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Vagabondjourney.com Report for Dec. 2011

These past two months have seen a few major transitions at vagabondjourney.com. We’ve continued on our established path of being less of a travel site and more of a resource/ research site that focuses on news, current events, culture, geography and ecological issues. A vagabond geographic, so to speak. Travel is love affair with the world [...]

Support VBJ’s writing on this blog:

These past two months have seen a few major transitions at vagabondjourney.com. We’ve continued on our established path of being less of a travel site and more of a resource/ research site that focuses on news, current events, culture, geography and ecological issues. A vagabond geographic, so to speak. Travel is love affair with the world — its people, landscapes, ecosystems, and wildlife — and we’re working hard daily at vagabondjourney.com towards providing more in-depth glimpses into the state of this planet today, as seen from the ground up.

Can’t do this alone

Throughout the years, vagabondjourney.com has had many great writers, journalists, and researchers come through and share their talents. Over the past two months, two authors have really contributed outstanding work in particular. One is Tiffany Zappulla, who completely took on the South Korea travel guides solo, penned an article on this travelogue, and authored a featured story on top of that. The other is CJ Toth, who contributed a number of travel guides from all over Europe and Africa. Both contributors really excelled over the past two months, and we wanted to let them know that we appreciate all their hard work.

Vagabondjourney.com currently has the following internships available:

1- Environmental issues correspondent.
1- Indigenous/ minority cultures correspondent.
1- Wildlife/ extinction alert/ new species researcher and correspondent.
As many as possible- Correspondents from various regions/ countries of the world.

We are mostly looking for journalism students, journalists, or writers who are use to working on a deadline for these positions. These are serious internships and should not be approached as something to be done when spare time allows. The minimum commitment is three months. Tutoring and advising is provided for students. If needed, work evaluations/ references will be provided upon request.

If interested, contact Wade at vagabondsong [at] gmail.com.


There is a new homepage on vagabondjourney.com, and I have to say that for the first time ever I’m happy with it.  The homepage how has everything that is going on in the site on it, so this is the place to go to find new articles, guides, and blog posts. Please use this page when you enter the site, as the content is now being distributed to many different sections — not just this travelogue. There is still a lot of work to be done on it, so watch for more changes coming soon.

Narrative and editorial blog

The focus of vagabondjourney.com is going in a more geographic/ culture/ ecology direction more and more each month. Typically, around 50% of the articles on this travelogue were “about the world/ geographic” type pieces, around 25% were travel instruction and guides, and the remaining 25% were personal narrative/ thoughts/ ideas. Now each type of article has its own section.

Since early 2009, we’ve been publishing destination guides and travel information in the travel guides section — which is now growing into maturity. Travel tips will stay in this section for now, but may soon have their own home. The narrative and more personal pieces have been moved from this section of the site to an independent arena. If you want to follow the day to day explorations, thoughts, and experiences of myself and my family, go to blog.vagabondjourney.com.

There is a reason why newspapers and magazines have different sections for different topics/ article types, and the experience of 7 years of internet publishing has taught me this.

Featured articles

There is now a weekly featured article on vagabondjourney.com. These articles are often the results of in-depth study and investigation. There will continue to be links to the feature article of the week in the sidebar of this section of the site, as well as a link on the homepage.

Feature articles for November, 2011:
Snorri Helgason: the New Face of Folk Music
Gobekli Tepe: the Fall of the Nomad the Rise of Agriculture
One Culture, One Border, Two Very Different Societies: the Future of the Korean Peninsula
Life Working in the Informal Economy of Colombia

Travel Gear

Rich Poulter has been at it again, reviewing the best travel gear the manufacturers of this world have to offer. This past month Rich has been reviewing travel/ outdoor/ adventure fleeces. His testing methods and reports are astounding. Check out who won our fleece test!


December status report

Your comments are important to us here at vagabondjourney.com. We want to hear what you have to say, we want you to be a part of the discourse of this publication. But since I began offering parts of the site as a full feed and email digest, on-site participation has plummeted. It seems as if most long term readers who were once diligent commentators are now just reading in their email and are not clicking over to the site. This was a trend that I noticed immediately when I first offered the full feed option prior to traveling in Iceland. While the popularity of a blog should NOT be measured by comment number (many large top travel blogs like Gadling.com rarely get more than a comment or two per page) it is great for the community here who visits the site regularly to have a lively discourse taking place. So often people tell me that one of their favorite parts of the site are the conversations that take place in the comments, and not having this in exchange for a full content feed is not a good trade off. It can’t just be me talking here. Please leave comments, they really help the site and are truly appreciated.


Talking about support, there are many things that you can do to help vagabondjourney.com. As we are generally always struggling to get by here — especially now that we are paying nearly $200 per month in server fees alone! — reader support is a must for us to keep our heads above water. Good thing there are many things that you can do help. First, we ask for a collective $150 per month in reader contributions. If everyone who reads this site contributed $1 per week, our financial woes would be a thing of the past. But this is not really going to happen, so if a handful of readers could keep an eye on the donation meter in the sidebar and help out from time to time this would be greatly appreciated.

There are also other ways to offer support without making a financial contribution. Clicking through our Amazon.com links each time you buy from them would be a great help over here. We receive a portion of the proceeds of Amazon sales that we refer at no additional expense to you. There are Amazon affiliate links throughout the site, but most visibly on the homepage and on the index of this travelogue. Keep this in mind when doing your Christmas shopping this year! Also, simply linking to our homepage or to specific articles on vagabondjourney.com from your own site or blog also helps out a ton. Another thing you can do that costs nothing is to download the Alexa extension for your web browser. This is one of the major ways that websites are ranked  the “prominence” of a website determined. If you have the Alexa extension activated in your tool bar, each time you go to a site you essentially “vote” for it in the global rankings.  As far as usage, I use this extension daily when determining the authority of the sites I visit.

Travel with Children Tips

My wife, Chaya, put up some great tips this past month:
How to self cater for a family while living in hostels
Baby clothes transcend class structure
San Cristobal de las Casas is a great budget travel family destination
How to stop motion sickness in children when traveling

RSS feed

Vagabondjourney.com now has a global RSS feed. This is a single feed for all the different sections of the site delivered in one package. You can subscribe by RSS or by email to receive everything published each day in a single digest.

Vagabond Explorer magazine

Vagabond Explorer Magazine is on an extended hiatus. A magazine in PDF format is clearly not something that readers currently desire. A print version is in the cards, but we are trying to build up the enthusiasm for doing it. In point, to start up a magazine requires tons of PR and promotion BS which I am not willing to do. I am a writer, not a salesman. Most marketing tactics and strategies generally make me sick, and, to be honest, I am not going to partake in an action that would make myself vomit. I am not going to blow smoke up your ass, now or ever. Vagabond Explorer failed in part because I am not going to BS you into buying something. You are too smart for this, and I respect that.


We returned to San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico and stayed here all month. We are living cheap and trying to rebuild our beaten and battered travel funds. The projection is to remain here until March, and then jump across seas to China or Indonesia. I want to go on a solo journey through East Africa at some point soon, but finances are not revealing this to be a possibility.


Our funds are lower than they have ever been since starting out on our family travels. In fact, I have not had such a meager amount of money backing me since 2002. Not good. But we are trying to get back on top of things. We are living within our means here in Chiapas and restructuring the site into something that could bring in more earnings. Reader contributions are perhaps needed more now than ever.

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

8 comments… add one

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  • David December 1, 2011, 1:07 am

    Hey Wade,

    Sjeesj man… As a regular reader for years now, I was mostly interested in , and aware of what is now, “Wade’s Blog”…

    I can only say – “F’n Impressive, man!” I’m totally blown away by what you have accomplished. I even feel kinda proud to have shared this journey to an extend with you over the years by following the blog!

    2 suggestions:

    1) VJ is going to go big… I can see it happening… Your passion just won’t have it any other way. So – suggestion 1) Why don’t you allow regular readers/interested parties to buy a share in VJ with donations? This way I’ll feel as if I’m investing in you, which might make people more willing to do so? 🙂 (I’ll take an extra 1% share for the suggestion, hehe)
    I’m sure with a carefully thought out scheme, like you owning 51%, and 49% being available to be shared fairly between contributors according to your discretion would allow you to grow this baby into the wondrous sitezilla it should be. Let me know if you want to exchange ideas around this. Maybe even I can start contributing something except the occasional $ or 2?

    Suggestion 2) Reading your site had me thinking… The written material here is of the highest quality in its class… Though even so, the occasional typo slips through. Is there any way you can allow readers to also be your proofreaders? To allow me to in effect highlight and suggest a correction on any/all written material on VJ? This might become especially handy as material outside your own grows?

    Anyways… You go man. And all of the best in this amazing endeavor of yours.


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    • Wade Shepard December 1, 2011, 12:05 pm

      Dave, thanks for these insights. If there was a way to really turn a profit off of “shares” in vagabondjourney.com, I would surely look into that. But as nothing is for sale here, and all earnings are derived residually through advertising and affiliate programs, it is difficult to place a value on an investment. If I were to bring in more money that would enable me to expand, I would hire more writers. The problem is that information is so cheap it is almost valueless, so a potential return that I could offer on an investment would be nearly nothing (and it would take a handful of years before an investment would even be returned let alone show a profit). If I had something to sell, then it would be different, and a profit margin could be calculated from X amount of investment. It’s a great idea though if I had this site structured more as a business. But, right now, the site is information based, and that is something that has a value that is only a touch higher than nothing. I tried putting a higher price tag on content with Vagabond Explorer magazine, but, as we’ve seen, I did not pull that off so well.

      Your second suggestion is also good. I write in wordpad that doesn’t have any sort of spell check. Typos sometimes abound. An editor would be helpful at times. But there is a time input/ content output ratio that I do not want to push the threshold of though. Most bloggers write a post or two a week. That’s it. They can afford to edit them to death and correct every typo. I publish two to five pages per day. I think a page is more valuable existing with a typo or two than not existing at all haha. If I put time into editing everything with a fine tooth comb, I would be putting hours a day into doing just this. Perhaps it would be worth it????? It would be good though to have an editor to glance over everything and edit on their own without involving me in the process haha. The best of both worlds.

      Thanks for the donation and the good wishes. Both are truly appreciated.

      Link Reply
  • David December 2, 2011, 3:51 am

    Hmm. Points taken. Interesting to hear the operational/real side of things.

    If you were able to capitalize the site, hire the writers you need, have scalable hardware backing, and marketing funds (of the non-puke-enducing kind:), what would the possible growth in pageviews/advertising revenue be?

    I’m talking out of my neck here. Don’t have a clue about the realities of your mission, but just wondering. 🙂

    Whats your current stats like? Pageviews relative to advert revenue, or whats the metric?

    And when does a site reach ‘critical mass’, so to speak? When other big players like the sites who sell airline tickets, etc, would like to advertise/otherwise partner with your site?

    Sorry for the 20 questions! 😉 But interesting stuff, and thanks for the reply so far!

    Walk slow 🙂

    Link Reply
    • Wade Shepard December 5, 2011, 12:41 pm

      Hello David,

      The growth in visitors rise in proportion to the number of pages on the site, their topic, and how many people are searching for the information provided. But the rise in income is difficult to predict. Right now, we make around half cent per visitor, so the value across the site per page is around $1 per year. So if I were to pay writers a fair price, I wouldn’t be looking at a return on the investment for around 20 to 30 years haha.

      Information is about the cheapest commodity on the planet right now, and it is horridly difficult to monetize content that does not have and inherent commercial bend.

      In point, as far as business or finances go, I would be better off chucking out the artistic or interesting side of this project and just start writing about the commercial side of travel. I predict that within a year of doing this I could double or even triple my income, but I would not find this very fulfilling and would be better off just doing some other work. If I attract visitors who are looking to buy something — a tour, a hotel, a cruise, a flight, travel gear — I stand to make far more money than attracting visitors who are doing research or are interested in learning about something for the enjoyment of it and are not immediately poise or prepped to buy something.

      I tried monetizing non-commerical content with Vagabond Explorer Magazine, and though you and a few dozen others supported the project earnestly, most readers just sort of snubbed their noses at it. Oh well. That told me that there is not enough people willing to pay for the type of content I offer, which is completely alright and is very good for me to know so I don’t invest more time and money into such pursuits. If I were to write a “how to live a better live like me” style ebook, then I know I could roll in the money. But putting the time into such an endeavor would not be very fulfilling and, if I just wanted money, I may as well just go back to doing archaeology. I also can’t say that I respect the “how to live a better life like me” type of author either.

      The main reason I do this site is because I enjoy it and the content I publish is that which I’m interested in. So the value is not just monetary. I’m lucky that I can make a living doing something I enjoy so much, even though that living is often pretty hard and very low paying.

      The reason why I want to hire writers is not really to make money but to make the website better, more respected, and wide ranging. This is also an artistic project, not just a money making device, and I can only dream of the day when I bring in enough money to hire various writers to cover certain beats and turn this site into a true ongoing chronicle of planet earth. I can’t really do this alone and I surely can’t afford right now to hire enough people to do this. But it is a long term dream, so to speak. Until that day I will be toiling on my own haha.

      The threshold for getting the big player advertisers is around a million unique visitors per month. But even when you get this kind of traffic, they are still very hesitant to put much money into you, especially when your content isn’t the direct “cause and effect” type of commercial content. As you can see above, high traffic is not a sure measure of advertising success, and the big advertisers know this. I’m hoping to one day get enough traffic to get into Google’s premium advertising program, and, right now, this is the best I can ever hope for in that regard. I am around 10% of the way there haha.

      If it was my goal to make a decent amount of money online there are hundreds of ways I could do this better, but that would mean not doing Vagabond Journey as we’ve come to know it (it probably means not doing this site at all haha). I have to admit here that where I decide to put my time is not usually where the money is, but where I find the most value both personally and professionally. I make just barely enough money to live cheap, travel, and be happy. Giving this, it is horribly difficult for me to devote time into creating more income at the expense of enjoying my work haha.These are funny times we live in. I am amazed everyday that I can make a living traveling the world writing about anything that I find interesting. Just wish I could double that income and make enough to invest into making this project better. Well, someday I will come up with a way to do it.

      Link Reply
  • Sam December 2, 2011, 5:05 pm

    Hey Wade, Just a thought about that typo comment. Is it possible to add some type of plug-in that allows readers to point out typo’s? Kind of like a Wikipedia idea where readers are able to add to an article. In your case I wouldn’t want readers changing what you write but is there a way to just have some type of comment feature where readers can point out an error? If you agree with the change you could approve it and have it updated in the article without you going in and changing it. That way it could be more like an active editing\feedback feature that wouldn’t necessarily be left as a comment for everyone to see?

    Given the way the Wordpress post editor is set-up I’m not aware of anything like that but just throwing out a possible idea that could give readers some grammatical\editing power with limited hassle to you once it’s set-up.

    Link Reply
    • Wade Shepard December 5, 2011, 12:44 pm

      Good call. The back end of setting this up is possible, but a little complex. I would be better off just “hiring” my wife to proof read. Hold on . . . done. We now have a proof reader haha.

      Link Reply
  • David December 6, 2011, 1:42 am

    Hehe. Cheers to the new proofreader!

    Well Wade, that surely puts VJ in perspective. Amazing.

    All of the best wishes for you and the family. 🙂 I also hope the income part sorts itself well out… So you can walk slow… Even further. 😉

    Link Reply
    • Wade Shepard December 6, 2011, 11:24 am

      Thanks man! As always, the support is much appreciated. Just wish I could get some sort of independent journalism grant or inherit a large amount of money or something haha. Man, I have 12 reporting positions that I really want to fill here, and around 20 positions available globally across the site. Well, I suppose where there’s a will there’s a way.

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