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Traveling into 2013

I’m looking out at 2013 from the middle of the world. China dubbed itself the Middle Kingdom for a reason: as far as the eastern half of Asia goes, it’s in the middle of everything. I am in the center of this monstrosity, right near the Yangtze River, which bifurcates China into its northern and southern halves. I look at a map of Asia and feel as if I’m in the center of a massive span of geography, I see paths of travel shooting off in all directions: east to Korea, north to Russia, west to Kazakhstan, south to Malaysia.

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I’m looking out at 2013 from the middle of the world. China dubbed itself the Middle Kingdom for a reason: as far as the eastern half of Asia goes, it’s in the middle of everything. I am in the center of this monstrosity, right near the Yangtze River, which bifurcates China into its northern and southern halves. I look at a map of Asia and I see paths shooting off in all directions: east to Korea, north to Russia, west to Kazakhstan, south to Malaysia.

I’ve been traveling around China for the past nine months, and I feel as if I’ve haven’t even chipped the surface of this colossal mount of geography — and this is my forth jaunt in this country. The first half of 2013 is looking as though I will continue using China as my base of operations.

Planning is fun. It’s as simple as that. There are few things I can think of that are more fun than sitting in front of a map, putting a dot where I am, dots where I want to go, and connecting them all together. In this way, travel is a real life game of connect the dots: you go to enough places in proximity to each other and a picture begins to emerge.  This is where the mind is stoked up to a high enough level of excitement to convince the legs walk out the door and off to so some place farther down the road where everything is fresh, challenging, and confusing.

Like with most anything else, travel happens first in the mind, and playing global mind games is part of the fun of this occupation.

All hungers are perhaps insatiable. Choose a good obsession and you can never be bored. I think I’m fortunate that I chose an obsession that has no end: there will always be another road to walk, another hill to climb, another country to visit, another intrigue to chase.

Travels in 2013

Asia travel map

Projected travels for 2013

As the map above indicates, I’m looking at another year in Asia. First, I am aiming to visit the countries that surround China that I’ve not yet been to, and then at the end of June going down to the Philippines and SE Asia. I would like to set up my next base of operations in Malaysia. Last night, right before the stroke of the new year, I got the strange feeling that at this time next year I’m going to be in Australia, and from what I can tell it looks like the path may be going that way.

On having a base of operations

2012 marked the beginning of a new travel strategy for myself and my family. Since my daughter was born in 2009 the way that I traveled has changed drastically. Life, in general, is about adapting strategies to meet changing circumstances so that you can keep yourself as happy as possible at all times.

For the first two and a half years of family travel we would move slowly, often staying in places for months at a time before moving on. It was a good strategy — two months in the Dominican Republic, one month in Guatemala, two in El Salvador, three in Guatemala, six in Mexico, three in Colombia, another four in Mexico . . . When the kid was baby we could just throw her in a carrier and take her wherever we wanted like she was like any other piece of luggage. Though this style of travel became a bit of grind — money was always super tight and changing locations so often meant that the wife wasn’t really able to establish a professional life for herself in any one place. It was in Colombia that it was clear that we needed an adaption in strategy or something was going to break. So we returned to one of our safety hubs in Chiapas, Mexico, and let everything simmer down for a few months. It was here that we hashed out a plan to move our base of operations to China and set up a more solid camp.

In March of 2012 we arrived in Jiangsu province. My wife got comfortable at her school and my kid began going to kindergarten. We moved into a pretty impressive apartment in October, and found that we had a pretty solid base of operations — and the benefits of this became immediately apparent. With a solid base for my family we can enjoy the benefits of both worlds: my wife can have a life, my kid can go to school and socialize, and I can travel on my own and do my projects with complete focus.

Sometimes my family travels all together, sometimes I’m alone. It’s a good mix.

End of the year evaluation

At the end of each year I usually add up the final ledger on the previous 12 months, give a status report, and then make projections about what I wish to accomplish over the next 365 days. This year, I’m going to forego this.

In point, VagabondJourney.com has been rolling on steadily, and there just isn’t much to report. Though I would like to make a mention of the team we now, as they are really working diligently towards turning the site into a true global chronicle.

Tiffany Zappulla– Our South Korea correspondent, travel gadget reviewer, and travel tech reporter.
Rozina Kanchwala– Covers East Africa and environmental issues.
Jack Woods– Provides interesting tips and coverage from the far west of China.
Felix Gervais– Stories from far, far off the beaten path.
Apol Danganan– Bringing us a local perspective on the Philippines one conversation at a time.
Pepe Gerson– Offbeat reports from Mexico, focusing on environmental and social issues.
Chaya Shepard– Doing my dirty work since 2009.

The goal this year is to make VagabondJourney.com truly global by adding correspondents in more countries around the world. Ideally, I would like to add correspondents in Brazil, Russia, India, and Nigeria.

The problem with the site now is that it’s going to be centered around wherever I happen to be. As I’m staying in regions of the world for a year or two at a time now, I’m not able to produce a truly global perspective. Ultimately, I would like to have 25 correspondents blanketing the planet.

Which brings me to the end of this yearly status report: if we are to expand we need more money. I do what I can to get advertisers and bring in money via commercial avenues, but reader support is still essential. If I can raise $2,000 in reader donations I think I would be able to add the extra correspondents for this year. If you can, please help by making a donation, it’s much appreciated.

I would also like to thank everyone who has supported us over this past year. Your donations, comments, feedback, and continued reading is what keeps this project going.

So another year is wrapped up on this site and we’re looking at tearing into the next one. As I look back on what we’ve done, where we’ve gone, and what we’ve learned over this past year, I have to say that I am satisfied. The plan for next year is the same as always: to go there.


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Filed under: Letter From The Editor

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 3722 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

4 comments… add one

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  • Jack January 2, 2013, 11:53 pm

    Expect an article about giving birth in China very soon….we gave birth on January 1st, but the baby is in NICU right now…….this is a nightmare………

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    • Wade Shepard January 3, 2013, 7:17 pm

      Congratulations! Hope everything gets better soon. That article sounds excellent, looking forward to it.

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  • Jules Jolivot January 6, 2013, 2:02 am

    Do you think that having a family will progressively get to the end of travelling? I don’t say nor think you should, but you just etablished a camp, a “home”, were you might be longing to go back, which means you won’t stay in countries for the same amount of time, unless you change your operation base (I am sure you will), something that your daughter won’t like as she grows up and make durable relationships.
    Do you think this year might be the last one? Or at least, the last one totally on the road?

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    • Wade Shepard January 6, 2013, 8:50 pm

      Hello Jules,

      Good question, and one that people have been asking since I had my daughter and got married. It seems as if our living strategy is pretty well set at this point. In my opinion it’s far better now than it ever was before. I wouldn’t really call this place a home by any means. It’s more or less a place to make money before traveling on. This strategy is good because it allows me to travel on my own and focus on my projects — which I can’t really do with other people. Seriously, I don’t think there’s another human on the planet that could tolerate me when I’m working. As far as the kid, she was born traveling and this ethic has not yet worn off. If it meant going to a beach she would pack her little backpack and be out the door and heading to the airport without looking back.

      It’s difficult to really share the perspective that happens once you have the process of travel hardwired into your psyche — it becomes something that’s not an alternative lifestyle, but just normal life. It has been a little experiment watching the kid grow up like this. It’s interesting to observe whether or not she will develop strong, sedentary-like attachments to places. So far, this type of attachment has been absolutely non-existent. The attachment to travel has been far stronger. This may change in the future as she gets older, but as of now she’s pretty gung-ho about going to new places.

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