≡ Menu

‘Five Years Ago There Was Nothing’ My Duqm Feature On The Guardian

… and a little about my journalism strategy.

Support VBJ’s writing on this blog:

My feature about Duqm was published today on The Guardian. If you’d like, you can check it out here:

‘Five years ago there was nothing’: inside Duqm, the city rising from the sand

You can find my other stories on The Guardian here.

I really like writing for The Guardian — They’re pretty much the last stand of what we could call legitimate, high-quality mass-market journalism. Pretty much every other of the small handful of old school big news outlets have either sold out to advertisers or erected paywalls. The Guardian is unique in both regards. I looked at my story on their front page today, nodded my head, and said, ‘yeah, I like that.’

My strategy

The Duqm project was the perfect enactment of my multi-vector publishing strategy. I don’t travel to a place and do a project just to publish it in one outlet in one medium; instead multiple sides of the story is told in different ways and include different details in a variety of mediums.

How this works:

1) I find a main topic, issue, person, etc that I want to investigate and write a story about and then make contacts, set up my visits, and arrange some interviews.

2) I make the trip and publish a series of blog posts about the travel experience, which overlaps and foreshadows but doesn’t spoil the main product. I usually don’t include content from formal interviews in blog posts due to the fact that these posts are usually published before the transcriptions are complete and the publications who are paying for my stories generally want 100% original content. Also, the beat, tone, and subject matter of blog posts generally differs from what I publish elsewhere: this blog is the story of me covering the stories of others.

3) I publish articles about the topic of intrigue in multiple journalistic outlets, aiming for a couple shorter stories and one big feature.

4) I vlog and / or make a short documentary about the travels and / or the topic of the story I cover. These usually go up on my YouTube channel, which is a steady source of revenue.

5) Elements of the story could end up in a book.

Each outlet and medium are their own tributaries of income. Somehow, at the mouth of river there is enough of a torrent to keep going.

Other journalists are often amazed — or freaked out — by the fact that I cover my own travel expenses. I do this intentionally, almost as a rule. The rationale is that if I’m on my dime I can do the project how I want, I can stay for as long as I want, and I can be more open to side projects or taking things in unexpected directions.

It’s important to see what’s happening in the world first hand. I understand that if I required an expense account my travels would more than likely be stunted. My personal preference is to travel continuously and to always be collecting content, exploring, learning … I do not believe there is a publication out there that will fund this.

I understood early on in my journalism career that I couldn’t wait around to get to a level in my profession where someone is going to pay for me to travel the world. That would more than likely never happen. I had an idea of the type of journalist that I wanted to be, and it wasn’t really a type for which there is a prescribed path to become. You don’t get a degree and apply for this type of job. So I just went out and did it.

That said, I’m not all the way there yet.

Duqm series on Vagabond Journey:


The only way I can continue my travels and publishing this blog is by generous contributions from readers. If you can, please subscribe for just $5 per month:


If you like what you just read, please sign up for our newsletter!
* indicates required
Filed under: In Other Media, Journalism, New Cities, Oman

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 3720 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

Support VBJ’s writing on this blog:

VBJ is currently in: New York City

9 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

  • trevor August 7, 2018, 6:21 pm

    Good job on the Guardian article.

    I come from a town that was incorporated into a NEW CITY. think round a bouts and concrete cows.

    Link Reply
    • Wade Shepard August 8, 2018, 2:16 pm

      What’s the name of it?

      Link Reply
      • trevor August 9, 2018, 2:08 pm

        milton keynes my town is on south side . home of the code breakers.. think ENIGMA
        MK began in 68…

      • Wade Shepard August 9, 2018, 5:57 pm

        Cool … will have to check it out someday.

  • Heidi August 8, 2018, 1:30 pm

    Good grief, The Guardian??!! Yes, it’s the last bastion of decent journalism that we have left in the UK. Superb job Wade, so pleased for you 🙂
    Heidi xxxx

    Link Reply
    • Wade Shepard August 8, 2018, 2:14 pm

      Thank you. Very much appreciated!

      Link Reply
      • trevor August 9, 2018, 2:09 pm

        yap good job…

  • Mary Soderstrom August 12, 2018, 5:55 pm

    Very interesting story in The Guardian. Great publication, too.

    Link Reply
    • Wade Shepard August 13, 2018, 3:49 pm

      Thank you!

      Link Reply