Off I go

23
Sep
2013

As one can no doubt tell from the date of my last blog post, it has been almost three months since I have written anything. There have been several reasons for this including an incredibly busy summer, a general malaise with blogging, and a redesign that I have spent far too much time waiting to complete.

The redesign you see before you. To tell the truth, I am not entirely happy with it and will probably change it again soon. Nevertheless, it does contain a few things I think are working well, and that I will incorporate in the final design. For one, I was looking for a way to highlight some of the literally thousands of photos I have taken on my travels over the past several years, in a way that invites greater exploration or curiosity. To that end, the photo at the top of every page is a random one that will change with every page load. Clicking on it will take you to that photo in my vast, picasaweb collection. Secondly, I have included mapping that will give greater context to my posts, since so many of them are written in so many various places around the globe. On a page of many posts, the map at the right will show the locations of all of the posts on that particular page. On a single blog post, it will show the location of that post. Of course this will require me going back through all of my old posts and adding such information to them. I have gone back several months in my posts and done just that. All future ones will be made with a location, and I will eventually get to all of the old ones. Lastly, the blog is now much more responsive when using a mobile device, and will resize appropriately. As I said above, I am not entirely happy with the new design despite having some elements I really like, but I was sick of letting it languish. Better to put it out there and see how it works, then tweak or change later.

Another reason to pick this all up again is that (you guessed it) I am embarking on another grand trip. I leave today for Belgrade (to see my dear friend Boris), then off to Paris, then Venice, then Hamburg, then Marrakech, then back to New York. The last two, Germany and Morocco, are work related (or work mixed with pleasure). Stay tuned for the photos and updates!

 

Back to blog.

6
Dec
2012

Let’s face it, I have been a mostly absent blogger the last couple of months. I would blame the incredible amount of work I have, but the reality is I just haven’t been super motivated (for much of anything really) the last several weeks. Still, I know from experience that sometimes just doing something anyway causes excitement and engagement when one is a little out of it. (I believe another term for this is “fake it until you make it”.) So, with this post, I am officially relaunching and dedicating myself to blogging every day, no matter how inane or dull the subject matter or my take on it. I do have a small store of experiences from the past several weeks to write about (my recent trip to Spa Castle, Thanksgiving stories, and cutting the cord among them) so stay tuned for those and the inevitable tales from the dark side (otherwise known as “dating”) that are sure to follow.

Five years

9
Sep
2011

A few weeks ago, I realized that a milestone in my life was approaching. It will soon be 5 years since I up-ended everything, quit my cushy job, sold everything I owned, and took off for India. I started my blog around the same time, mostly to give friends and family a way to check in on me without receiving those painful travel mass-emailings that so many people are prone to send. I told everyone “If you are interested, check out the blog. If not, no big deal. But don’t worry, I will not be sending you SPAM.” And so it was a few weeks ago that I went back to look at my very first blog post. As fate would have it, it was on Sept 11, 2006. I clearly could not have picked a worse first date to start a blog (except perhaps for Sept 11, 2001). I could never celebrate the birth of my blog without being reminded of the chaos and horror of 9/11, could I? And yet, it must not have been such a terribly big deal to me on the 5th anniversary. At least not enough to occupy my thoughts or emotions to the degree that I would not be able to focus on setting up my first blog and post. I was probably in denial about living under the Bush terror regime, and equally excited about the incredible changes that were happening (and god knows, about to happen) in my life at the time. The road to my mid-life crisis trip was well set in motion by that point, every day closer to taking that leap.

I honestly never could have imagined all that awaited me, and how much gratitude I have every day for what it taught me. We really can change our lives in dramatic ways, and a great leap into the unknown pays huge dividends. But this post is more about the blog itself, and the process of writing it. Five years later, I admit to being surprised that I have kept it going all this time, and what a labor of love it has become for me. It is my soapbox, my corner of the world, my outlet, my confessor, my scrapbook, my silliness, my memory. It is the place I work thorough ideas and hone them. It is a journal of my experience, and a way to reach out to the world. It is my art, in the truest sense of the word. For it is not for sale, beyond the reach of commerce. It has no specific purpose or function, although it embodies many different ones at different times. It is about everything and nothing.

Five years. Half a decade. It went by so very quickly, but was filled with so very much. I am flabbergasted when I look at this map showing where I have been in the last five years:

So here’s to the next five years. If there is one thing I can predict with certainty, it is that I can’t predict with certainty. And that is one of the greatest things about being alive.

My Blog, My Self

27
Mar
2008

This post is going to be very postmodern, very meta. Perhaps I am even breaking the fourth wall in a new way.  But my question for today is: what is this blog about?  What is its purpose? What do I want to get from it?

I have been thinking a lot about this over the past few weeks.  These questions are really a stand in for questions about life, aren’t they?  After a year and a half on this shake-up-my-life adventure, what am I looking for (in my blog)?

Below is a list of blog types.  Obviously a blog is not limited to just one of the following possibilities.  Many times a blog will be several (or all) of these things:

1. Blog as journal.  My blog is no more and no less than the record of the events of my life and the reflections on those events.  In this scenario, I have no “audience”, only a small set of voyeurs.  And whether or not anyone is listening is beside the point.  It isn’t necessarily about communication other than with myself. In a sense, this is one of the truest or cleanest art forms there is, outside the reach of criticism and commerce.

2. Blog as family and friends newsletter.  A lot of the time my blog has functioned thus, keeping friends (new and old) and family up to date on my whereabouts and allowing (via comments) limited conversation with them about topics of interest.

3. Blog as art. Sometimes I will post a photo I took that I particularly like, a short story, or odd idea.

4. Blog as soapbox. Occasionally, I will get up on my high horse to pontificate about this, that, or the other thing. I don’t feel the need to do this nearly as much as when I was younger, but it is satisfying from time to time.

5. Blog as aggregator. On other occasions, I will use the blog to link to some item of interest (to me) that I have found elsewhere on the internet. Commentary may or may not accompany the link.

6. Blog as self-promotion. This is a little more complicated and ties into larger concerns about the direction of my work life. Am I content to continue working in my former field(s)? Am I looking for something new that the blog points the way to, such as journalism, travel writing, photography, or book publishing? How can the blog aid me in this (these) endeavor(s)?

7. Blog as business.  A step beyond merely using the blog to self-promote and thus gain (paid) work, the blog itself can be a money making enterprise. With enough traffic, ads on the site could become significant revenue generation. The point here isn’t to make the blog a business as much as it is to be getting paid for what one likes to do. But this leads to an entire field of study concerning blog popularity.

What make a blog popular?  What is the definition of blog success?  Of course, there are many definitions of success, but if we are considering a blog’s ability to financially support its owner, it is a pretty easy one.  A blog is successful if it has a large audience (or I suppose a small but loyal audience with big bucks).

Which blogs are most successful (in the business/audience sense)?  The more I look around, the more it seems that the most popular blogs have a narrow focus or point of view.  That focus could be politics, humor, current events, technology, gadgets, food etc.  The reason that more narrowly focused blogs are generally the most successful is clear: They are always talking about the thing that the audience is interested in.  Blogs that cover a wide range of topics will very often lose the interest of certain groups when they talk about things that are not of interest to those groups.

A brief survey among a few readers of my blog has come up with fairly interesting responses about what interests them (and what bores them) in the blog:

1.  Some friends find the posts about differences in culture(s) or analysis of a local phenomenon the most interesting.

2.  Some find the minutiae of my life (like whether I hurt my foot) interesting, while others find it a bit unseemly and wish I would leave it out.

3.  Some find the travel writing and photos the most interesting.

4.  Some like the quirky ideas or funny stories.

5.  Some like the visual juxtapositions or pics of the day.

6.  Some people are interested in the food.

7.  Some people are interested in the spiritual journey, and others are turned off by it.

In any event, it is clear that not all readers of my blog necessarily care about (or care for) all the types of things I write about.  Such is life. Different people have different interests, and an audience can be composed of many different types of people.

So what kind of people, exactly, is my audience composed of?

1. The number one reason people read my blog is, well, because they know me personally. This gives them an interest in what I might be up to, and they can check the blog without the cost and hassle of getting me on the phone or having a conversation.

2. The second largest group are friends of friends and family. People that I don’t know personally, but who have been referred to the site by people I know.

3. The next largest number of readers are those that find me through a google (or other) search. Since I have been in a lot of places and have written about a ton of things, this happens quite often. Sometimes these people stay and become regular readers. Sometimes they just peruse the info that brought them here and then leave.

One interesting side effect of all the traveling I have done is the geographic diversity of readers. They are mostly concentrated in the places I have been (duh) but are really scattered through the world, on every continent except Antarctica.

So we get to the point of me trying to figure out what I want my blog to be when it grows up. Do I need my blog to grow up? What will I lose by editing out certain things? Is it important to update as often as I do, or does the quality suffer? Would I and my audience be better served by fewer, but higher quality posts? Should I care about a larger audience? Should I just keep doing exactly as I have been?

If you have bothered to read this far, I want your feedback. What do you think about all this? If you are too shy to post a public comment, how about sending me a private email? I would really appreciate it.