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Vagabond Journey Returns to Being a Blog in 2014

It’s the in-depth articles that got me to where I am now, but I miss the blogging. Expect a return to our roots in 2014.

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2013 ended as Vagabond Journey fizzled. We haven’t burnt out yet, but we came close. I began devoting most of my time to book writing, and this blog has been held afloat over the past three months by the saving graces of the gracious team of contributors here.

Beyond the book, this past year has been start and stop for VJT for other reasons, and it became clear that if I wish to run a network of continuously updated, high-quality sites that I need the 9 – 5, 7 day a week schedule of the conventional editor. I don’t mind the long hours, but stringing them together day after day means squeezing out traveling — the very purpose of this site’s existence. I made a huge mistake this year, I tried to be a desk jockey. I got bucked off every time I tried to jump on. If you’re a regular reader you’ve probably noticed a string of articles and blog posts going up daily for a few weeks and then long stings of nothing. The nothing is me traveling.

The challenge of the traveling writer is dividing up time between the experience and the writing. The two can’t be done at the same time. As I’ve now been traveling on a long duration spokes of the wheel strategy, when I’m on the road it’s complete immersion: I’m in the streets, going places, talking to people, taking photos and video, and doing interviews. If I’m on a computer it’s for the purpose of research or contacting people I wish to talk to. This is a good formula for the writer, an impossible one for the editor. I tried to be both this year and it didn’t work.

As 2013 switched over I had to make the decision if I’m going to keep the blogs going. I can’t say how much time they take, as nobody would believe me. The days of setting up a blog and just writing on it are over — if they ever existed at all — as just having a site means maintenance, updates, and keeping up with the technical fold. Add to this running a team of writers on two sites, and my work days are . . . like work days. Each hour of coding, editing, formatting posts is one away from research, information acquisition, travel, and writing. Can I keep this up and pull it all off?

No, I can’t. Something has to give way. I thought of ditching the sites and just focusing on books. For the past month this is pretty much what I did. It was sort of nice just traveling and writing, traveling and writing, with nothing else getting  in the way. But continuing like this would be an erroneous move: a popular blog is among the best marketing tools an author has — in my case it’s the only thing I have. By the same token, having books published lends authority to a blog. Blogging and book writing has to go together, with one always feeding the other.

But how?

What to expect on Vagabond Journey in 2014

A blog should be a blog. A blog post is different from an article, an article different from a chapter in a book. Each medium mandates a different form of writing. So expect Vagabond Journey to move back to what it once was from 2005 -2010: a blog. Expect short posts on various ideas, impressions, experiences, personal stories, opinions, anecdotes, photos with descriptions, videos without much accompanying text, spelling errors, grammar mistakes, odds and ends that don’t fit elsewhere, and drastic leaps of logic and sense for the purpose of creating conversation. A blog is about dialogue, it’s about sharing ideas, it’s a place to show a mind in motion. It is supposed to be a fun form of writing which stimulates the audience into thinking about something and joining a discussion. Blog posts should be spat out like telling a story, not mulled over like cow chewing cud.

To keep this site alive and functioning I need to return to a more personal, short form of content delivery. Vagabond Journey is returning to it’s roots: a place for daily dispatches from around the world.

In-depth investigations will be collected into books, and part of the focus of this site will be on the background of their writing. Want to know what it’s like traveling around China writing a book on ghost cities? I’ll tell you. Along with the cloak of professionalism that has overtaken this blog and my others this past year the small, day to day stories have been stomped out. When I read blogs — and I don’t really read too many — I look for authors who are telling these small stories that I can follow daily. Most old school bloggers, myself included, have given up this style of writing, and a large part of what was interesting about our work has gone with it.

Though I have to admit that, ironically, I would not be in the position to write these words if it were not for the in-depth articles I’d been publishing on VJT and The China Chronicle over the past couple of years. They are what got me the book deal, not the errant rambles and brash opinions. There is a benefit to publishing in-depth stories online, of course, but a choice should be made as to whether a site is a daily blog or a place for feature articles. It gets mucky when the two are combined. I have my feature article sites — TheChinaChronicle.com being the most successful — but VJT is returning to its roots.

This move is not just practical but also because I miss this kind of writing. It’s just fun, I like the community that follows it, and I also need the quick escapes where I can just sit back and write anything. So expect old school blogging here. Each day I will have something published. Please reintroduce me to your daily routine. Thanks.


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Filed under: Blogging, 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 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

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  • Alex Brisson January 7, 2014, 7:49 pm

    Of course it’s going to be a daily routine to follow! I was wondering what you were working on that took you away from posting as often as before. Now I know. I think it’s a good idea. Can’t wait to get my hands on the book too ! Thanks for what you’re doing Wade, and reinventing yourself is part of it.

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    • Wade Shepard January 7, 2014, 7:56 pm

      Thanks! It’s much appreciated.

      Hopefully I can pick up where I left off and not to many readers have fallen off the boat in the meantime 🙂

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  • John January 7, 2014, 9:25 pm

    Wade, I just want to say: you’re blog changes lives.

    I almost went to a different city in China. Your blog led me to see…. Taizhou, a place that is mild, and smaller (by chinese standards). It had something about it.

    Seeing you taking trips out onto the highways, wandering through old alleyways. That was what i wanted. I wanted, to see change, history and to have a conversation with people of that place.
    Certainly this could have been done in Suzhou, but in many ways my experience of Suzhou was that it was a city that contain little “silence” or negative space.
    In philosophical or artistic -terms i’m refering to the place that exists in the peripheries.

    My thesis year professor in university told me that it is a important role for artists, and often the best route to take is to exist in the places that are in some way…. unwanted.

    I’m really glad I went to Taizhou. It was very livable, had some things going on, but contained this …. space, it was changing it was growing. It was vulnerable and all that led for a very interesting experience.

    Finally, I think it was also your approach to travel that really worked for me. Don’t be a tourist unless its a good cultural experience. Be a person who moves, with purpose and intent. Be a person who sees things others don’t.


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    • Wade Shepard January 8, 2014, 1:20 am

      Good to hear! Yes, that probably was a good choice going to Taizhou. It’s a deeper kind of China experience. I like that place too, it’s an honest mix of old and new. It’s too bad that the place will be totally different in 10 years.

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      • Daniel January 12, 2014, 2:35 pm

        Must disagree with the last sentence. No, it really cool that it will be a totally different place in 10 years. Change is what makes it all so fascinating. Glad your back.

  • Tristanbul January 7, 2014, 9:33 pm

    I think you’ll get back most of your readership rather quickly — the gap in posting was long enough to be noticeable, but not long enough that people have moved on. Keep up the good work, looking forward to the old-school blogging again.

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    • Wade Shepard January 8, 2014, 1:19 am

      I hope so 🙂 Thanks for being one of the contributors during the break. Much appreciated.

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  • Bob L January 12, 2014, 10:05 am

    You could put your posts up with delayed publishing, so they go out on a regular basis.

    That being said, I like getting a bunch at once. I hold onto the e-mail notice until I have time to sit and read a bunch at once, but you could still send out the e-mail notices with a bunch of links at once.

    “A blog should be a blog.” Fantastic. I could not agree more. You could still link to the occasional article if you choose to, but quick thoughts and comments will help you think and develop your ideas. And more importantly, keep ME *^) entertained!!!

    Bob L

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    • Wade Shepard January 12, 2014, 7:08 pm

      Yes, sometimes I get really into scheduling posts and “getting ahead,” but it’s always been a challenge — mostly because my wife edits posts after they’re published. So this leads to me being out in some middle of nowhere and my wife telling me on the phone that I have some colossally ridiculous error (when I can’t do anything about it haha). But here tech skills have gotten better and she can now go into the backend and fix things herself, so I will try this again.

      That being said, blame my wife if you find any editing mistakes here 🙂

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