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The Move to Taizhou, New Mission Statement, What Happened to Vagabond Explorer? May 2012 VJT Status Report

TAIZHOU, China- Much has happened since my last Vagabond Journey status report at the beginning of January. My family and I jumped continents, got started on new projects, and returned to old passions with renewed focus. Break from Vagabond Journey I took a month long break from publishing on VagabondJourney.com to get a clearer view [...]

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TAIZHOU, China- Much has happened since my last Vagabond Journey status report at the beginning of January. My family and I jumped continents, got started on new projects, and returned to old passions with renewed focus.

Break from Vagabond Journey

I took a month long break from publishing on VagabondJourney.com to get a clearer view of the path ahead. I thought of packing in this project — or at least removing the flagship presence that it currently has in my life and work. I’m devoting time to blogging and webmastering that I could otherwise be putting into writing books and other activities that would allow me to really etch out a deeper for myself in my profession. But by the end of this month off it became apparent that this VagabondJourney.com project was not in need of trashing but in need of some simple repairs.

The reality of almost all professions change with the ebbs and flows of cultures/ economies/ politics, and independent travel publishing is no different. Travel blogging and independent publishing has changed since I first got into it in 2004, and I either must change with it, drop out, or blaze my own trail.

Part of advancing in any project is knowing yourself, your parameters, and what makes you feel fulfilled — happy. I pretty much don’t do what any of the popular “make money travel blogging” or “how to be a travel writer” books tell you to do. I don’t play the social media game, I have no interest in networking or in promoting myself. I had the opportunity to go this route a long time ago. I took a few tentative steps, peaked around a corner, saw where I was going, and ralfed all over myself. I permanently burned the bridges leading in that direction, did an about face, and walked away.

“You can’t have a ‘John Wayne’ attitude. You can’t do it alone,” the editor of the magazine Budget Travel once stated when giving instruction on how to be a travel writer.

But this is exactly what I do, and I’m pretty good at it.  4,000+ people per day visit this site, and I’m making enough money to completely fund my travels. I’ve meet the goals that I set out for when I began blogging in 2004. I think this realization deflated my passion for this project a little: I’ve climbed to my summit, now what?

So I sat down, looked around me, acknowledged the fact that I’ve not had to work for anybody else since 2009, and found myself to be pretty satisfied. I’ve never been too good at arriving, so when I realized that I had nowhere else to go with VagabondJourney.com, I found myself a little lost.

I had arrived.

I had to look around for a while, kick some stones, and decide whether or not to plant a flag. I realized that I liked my place on top of my very own mountain, and decided to stay. During that month off I re-evaluated my goals, and they are no longer based on dollars and cents and traffic numbers, and, even less, regard in the travel writing profession.

May status report

New mission statement

The goal of VagabondJourney.com is to create a defacto chronicle of the ebbs and flows of a world in fast transition. I want to create a record of human opinion, lifestyle, worldview, desire, via on the ground reports from a handful of travelers who are perpetually circling the globe. I want to create a database of how people live, what people eat, the state of wild lands, a record of wildlife, the impacts of economics and politics as it seen from the ground, in the streets, by people who are living and traveling there. Simply put, I want to document the state of the planet at this juncture in time from the position of experience — in a format that (I hope) is entertaining to read.

There is a big difference between how places come off in international media and how they really are. All you have to do is listen to people in foreign countries tell you what they know about your country to know the misunderstanding that occurs when people believe what the media shows of other countries. People outside the USA often still think there are cowboys in America, that black people are all gangsters shooting each other, that it’s dangerous to go to high school, that we’re a bunch of religious nuts, that we live like the people on their Friends  DVDs, all kinds of crazy stuff that could not be farther from the actual experience of being in the United States. And the perception of people in the USA about the outside world is often equally as ridiculous.

On a very small level, it is my mission to try to pop these sensationalized bubbles, and deliver stories that are anchored as close to the earth as I can get them. I’m looking for the normal to report about, not the sensational. I’m looking for the trends and patterns in the fray of a rapidly changing planet.

How am I going to document this place?

This is what I ask myself each morning, and this is the theme of this website. I know that there is a reality that is not covered on the evening news, and that there is an entire world to explain beyond Wikipedia. My goals are no longer quantifiable, I can’t fail. I just need to walk out of my front door and document what I find. I walk through the streets. I watch people. I ask them what they are doing. It’s simple.

I like blogging, I enjoy this work. This job is only worth as much as I enjoy doing it. There is no respect to be gained from being a travel blogger, there is no regard to be won from being an independent journalist, there is definitely not much money to be made — so the only thing there is to do is have fun at it.

Need to hire more chroniclers

I can only balk at the above mission statement if I’m working alone. In the future I want to be able to completely fund 25 people to travel and live around the world to work on this chronicle, but the money is simply not available yet — save I somehow get some kind of independent journalism grant. But even if I had the money finding the right people for the job would be extremely difficult. It is difficult to explain to prospective writers that I’m not looking for stories of trips but stories of learning and observation. I’m interested in travel being used as a tool to broaden and challenge perception, and the writing must impart this growth to the reader. I have one regular contributor who can do this, Tiffany Zappulla and a few others that send in articles intermittently, but I’m really in need of a larger team.

Thank you to readers

I am lucky because I have a core base of readers and supporters here on VagabondJourney.com. They seem to be people who get a thrill from having their world views and opinions challenge, who can handle a different perspective — people who can read something they don’t agree with without getting red in the face. They seem to be people who can come away from a discussion having truly gained something. These are people who never had to worry about thinking outside the box because they were never on the inside to begin with. I suppose the heretics of our time are those who boast no full fledged affiliation to any tribe, any sect, or any single philosophy. I’m blessed to have a good number of these oddballs reading this site.

Full feed removed

The full content RSS and email digest has been turned off. Only links and  excerpts for new articles will continue to be sent out, but to read the full content readers will need to click over to the site. This is mainly because this site is growing ever more in a multimedia direction — over 50% of the articles now have videos or audio accompanying them — and this technology is not yet embeddable in emails and, sometimes, even in RSS feeds. This means that readers who access the site through email and RSS are only getting half the content, and this does not lend a good user experience.

More multimedia

The internet publishing medium allows for text, video, and audio to be joined together into complete articles.That said, there will be an ever higher frequency of articles with embedded videos and audio being published on VagabondJourney.com. We need to take more advantage of all the sensory outlets available to us. This additional media is part of the articles and should be accessed in conjunction with the text. To just read a page without watching the video is to only get half the story.

The quality of the multimedia on the site will continue to improve. I do not aim to spend three days editing videos though, so it is not my intention to produce documentary quality films, but I’m always trying to develop ways to make decent videos and podcasts that require very little editing time. I’m getting better at this.

Vagabond Explorer

VagabondJourney.com will always be my meat and potatoes, but I want Vagabond Explorer magazine to be the butter on my bread so to speak. I’m looking to get another issue out by mid-summer. It will have a China theme. In addition to going out as a pdf, it will be available in print as well as on Kindle. The great Craig Heimburger will probably not be able to do the graphic design for this issue, so expect the layout to be vastly simpler.


The past couple of months have seen some good travels as we went from Chiapas to Cancun to Rochester to NYC back to Rochester back to NYC then on to Shanghai before settling in Taizhou in Jiangsu province. This upcoming month I should be traveling to Nanjing, Yangzhou, and maybe visiting Shanghai.

End notes

Everything in China is going pretty well. There is a good group of expats in Taizhou, my wife enjoys her job, I’m free to work on various obsessions throughout the day. I’ve said it often that China is my favorite country in the world to be in, and I still echo this sentiment. I look out my window at the endless sea of high-rises and construction sites and there is just something about this place that I like.

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 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 3705 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

Support VBJ’s writing on this blog:

VBJ is currently in: New York City

16 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

  • the candy trail ... | Michael Robert Powell May 2, 2012, 6:47 am

    Right on Bro !

    Great that the sea-breeze flows towards your beach-siesta – go for those goals.

    Yeah, China’s mental and amazing … fully-into-it again, myself.

    See you out there …

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    • Wade Shepard May 2, 2012, 9:21 am

      Thanks man!

      Yes, there is just something about this country that keeps the wheels spinning all the time. It feels good to be jump started again.

      Link Reply
  • Sari May 2, 2012, 7:28 am

    Nice post! Thank you, Wade

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    • Wade Shepard May 2, 2012, 8:33 am

      No, thank you for reading.

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  • Terri May 2, 2012, 7:52 am

    As always, Dear Wade,

    Your message is chewy and satisfying.

    Love you!


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    • Wade Shepard May 2, 2012, 8:32 am

      Chewy, excellent!

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  • Josh May 2, 2012, 6:01 pm

    You’re the best on the net Wade Shepard. Been reading for a year now. You live life by your own rules and not many can say that. You deserve all the best

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    • Wade Shepard May 2, 2012, 8:43 pm

      Thanks man,

      Wow, that’s a big compliment. Makes me feel sort of bashful haha. Thanks for reading. It’s really appreciated.

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  • dad May 2, 2012, 8:31 pm

    Right to the point,honest, and interesting is why I read.Welcome back wade,Missed you

    Link Reply
    • Wade Shepard May 2, 2012, 8:46 pm

      Thanks Dad,

      Much appreciated. It feels good to know that you’re out there reading each day (filtering what’s going on back to mom so she doesn’t get too scared haha). That’s why I started this whole thing to begin with.

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  • Debbie May 2, 2012, 8:53 pm

    I have missed my evening read – Glad to have you back.

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    • Wade Shepard May 3, 2012, 3:08 am

      Thanks Deb,

      Glad to hear it!

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  • David May 3, 2012, 6:12 am

    Man! I can hardly contain my excitement to read further! :)))

    Just do what you do, Wade.

    And thanks!

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  • Nathan May 4, 2012, 8:19 am

    Wade, very glad that the blog format is making a comeback – along with the introduction of the mustache of power. As an aside, my bearded prowess resulted in a male child being on the way instead of the girl that you predicted. The delivery room soundtrack is going to be a medley of 80s action movies.

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  • Gar May 8, 2012, 7:15 pm

    “There is no respect to be gained from being a travel blogger, there is no regard to be won from being an independent journalist, there is definitely not much money to be made — so the only thing there is to do is have fun at it.”

    Hi Wade,

    As you know from our visits in San Cristobal, you and your website was my inspiration to start traveling in the first place. For that, you will always be at the top as far as I am concerned.

    I’m now in Eden, NSW, Australia. (Thought about trying your method of traveling free on trains here but don’t have the intestinal fortitude.)

    I do have my little travel blog but have gotten to where I had rather travel and have fun then write about it. Still, I’ll keep blogging occasionally just so people who know me will know I’m still safe, alive, and well.

    I might be interested in writing an occasional piece for your site if you would be interested in offering more guidance in what you need. As you know, my slant, being an old(er) man, is world travel as an alternative to conventional retirement. I’ll be here in Australia for another month then back to the States for a few days and then back to my base in Mexico.

    All the best to you and your wonderful family. Thanks again for that birthday dinner.

    — Gar

    Link Reply
    • Wade Shepard May 8, 2012, 10:04 pm

      Thanks Gar,

      It always means a lot to know that there are people out there who can actually use all this info I tick out. Thanks for reading over the years. Yes, a Senior Vagabond series would be excellent on here. Lets exchange emails on that.

      Link Reply