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2019 In Review: Travels, Publications … Tribulations?

Where I went and what I did throughout the previous year.

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ASTORIA, New York City- 2019 was a different kind of year for me. My accomplishments were more in the realm of life rather than work. Odd. I don’t believe I’ve ever had a year like that before.

Last year started out for me in a place called Portuguese Settlement in Melaka, a old port city on the western coast of Peninsular Malaysia. I was exactly where I wanted to be, doing exactly what I wanted to do — which was filming a documentary about a historic, one of a kind culture that was being wiped off the face of the earth by a Chinese development project.

From there I went to the Philippines for my friend Steve’s wedding. It was off the hook — they way a wedding should be in every way.

Then I rejoined my family in Maine … and immediately began shooting for another film project about a Syrian hip hop artist struggling to ply his art in an inconducive social landscape. The last thing I needed at this point was another film project, but I couldn’t resist.

Then I went back to Prague with my family so my wife could finish school. I mostly took care of my two girls and tried to get some work finished in the margins. I gave up a lot of what I was doing so my wife could accomplish what she was doing. Marriage is a partnership like that, and it was my turn to give. I can’t complain. While I set myself back real far in my work I was able to have time with my girls that I rarely have had and my wife came out of it with a profession. Totally worth it.

We then decided to set up a base of operations in New York City.

I’m not sure how this is going yet. But I’m not yet making enough money to fully be here, which certainly puts a damper on things. However, this is the also the global epicenter for money making — I just need to finish up some projects and then I can go outside a little.


This year I had to make a significant adjustment: I realized that I am no longer in the process of becoming, that I may have … became.

My entire life I’ve spent training, studying, and clawing my way towards obtaining what I want in the future. I was always striving to become something else. As a kid, this was fun for me: I added a sense value and importance to the now by working for the future. I enjoyed the process of trying to become a little better everyday — practice was how I recreated.

However, I was oddly never really goal oriented. I never really cared if I arrived; I was all about the process. I liked working for something — actually getting it just meant that I would have to find something else to work towards. This becomes a problem when you’re 38.

While I’ve been gravitating towards film more and more, I know that my five prong strategy is what I have to stick with for now:

Film / video

Year in review


Out of the 286 total posts that were published on Vagabond Journey this year, I wrote 105 of them. That’s a pretty paltry sum. A blogger should average, at minimum, one post per day. But the way my work has been turning this month, I take it.

A post about visiting Hallstatt, China, the 1:1 scale replica of an Austrian hamlet was the year’s most popular post.

In terms of traffic, VJ brought in around 420,000 views. This is down from the years where our views would be in the millions, but this is the direction the mainstream internet is going. Google has consolidated power and have been giving higher percentages of traffic to corporate sites year after year. This has had a cyclical effect: independent creators can no longer make a living so they stop publishing which lowers the amount of unique, interesting content on the World Wide Web, which eventually makes people stop using search to go exploring for interesting content … and then there’s walled gardens like FB and Twitter. You can’t expect to compete in this ecosystem the same way that you did in 2010. The web is a different world now. In my opinion, it’s a redundant, boring world.

Ultimately, my goal in blogging is to create a publication like one that I would like to read.


My production went way down as far as publishing articles. Throughout 2019 I only published nine stories on Forbes, one feature on The Guardian, four articles for DHL Delivered, and one for the magazine of the Roca Gallery. These are absurdly low numbers, and I have to wonder if I’ve forgotten about some big articles somewhere??? If this was it, then I no idea how I financially made it through the year. Seriously, I’ve had single months in the past where I’ve nearly delivered as many articles as this.

Academic journals

I published one paper in an academic journal this year. It was in a Harvard University journal called New Geographies.


Still going on the New Silk Road book. It’s been challenging. Basically, it’s an academically viable travel narrative, which is a genre that I’m not too sure exists.

Film and video

There was something that I was focused on this year that diverted my attention away from writing this year: film and video. I’ve invested a lot of money and time into filming documentaries over the past couple of years, and I’m starting to get to a point of competence. I’ve started taking commercial jobs, etc.

What did I complete this year?

A music video for the rapper Assasi:

A few promo videos for the Montessori Institute Prague:

A rough cut of a short independent doc:

I also filmed two big projects which are not ready to ship yet. How much time film takes is something that I always underestimate. However, I’ve started to developed a process that works, where I can set up, shoot, organize, edit, and color a documentary film on my own. Few people work this way … for a good reason: it’s not easy.


I didn’t really position myself this year in places where I could give many talks. I spoke at a conference in Copenhagen, and that’s about it. However, in 2020 this should be changing, as I already have three talks booked.


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Filed under: Vagabond Journey Updates, Work

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3717 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

Support VBJ’s writing on this blog:

VBJ is currently in: New York City

10 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

  • Rob January 3, 2020, 12:29 am

    I hope 2020 turns out to be all you want it to be!

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    • Wade Shepard January 3, 2020, 10:03 am

      Thanks Rob! Same to you! Where are you traveling to this year?

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  • Iain January 29, 2020, 5:45 am

    Hello Wade! I enjoy your writing and would like to read more. What is your preferred way for people to buy your books? (I live in the UK.)

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    • Wade Shepard January 29, 2020, 9:08 am

      Thanks! I’d say Amazon would be best.

      Link Reply
  • Mary Soderstrom February 7, 2020, 9:57 am

    Over the years I’ve found that you never know where your path will lead you, or what the repercussions will be from the work you do. What you’ve accomplished is impressive in quality if not in quantity (compared to your previous, phenomenal output, anyway) and I have no doubt that it will bring more interesting things.

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    • Wade Shepard February 23, 2020, 5:31 pm

      Over the years I’ve found that you never know where your path will lead you, or what the repercussions will be from the work you do.

      Yes, that’s very true.

      What you’ve accomplished is impressive in quality if not in quantity (compared to your previous, phenomenal output, anyway) and I have no doubt that it will bring more interesting things.

      Thank you!

      Link Reply
  • Jack June 16, 2020, 1:18 pm

    2020 through us all through a loop so far. I don’t even know how we can salvage this year that is truly tribulations!

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    • Wade Shepard June 19, 2020, 11:15 am

      Yeah, man, it’s gotten nuts. I wonder what’s coming next. The shit isn’t really going to hit the fan until they cancel football. If they do that … man, we’re all going to get pretty political and it’s going to be extreme. They really violated the fundamental premise of governance: bread and circuses. They removed the ability for tens of millions to make a living and they got rid of our entertainment. When this happens people revolt.

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      • Jack June 20, 2020, 2:07 pm

        Makes you wonder if that is their real goal?

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        • Wade Shepard June 30, 2020, 10:06 pm

          I’ll say this: SOMETHING has to be their real goal because they can’t possibly be this stupid.

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