: everyone who sees this magazine is amazed by the quality of the design work. It is truly a visually stunning production.

The contributions to the magazine were also stellar. Jasmine from JasmineWanders.com wrote about intercultural relationships; the infamous Michal Robert Powell of thecandytrail.com wrote about prostitution, drugs, God, and the cultural underbelly of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Sam Langely of Cubicle Ditcher contributed advice on how to dissolve a corporate life and rise again as a traveler; Gretchen from travelblogs.com reviewed four high quality travel blogs, Steven Mendoza provides us with a play by play of what really happened when the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan (he was at its epicenter), Ani St.Amand tells us how to hop passenger trains, and I provide a story of the fall of human nomadism as was encountered around Gobekli Tepe 10,000 years ago, a piece on independent travel businesses, some travel tips, and gear reviews.

90% of regular readers that I know by name have not yet purchased a copy of the Vagabond Explorer journal. I do not understand why this is — if I read something that someone wrote daily for years and they came out with a publication that was meant to go above and beyond what they are already doing and wanted a measly $5 for it, I would pay (and I am cheaper and poorer than all of you combined hehe). But it seems as if most people just want free content, or just figure that someone else will buy it and the site will just magically continue by some odd invisible hand of economics.

I am speaking boldly: readers, I need you to buy this magazine.

Free internet days are over

I tell you, readers, the days of the free internet are ending. Traffic and passive advertising alone does not grant webmasters of big sites enough money to continue publishing or even of covering their expenses. You reach the law of diminishing returns very abruptly the bigger and more traffic a website gets. All over the internet, you are going to start see big and popular websites start charging for content or using very invasive advertising tactics (such as making you watch a video ad before viewing the content). What goes up on VagabondJourney.com is absolutely free — I will never charge you to view content here — but the additional products (magazine and books) need to cover the cost of publishing the free content. This is a win/ win for everyone: I provided free content daily and you pay for it by purchasing our low cost publications which will come out periodically throughout the year.

What is in Vagabond Explorer is NOT published on VagabondJourney.com, nor will it EVER see online publication. Vagabond Explorer is a pdf download that you keep on your own equipment that you can view whenever you want. The magazine is full of original, riviting, longer length, in depth articles. The stuff in this magazine is not formatted for online publish, nor is the content appropriate or cheap enough to be offered up for free. This is a 100% professional publication, you will not be disappointed in your purchase.

We are trying a new business model on VJT. We are going to try to offer high quality products rather than just serving up ads. We are going to offer thousands and thousands of pages of great travel information and stories in hopes that readers will purchase our low price magazines and books. Again, the paid content offered through this site — the magazine and books — is what is going to fund the free content. The two work hand in hand and compliment each other. Blog posts do not make money, they are offered free and I make just about nothing from them. The time that I put into blogging must be paid for by earnings from selling our products. Purchasing the Vagabond Explorer Journey not only pays for the magazine but all of the online content as well. If you have not already, please purchase the first volume of this very unique and original, non-commercial, magazine.

Hobo Traveler Book

My friend, Andy Graham of Hobotraveler.com, is putting together a book called A life without borders, which I am included in along with MRP and Jasmine from the Vagabond Explorer crew, and other long term, perpetual travelers. This book is shaping up to be an exploration into and celebration of the world traveler lifestyle, and should be a big statement from one of the original digital nomad.

Bicycle Travel Correspondent Retires

After more than a year of service to the Vagabond Journey cause, Luke Sorenson, our bicycle travel correspondent, has retired. Luke found a little vision of paradise in his home country, Australia, working a job that he enjoys and scoping out a bit of land in a rain forest to build a hermitage on. Likewise, he canned his proposed world wide bicycle journey, hung up his panniers, as he travels into a new phase of life.

We wish Luke the best, and will certainly visit his corner of paradise when we get to Australia.

View Luke’s work on Vagabond Journey at Bicycle Travel Questions.

Index page

Vagabond Journey ground zero — the homepage, VagabondJourney.com — was always a sore spot always begging redesign for this site. I read a short, somewhat positive, review of VJT in a forum on squatting, and it was clear that the person who wrote it did not understand the navigation structure of the site. To these ends, I felt as if I am not doing a good enough job presenting the plethora of pages (over 8,000) in a way that users can better access. I looked at the homepage and thought of going through another redesign, but stopped short.

I asked myself, “What is the homepage of a site suppose to do.” I could only answer, “It should show, in one lump sum, what the site is about, and ways to navigate through it.” The home page of a site is called the “index” page for a reason, so I designed mine to look like an index.

I want this page to have a brief explanation of the site to introduce new visitors, a blurb for the magazine and other publications, a section for the newest completed travel guides, and then links to the top pages and sections of the site. Having a concise index page is difficult to do with a large website that has many sections and has gone through dozens of incarnations through the years, but I realized quickly that one of those fancy, “wow this looks good,” types of homepages would not be suitable here: there is simply too much information on this site to present in anything but a bare bones, no frills manner.

The core of this website are the “essential page” indexes — which are summary pages of the main topics of the site with links to go deeper into the various subjects — and the travelogue. The travelogue is not vast, with over 1600 pages alone. Much of this information is evergreen — it has a long shelf life — so I included links to the main travelogue topics and destinations on the homepage.

I want people to come to our index page and be thrust into the center of the site. I felt that a no frills production would work best. Please let me know what you think of it.

Travels

I went on a solo journey to Iceland this month. It was designed to be a travel writing trip, and I am buried in what I’m digging into. I should be here until the end of this month, then I return to Maine for two weeks, meet back up with my family, and then we all go to Colombia.

Keep reading of these adventures on this Travelogue.

Vagabond Economics

Our earnings received a little boost in June with the publication of Vagabond Explorer, but we are still far from even breaking even on the publication. This magazine and similar projects are the economic future of this production: the website will be the glue that holds it all together but the income MUST come from VEx and book sales. If you want to support this site, the best way you can do this is by buying a magazine!

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Filed under: Vagabond Journey Updates

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Polis, Republic of CyprusMap