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June 2011 VJT Progress Report

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, [...]

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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.


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!


Filed under: Vagabond Journey Updates

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 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 3691 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

Support VBJ’s writing on this blog:

VBJ is currently in: Trenton, Maine

12 comments… add one

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  • FruuGal July 9, 2011, 9:59 am

    Wade, I think the changes to your home page look great. The page looks sleek and sophisticated, but still somewhat gritty. It comes off as serious. The blog photos from Iceland are really good.

    I am one of the long time readers you know by name who hasn’t purchased your new magazine. I’m not sure why and your blog today has started me thinking about it. I’m sure that most of your readers, including me can afford it.

    As internet content traditionally has been free (and many have fought to keep it that way), it goes against the grain. $5 seems pricey for a start-up, why not $1.99 an issue until interest builds? I also don’t really know how it works. I can’t read it all at once, so do I save it on my computer or log in at your site to read it?

    Not trying to be negative, just honest. I admire what you are doing and will purchase your magazine as a show of support. Also glad to hear that your web traffic is picking up.

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    • Wade Shepard July 9, 2011, 2:53 pm

      Hello Fruugal,

      Thanks so much.

      The magazine works as a pdf download. You click over to the distributor (ejunkie), pay with Paypal, and then you are sent a link to your email to download the magazine. It is then on your computer permanently and you can look at it any time with a program that can open pdf documents (like Adobe reader).

      The magazine costs $5 because there is a very limited advertising presence. I thought hard about how to make money from it and rather than barraging everyone with ads (as most magazines do – 60% ads, 40% content is a common ratio) I decided to cut advertising down to a 1% margin. Also, publications that rely on advertising are bound to the demands of the advertisers as far as content. There is A LOT that I cannot write about on this website because of the terms and conditions of the advertising, and I want Vagabond Explorer to be completely free from such influences.

      $5 is actually a low price when compared against what a lot of digital media that is selling today. Ebooks are going for $40+, and magazines not much larger than VEx are selling for $30. I am unsure why this is, as distributing digital products is virtually free.

      It is a trade off — advertising is cut but the price rises. If we relied totally on advertising for our income we would not be able to publish some of the stories in this magazine, and we would end up with just another commercially influenced publication: totally not something I want to be involved in. The benefit of VEx is that it is different — there is not another publication out there even remotely like it. Whether people are willing to pay $5 to experience this difference is another story haha.

      Thank you for you questions and demand for clarification, and for saying that you are going to purchase a copy!

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  • Denise July 10, 2011, 5:28 am

    Hi Wade,

    I’m not a long-term reader and just started reading your blog recently, and my case is probably not that common, but here’s my two cents. I do not buy online books or magazines (not just yours but any) because I cannot stand reading off a computer sceen. I can only manage short blog posts,and when they are long and drag on I skim through them or stop reading. I love books and magazines, but just printed ones. Your magazine looks absolutely stunning, and though I personally wouldn’t be able to do the sort of travelling you promote in your magazine and website, I enjoy reading about it.

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    • Wade Shepard July 10, 2011, 1:08 pm

      Hello Denise,

      After downloading it is very easy to print the mag out. Just click print from your pdf viewing program and flip the page to “landscape view.” It should then print out nicely.

      Thanks for the feedback, I think many people have the same sentiments. Ideally, the mag should be viewed on a tablet, Ipad, or kindle (support coming soon), but even on a computer screen the magazine is laid out to fit the dimensions nicely to reduce scrolling and other annoyances. Having the mag downloaded on your computer also means that you can read it in spurts at any time.

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      • Denise July 10, 2011, 1:23 pm

        true…but a printed book or magazine is just not the same as a professionally printed and bound one…once again, I’m just saying this to maybe shed light on the reasons some people would opt not to buy it, but then again, maybe I’m not really the norm. The price though is definitely right, and you should not reduce it.

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        • Wade Shepard July 10, 2011, 5:27 pm

          Very true, digital products are a lot more versatile. They weight nothing, don’t take up any space, you don’t have to worry about where to store them, there is no boxing them up if you move, you don’t have to throw them away, they don’t clutter up your house or fill up your backpack, they can’t be ripped or ruin physically, you don’t need to recycle them or cart them around. You can’t lose them, can take and use them anywhere you have your digital reading device, you can share them with friends, you can search for keywords in the text, bookmark your location, copy and paste from them, keep them in your long term digital storage files or just push a button and delete it when finished. There are many advantages to digital media. But, ultimately, its only $5 and it keeps the free content on the website coming.

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          • Wade Shepard July 10, 2011, 6:52 pm

            I just viewed Vagabond Explorer on an Ipad for the first time, and it looks excellent! Whew, I’m real happy about this, as these tablets are going to be the future of reading such magazines.

            Though I think that I am around a year too early with Vagabond Explorer. The more popular the devices (like tablets and Ipads) to read digital publications comfortably become the more popular such magazines will be. Digital mags seem to not really be in the average American’s frame of reference yet — but they will be as they the technology grows in this direction. These long length, feature story based, digital magazines are getting really popular in France and other parts of Europe right now, and I hope the trend soon shifts to the USA. It would sure make trying to sell this think a little easier haha.

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  • david July 11, 2011, 5:31 am

    I agree with Wade completely regarding the last comment on tablets/Ipads. Bought VEx, but haven’t read it on the laptop yet… Would probably have done so if it was part of my main reading platform… Which is paperback books / mags at the moment…

    I’ll get to reading VEx at some point. Just… Need… Time…

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    • Wade Shepard July 11, 2011, 8:58 am

      Thanks David,

      This is all going to change. In under 2 years we are all going to have these tablets and we are going to read everything on them and never open a paper book, magazine, or newspaper again. Seriously, I did not think it was possible, I thought I was 100% pro-print, but now that I’ve gotten use to reading digitally with the proper devices, I’ve found it a better experience — and it truly makes paper seem obsolete. The laptop or computer is a good information seeking instrument, but it is too awkward for long duration reading. Once we all have these tablets — I don’t have one (I have a kindle) but have played around with them enough to know how powerful they are to change reading habits — the days of 100% digital media will be born.

      David, you were like the first one to buy the mag, just read it! haha.

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  • Russ July 13, 2011, 7:14 pm

    Wade, a couple comments. First, I agree with Denise, reading at the computer somehow isn’t the same as holding a book or magazine in your hands. I did already buy your magazine, but have been slacking on reading, for this exact reason. I spend enough time at the computer, so when I want to relax I head away from my desk. I didn’t even think of the print out idea though, perhaps that’s what I’ll do. Maybe I’ll just print the pages I haven’t read yet.

    Secondly, I don’t believe the days of free internet are over, I just believe the model is changing. Of course you’ll always have the people who only want free stuff, but on the other hand, there are always people who are willing to pay for a quality product. And how do we know what products are quality?? Because we seek out the free content first, and if it hooks us then we know that the premium content will be worthwhile. Think about what you typically spend money on, usually on things you already know will be worth it. So just think of your free content as your advertising, then all you have to do is hook your loyal fans on some premium upgrades. I know this is how many bloggers and digipreneurs make their money these days. 95% of what they offer is free and of high quality, and that’s how the get at reach their target markets when they have a product, guide, or premium upgrade to sell.

    Good work Wade, keep it going!

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    • Wade Shepard July 13, 2011, 8:35 pm

      Hello Russ,

      Yes, digital media will come to fruition once everyone has tablets and Ipads. Reading on those things, in my opinion, is easier and clearer than a print book — I am really impressed. Laptops are awkward reading devices, good thing we all are probably going to have appropriate devices for reading digital media in the next year or two haha. Media is going to go digital — all the way — there is nothing we can do about it. I have another entry about this that should be published next week.

      To everyone,

      At the expense of sounding crass, $5, two or three times a year is all I’m asking for. We all waste over $5 on crap every week. This money goes to pay for the free content which is getting more costly and difficult to continue producing. As Russ pointed out above, it is the paid content that supports the free content. 99% of the content here is free, but it is the additional 1% that we need money from to keep this project going.

      Thanks for understanding.

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      • david July 14, 2011, 3:51 am

        I would add that it’s actually a matter of simple, basic decency here, guys and girls…

        If I count the amount of hours I’ve been entertained by Vagabond Journey, the many times its been my candle in the dark cubicle, so to speak, it really is the least one can do.

        Come on… You know what is the right thing to do!?

        Support VJ so it can support us poor, demented office folk… 😉

        Link Reply