I usually focus my posts on specific topics, but this time I thought I’d do a bit of a round-up of different things.
I feel like I should do more casual writing sometimes, so this is trying to loosen things up a bit! So without further ado, let me tell you about my recent travels and other going-ons around the blog…
Road tripping through Croatia
A couple of weeks ago I teamed up with a friend of mine to go on a road trip through Croatia.
I’ve been to Croatia once before, on a sailing trip around the southern Dalmatian islands back in 2010. It was in mid August with gorgeous sunny weather and lots of swimming in the sea every day. It was a wonderful trip, though this time around the goal was to have more of a sightseeing trip and less of a summer holiday, and to see much more of Croatia.
But I must confess, going to the Croatian coast in March wasn’t the best, and I would have liked to have gone in May or June (my friend could only go in March). I’ve travelled in off-season many times, but along the Croatian coast I definitely had the sense that many places weren’t quite ready for us yet.
Hostels were closed or empty, museums shut early, and some places felt like ghost towns. When we checked in to a guesthouse in Sibenik, the receptionist showed us a map of the town but stopped describing the places mid-way, saying “actually, there’s no point in telling you this as everything is closed”. Oh… 🙁
I had hoped things would be ever so slightly livelier, though fortunately things did pick up as we got closer to Dubrovnik, which is located in the southernmost tip of Croatia. It was wonderfully sunny there, and hiking up one of the hills for a view of the city made for a particularly nice day.
We also lucked out in Dubrovnik as it just so happened that it was being used as a location for the next Star Wars movie that weekend. Being a bit of a movie geek, I didn’t mind this at all…
The houses along the main street all had Star Wars facades attached, the street name plates had been replaced with suitably galactic versions, and some of the windy back-alleys had been cleverly re-dressed with futuristic-looking lamps. All of the filming locations were accessible while they were still setting them up, so it was fun to take pictures, poke around, and watch some stunt people test some of the rigs.
Since it was St. Patrick’s Day, we hit up an Irish bar in the evening where we got to mingle with a bunch of people working on the movie. I randomly had drinks with some of the costume designers, riggers, and the main cameraman for the sequence they were filming that day, which was pretty cool.
While the weather and timing of my Croatia trip weren’t generally that awesome, one other aspect that I did enjoy hugely was simply driving along the beautiful Dalmatian coast. Some of the views were gorgeous and the last leg of our trip to Dubrovnik was especially satisfying, as there the roads are all fun and windy, with cypress trees dotting the cliffs along the Mediterranean coastline.
Driving through Croatia was also made all the more enjoyable by the fact that we had a decidedly non-shitty car…
The last time I was on a road trip with my friend Wout we were actually travelling through Central America in this 30-year-old clunker:
This was a fun adventure but we probably saw a few too many mechanics on that trip! Things got so bad with that car that we eventually had to abandon and sell it for scrap to a man in the street in Mexico. (It’s a story I told on the blog before.)
This time we rented something a bit better:
It’s nice to be a flashpacker sometimes.
I finally joined Instagram!
I’ve posted some of my pics from Croatia on Instagram, as well as some favourite photos from my previous trips. You can follow me on Instagram here.
People have asked me for my Instagram name forever, and I’ve always had to tell them “sorry, I’m not on it”. My phone camera isn’t that great so I rarely take pictures with it, and a lack of a data connection in many places abroad made me not want to bother.
What finally changed is that I found an easy way to get my DSLR pictures onto Instagram. Now I can hit just one a button in Adobe Lightroom, have the image automatically compressed using JPEGmini, then sent to an Android emulator called BlueStacks, which then opens the Instagram app with the photo ready for publishing. If I include a specific hashtag, it also then gets automatically reposted on my Facebook and Twitter accounts as well. Crazy.
It’s kind of a ridiculous set up but it works amazingly well. It’s cool to have a channel for my travel photography now, and I expect I’ll be dipping into my archives regularly as so many photos I’ve taken have never been published before.
I hope you’ll join me on Instagram! It seems like a positive place and I’m amazed by the photos other people are posting. It’s cool not to miss out on it any longer.
Responses to my book
Speaking of Instagram, it was fun to see someone posting a pic there of my book along with an impressive range of Lonely Planet guides. (Planning something big, indeed!)
Seeing people’s feedback always puts a smile on my face. Some new reviews of my book appeared on Amazon recently and they totally made me blush. I love that this thing I made is helping people out.
I didn’t have such a direct feedback loop in any of the things I did before my blog, so it’s rewarding to see people connect with what I’ve made.
I also liked reading this blogger’s post about researching and preparing for a trip. It’s still weird to me that anyone would mention Indie Traveller in the same breath as a site like Nomadic Matt. (I think my blog is pretty good now, but Matt’s blog is simply unstoppable.)
Nomadic Matt was an inspiration for me back when I started mine in 2013. I think it’s easy for travel blogs to become quite self-absorbed, but Matt always seemed mainly concerned with giving people insight and information. There are many other ways of putting your audience first (good storytelling is another one), but his example was so clear and obvious that it made me think a lot about what a travel blog could or should be.
I’ve kind of come full circle on this now though as I believe my blog has been a bit too informational lately. I think it’s okay for me to have a bit more fun with and share personal things on it too. This is another thing that guys like Matt and others do so well, and it’s something I’d like to try doing more. (It’s also why I’m trying to do a more casual post right now.)
Q&A on Nomadic Matt
Speaking of Nomadic Matt (wow, lots of easy segways here today…), I was a featured forum member there recently which meant I got to answer some questions about my travels. The Q&A was done sometime last year when I was still travelling around Morocco, though it wasn’t published until just a couple of weeks ago. Be sure to give it a read if you’re curious about how I started travelling or my general approach to travel.
Future travel plans
My recent Croatia trip was actually the first I’ve done in 4 months. I’ve not done so much travelling lately as I’ve mostly spent my time rebalancing my life.
Last year threw me off-balance a bit as I found myself dealing with a few too many uncertainties. I worried about money (which was getting pretty tight) and about life, love, belonging, and everything. For several years everything had been so weighted towards freedom that I forgot about having a foundation.
I decided to get some permanent work: I’m helping with AdWords and SEO at a travel company called Rickshaw in Brighton, which has been super great. I’ve also taken time to focus on a few much-neglected aspects of my life. After some stormy weather in 2015 I find myself in much calmer waters now and I’m super pleased with what I’m doing.
Meanwhile Indie Traveller began generating some nice revenues, which made me feel much more justified in the time I’ve spent on it. Money isn’t such a worry anymore which is an awesome feeling to have.
Anyway, after not really travelling for a while I’m now turning my attention to doing some bite-size weekend trips in Europe… in fact, following Croatia I’m going to be in Spain next week! I’ve read a lot about Iceland as well and I think it would be cool to explore some of those ice caves out there. Later in the year, I’m thinking of going back to Brazil, and visiting some friends in the States.
That said, I change my mind about destinations all the time, so we’ll see. 🙂
That’s it for now – I hope you enjoyed reading just a few miscellaneous thoughts and updates. I normally tend to write posts that are quite search engine optimised, but I think it’ll be fun to experiment with more casual posts as well. I’m not sure what format works best for this, but I guess I’ll find out.