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Can’t Shake Vagabond

Although I try to distance myself from the gutters of independent blogging I can’t shake this thing, so I may as well just go with it.

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It happened again. I’m being interviewed by a reporter from a major Kazakhstan news agency and she starts talking about reading Vagabond Journey. I cringe. She mentions some of my recent stories. I cringe.

“That’s just a place where I say whatever I want. I don’t even edit it. I don’t even look at it before I publish,” I stammered. “Don’t you want to talk about what I write for other publications?”

Nope. She wanted to talk about some dumb fiasco in Dushanbe that I blogged about.

This wasn’t a one-off interaction. Just today I was talking with BBC China, and the lady I was speaking with kept bringing up this blog, “No, no, no,” I protested, “read what I write about this on other publications.”

Then I just laughed. It’s really no use.

I’ve published a book with a respected publisher, I write for multiple major news organizations, I’ve had stories about me published on VICE, I’ve been on “Squawk Box,” NPR, the CBC, the BBC, but all anyone seems to want to talk to me about is fucking Vagabond Journey. I can’t shake this thing. I try directing the conversation to some well-researched article that I wrote for some well-respected publication but I invariably get boomeranged right back here, to this blog.

We’re not just talking about travelers or the laobaixing here, but people in government, big business, research institutes, media, publishing — people that I respect and wish to be respected by. This was really driven deep when a guy in a relatively high position in Azerbaijan mentioned some blog post that I’d published years before.

“You read the whole thing, didn’t you?” I asked.

He had — for fun, not really for work.

Yes, this tells me something that’s extremely positive, incredible even, but…

I write this blog for myself, for fun, for my wife and kids, for my dad to read when he wakes up in the morning. It’s a place to collect a record of what I do and see and hear and talk to myself about that doesn’t fit in anywhere else. It’s just the raw background story of how my articles and books are researched — it’s not really something that’s intended for a mass audience. But by the numbers, the collective audience here is among my largest.

It really buggers your narrative when you start thinking about who’s reading. And for a personal blog, making content considerations based on who may or may not be out there kind of kills the entire process. I found myself holding back on publishing some posts and stories, and I realized then that I had a problem.

So I stopped blogging here for a while. Partially, it was a matter of time — how can I justify blogging for next to no money when I can make hundreds of dollars writing articles for big media? — partially it was to reconsider my position as a blogger.

Publishing a daily personal blog is like going around with your pants off, with it all out flapping around in the breeze. Sure, some may be impressed by what they see, but most are just going to snicker and laugh — and going around looking like this could very well get you fired.

Can I still say anything I want on here?

I’m not sure, but I do know that I’ve never really gotten anywhere trying to do what I’m supposed to.

When I look back on it, most of my biggest opportunities didn’t come from having a presence in big media or from being on TV or the radio, but from this blog, right here — the place where I just write whatever I want and hit the publish button without thinking twice.


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Filed under: Blogging

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.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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