Many people have asked me how I could just leave my job and seemingly travel perpetually. How can I afford it? How do you find places to stay for free all the time? How do you find places to volunteer? All questions I’ve received by email, and now I’m sharing the secrets in a series of posts about how The Happy Nomad Tour Rolls and what things are like behind the scenes.
Part of how the Happy Nomad Tour rolls is this website and everything that goes into it. Below is some of how it goes behind the scenes.
I built an initial version of my website and, well, it was awful. Saying it was an eyesore is a compliment.
So, realizing I didn’t have enough time to learn WordPress, the Thesis Theme, and HTML in time for my trip, I reached out to Varick Design to help me design my website.
They gave me a well-functioning shell that I then improved upon, which is the site you see today. I’m generally happy with it, but I’d like some changes. If anyone out there has any ideas on how to improve my site’s design, please contact me.
The CMS (content management system) I use is WordPress. It’s a powerful tool that’s relatively easy to use and infinitely customizable.
I use the Thesis Theme. Again, it’s very customizable, allows you to change things without touching any core WordPress files, and is built for efficiency and SEO (search engine optimization).
Yes, I do all the writing on the site, obviously. When I first started out, I thought maybe I’d have guest posts sometimes. Until now, I haven’t gotten any legitimate requests from people to write a guest post. It’s always spam and people who want to write articles like “Where To Stay In Chiang Mai, Thailand” which Is not the kind of content I produce.
I generally write while in transit. It all depends, but a great amount of the content on my site has been written when I’ve been on my multi-hour bus rides – this article is no exception. I’m in hour number two of my 24-hour bus ride from Hanoi, Vietnam to Vientiane, Laos.
Over 99% of the pictures on my site were taken by me. I take a lot of pictures. Actually, 11 months into my trip I hit the 20,000 picture mark.
That said, I don’t approach the world as if I were living in a zoo. I don’t like it when tourists take pictures of people as if they were in a zoo.
That is, imagine you were shopping at a grocery store in the U.S. or Europe and someone was in there taking your picture. Annoying, right? Well, that’s the equivalent of me taking people’s picture in a market in Latin America or Southeast Asia.
So, there’s a fine line I walk in terms of being ethical and just in taking pictures. I err on the side of being respectful, and as such I have very few pictures of people going about their daily routine. I can promise, though, that such pictures would probably be the most interesting from a reader’s point of view.
I take my pictures at the maximum setting – 16 megapixels with superfine quality. My camera is a Sony Cybershot DSC-X9V.
For photo editing I use Adobe Lightroom. It’s a very powerful suite, certainly way beyond my abilities. But I use it to apply some filters that generally improve every picture I take. I also resize each image to 800×600 pixels, though of course I don’t overwrite the original.
This process – downloading the pictures from my camera, applying the Lightroom filters, resizing to 800×600 pixels – was one of the many, many processes I have developed over time to make things more efficient and less time-consuming.
I have a real video camera in my bag, but I’ve only used it twice so far on my trip (for this video and for my video speaking at Centrum Business School). Otherwise, all the videos on my site came from my digital still picture camera. It’s just more convenient.
I try to take interesting videos, but interesting is in the eye of the beholder. Still, the videos are a glimpse into my life on the road to some extent.
For most of the time I used Vimeo as my video hosting service. I even paid the $60 to upgrade to the pro service.
In Latin America the internet speeds were quite slow so uploading videos to Vimeo was always hit or miss. They don’t have the ability to resume uploads, so any hiccup in the system would chalk up a ton of wasted time as the upload would fail.
When I got to Asia I realized another Vimeo limitation. They seem based in the U.S. As such, despite crazy, crazy fast internet speeds in places like Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, due to the server being in the U.S. I couldn’t upload fast at all – like 100kb/second when I was capable of uploading 4mb/second (40x faster).
Youtube has changed since I started my trip. Although it isn’t perfect, I made the switch to Youtube once I got to Asia. It has a far higher viewer base. It also has servers all over the world, allowing me to take advantage of the lightning fast speeds. In fact, in the time it would have taken me to upload 3-4 videos to Vimeo, I uploaded all my videos to date to Youtube in Vietnam.
I have advertising turned off on my videos, though I have the option to turn it on. I don’t think I will though. Oh, and Youtube is free. Vimeo’s pro service costs $60/year. And Youtube generally allows you to resume a video upload if it fails in the middle.
I’m pretty diligent about keeping the flags on my site updated. On the home page they are in the top right corner and on individual articles they are in the top left corner.
Hovering over a flag will tell you the city and country I am in at the moment and clicking on it will pull up the location in Google Maps.
Despite making a point of keeping the flags updated, daily I get emails from friends, family, and people I don’t know asking where I am at the moment.
In April I started using CloudFlare, a CDN (content delivery network). It’s free, has sites all over the world, and has a security element to it as well. But from your side, it should improve my page’s speed and performance, minimizing http requests and the downloading of static content (stuff that never changes on the page).
I have also removed, for the time being, some social networking integration like the Facebook Like Box and the Follow Me button for Twitter. I felt these slowed down the home page quite a bit. They also slow down the loading on an individual post, but generally people start reading from the top and those things can load and be ready while you read the first sentence.
I could keep going. I could talk about the plug-ins I use with WordPress, or other small things that have saved me hours of my life that I’ve learned over time.
But for most of you this was probably a really boring article. Still, tons of travel bloggers just getting started contact me all the time and I hope this helps them a bit.
If you have any tips, suggestions, or comments about the site, please feel free to leave them in the comments below or contact me here.
In 2015 I made some changes to the site. I switched to the Enfold theme for easier management, superior layout tools, and because it is responsive for better layout on phone/tablet screens. I sincerely wish I had started out with this theme as it would have made creating the site and administering it far easier!