108 blog posts
29 articles in big media
My stat line for 2015.
Each New Year’s Eve I look back on what happened during the past year, evaluate it, and sketch out a plan for the coming year — like everybody else. I understand that these plans that I draw up tend not to happen in any way that I envision them. I usually end up doing something else that I couldn’t anticipate . . . or just change my mind and go in another direction. While having a framework may not prove to be a very adequate road map it does theoretically allow for the segmenting of time for organizational purposes — kind of like one season in a sport ending and another beginning. It also gets the wheels turning — planning, especially when it involves big travels across a big world for big projects, is also just fun.
Year in review
108 blog posts as a yearly output is pathetic. I’d given up on this site at various points over the past year, letting it sit idle for weeks at a time. Running VJ is a full time job, and while I was occupied doing other things that took precedence, that doesn’t fully explain the random hiatuses. The truth is that this was a transitional year for VagabondJourney. We moved away from the format of being a multi-contributor geography publication to a personal blog. I had to give up a portion of a dream: this site as a prime source of in-depth, immersive journalism just isn’t going to happen. I don’t have the time (if I want to do anything else) or money. I just want to get up in the morning and write. That’s all.
So I began writing for other publications more often during 2015. I’d figured I’d let someone else take care of the editing, coding, and monetization efforts, and I’d just have the fun. I had 29 articles published in big media (Reuters, The Diplomat, New Statesman, SCMP, China Daily, etc) this year and two others in smaller publications. This was by far my biggest year for this type of production.
In no small part, helping along the opportunities to write for big media was the release of my first book in April. Ghost Cities of China came out in the Asian Arguments series of Zed Books, and my solitary little life as an independent blogger was duly disrupted. This resulted in a little book tour around China, a book launch event at Waterstones in London, reviews in 15 publications (including Forbes, The Guardian, New Statesman, Geographical Magazine, and the Quietus), interviews in 9 publications (including VICE, Huck Magazine, Shanghai Daily, and Xinhua), appearances on CBC The Current and CNBC Squawk Box, and mentions, quotes, or citations in many other places (including NPR Morning Edition, VICE Motherboard, Atlantic CityLab, BBC World, and a major Peking University study). This disruption, of course, was very welcomed.
It was a transition year, for sure — I got to do many new things that weren’t available to me before — but the fundamentals haven’t really changed much. I still do what I’ve been doing as a profession since 2005. I travel, ask questions, write; getting confused by shit I don’t understand and retelling the story of how I tried to figure it out. Although I now sometimes do this clad in a blazer and waistcoat . . .
I had a new baby in 2015. Her name is Rivka.
The plan for 2016
I saw the importance of having a blog that’s relatively well read (for what it is) where I can throw up articles without any pressure and work out larger ideas and explore smaller intrigues. I can really write here, step over ledges, feel around in dark places, and lay down the initial frameworks for more formal articles for other publications and rough drafts of sections of books. That said, I will make every effort to stick to a Monday to Friday blogging schedule throughout this year.
This year I have another full length book project and potentially a shorter one as well. The former will be about the New Silk Road, and still requires an excessive amount of travel. I already put in two bouts of travel to the west of China and Kazakhstan for this book and I’m getting ready to start my third. The other book is about the re-awakening of the Chinese countryside as small towns and villages are being rezoned and developed as small cities, which is laying the foundation for businesses to spread out over country and the opportunity for migrant workers to return home. Most of the travels for this book have been completed already, but it still may require another journey through the backwaters of central China.
The travel plan for 2016 is looking something like this:
January – February: The ports of SE Asia — Singapore, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Maldives.
April: Germany, Poland, Belarus.
June – July: Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, western Kazakhstan/ Caspian Sea region.
After that I will probably return to China, although I’m not sure. I will be just sitting in a room from the end of July until the beginning of September finishing the New Silk Road book anyway, so it doesn’t really matter where I am.
Once the New Silk Road book is done I really don’t have any idea where I’m going to go. I’d like to set up in Singapore, but I’m open to almost anywhere.
Previous New Years status reports