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VJ Is My Dive Bar

Vagabond Journey has been through so many incarnations that I’ve come full circle back to where I began.

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What I’m doing here on VagabondJourney.com hasn’t been clear for the past two years or so — or perhaps ever, really. I’ve always been in the midst of this identity crisis here. Is this a blog? A source of first-hand narrative news? My personal diary?

Although this site has provided me with an incredible amount of opportunities — my first book deal, my first job in big media, and, more recently, when Forbes invited me to be a contributor they asked if I’d be interested in doing for them what I do here. It’s been a strange endeavor, and many stepping stones have been laid by this site that I didn’t really believe were possible. The dividends on all the time I’ve put into this site over the past ten or eleven years seem to have paid off surprisingly well.

So what am I doing here?

I like publishing on this site because I can tell stories in the long form . . . or short form . . . or any form with a heavy dose of personal narrative. It serves as a good first draft for sections of books and allows me to surround the ship on topics, connect myself with an area of research, and present a good representation of my experience with a given subject. It takes traveling, research, and writing and blends them into one thing: a collection.

This is just a collection here. My collection of the places I go, the things I check out, the people I meet, and the experiences I have. It’s the record of the journey, the strand that connects everything else together — something that I can dig into from time to time to show my older daughter photos and stories of her dad long ago.

As the years go by and the complexity of the road increases it is easy to keep looking ahead rather than where you’re at. The stimulation of the new generally resounds over memories of the old. This blog is just an ongoing procession of snapshots of where I am right now. It’s how I keep track of myself.

I also like publishing here because it gives me an outlet for the smaller stories, experiences, and impressions that may not be publishable in big media — as well as the leeway to present stories in the way that may be less than palatable elsewhere. Post here can be raw, opinionated, and personal . . . or, if you’d prefer, half-finished, sucky, unsubstantiated because this is ultimately a place for loose ends — it’s just a blog. Writing here is a purging of sorts, open expression isn’t always perfect expression, but there’s a value in it anyway.

I have to admit that I sometimes long for the days where the only thing I had to do was wake up in the morning, write a blog post or two, and then head out into the streets to take photos and find people to talk to. It was simple, it was stimulating, it was what I liked doing at that time.

Now when someone I interact with in the more professional realm mentions that they read this blog I kind of cringe.

“You do know that’s just a place where I write whatever I happen to be talking to myself about at any given moment, right?”

When you ship out unfiltered impressions and observations you’re inevitably going to deliver a good amount of shit, but from time to time you’re going to land in territory that you’d never be otherwise — territory that could be very interesting to be in. It’s an exploration of sorts. It’s been called the drip.

I first started this blog in 2005. At that time there was no real parameters on what you could write in this medium because, to put it bluntly, blogs simply weren’t taken seriously. Blogs were personal diaries, not a platform for serious writing.While this made it slightly embarrassing to declare yourself as a professional blogger, it also made the medium incredibly interesting. All of a sudden there was this form of writing where a writer could express the little things — personal stories, under-tested ideas, and off-hand impressions — without fear of serious ridicule or censure. It was a blog, you were supposed to do things like this. It was all about expression and dialog, expression and dialog; the working out of ideas big and small, and this made blogs incredibly interesting to read.

“A blog shows a mind in motion,” is a quote that sums up the medium in this era perfectly.

“Writing real” is a term we used to throw around to give props to one another.

Now blogs are part of the media mainstream, and while the respect that you get for being a professional blogger has dramatically risen so to have the expectations and standards. A defacto formalization of the writing form soon emerged. All of a sudden we were taken seriously. Eventually, the open expression that bloggers once flaunted began to wan; the chaff was cleared out of the space and those at the top tightened their ships and buttoned their lips. And blogs became about as interesting as the daily newspaper.

Now I have a nice platform on Forbes, I can submit op-eds to Reuters, and in-depth stories can go to The Diplomat. This is what I spent a decade trudging towards, but I arrived at these gates with the knowledge that the “me” just can’t go inside. It’s like going to a club and your well-dressed friend walks right in through the door but you get stopped by the bouncer.

So what do you do when this happens?

You turn around and go to the dive bar across the street.

VJ is my dive bar.

I would love to follow the back end story of an itinerant journalist traveling from place to place around the globe. That’s a story I would read, and that’s what this is ultimately about.

(I may have said this before.)

Vagabond Journey returns to being a blog in 2014

Old School Travel Blogging


Filed under: Blogging

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.

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VBJ is currently in: Trenton, Maine

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