It’s time for a recap of my progress to date! It’s almost exactly the middle of the year, and this should have happened sooner, but c’est la vie.
I started this blog on 6th September 2011, much to my surprise, I thought it was mid-November.
So far I’ve posted 18 times (19 including this one) with no real routine – an average of 2 posts a month, but not even managing 2 posts in February, and this will be my first blog post of June too.
My Stats have slowly but steadily climbed, although June has not continued the trend. A lot of my views are directly related to how active I am on twitter, both finding good people (hopefully real people) to follow and how regularly I tweet.
Absolutely everything I can possibly plug-in to twitter, I have done, so for example if I Like a video on Vimeo or Youtube, it automatically tweets. Twitter and facebook also echo each other, but I may end that unhealthy relationship soon. I have grown my twitter following fairly enthusiastically, half the reason I never get round to posting here, with 2,793 current followers of @PeterParkorr and 899 current followers of @SenorSunset, my travel pseudonym. So far I have vetted each and every account I follow or follow back using Pluggio, so while that is quite slow and distracting, I’m fairly happy my numbers are mostly real people, not just spambots and accounts that exist by retweeting.
In February, I decided to start experimenting with WordPress.org and used a free hosting service to start TravelFree.li – The Who, How and Why of Long-Term Travel. I didn’t think of ShockAndOrr as a place that I could also call a travel blog, it’s more of a live experiment. So I branched out into WP.orgs ‘MultiSite’ which means I can host several sites from one installation/dashboard. The free hosting was poor so I wouldn’t recommend it, altho it was a good way to try out self-hosting before choosing a paid option. I spoke to a few travel friends and made them Featured Travellers on the site, altho not much has happened since then! Total posts over there to date: 1.
This week I decided TravelFree.li (pronounced ‘travel freely’) might not be the right vessel for my personal travel tales either, and started another site at TravelUnmasked.com. If you do happen to head over there, it is in even more need of work than its predecessor, but at least people’s first remark won’t be ‘Travel-free-dot-l-i? Why Lichtenstein??’. It’s current (completed) posts to date is also 1.
Photography-wise, I’ve had a lot of practice. In December I left the UK with my family and spent christmas in Malta. The family left after a week, but I stayed on, getting around to different parts of the island, and spending 10 days on the island of Gozo, its smaller cousin. After that I took the boat to Sicily to do some WWOOFing (working on farms), and ended up staying for 4 months. In late-April I attended a travel blogging conference and my DSLR camera hit the 10,000 photo’s mark. My actual DSLR total is a lot closer to 15,000 photo’s taken (maybe over that) as I reset the counter a couple of times in the past to cure a problematic SD card. I’ve been reading a lot about photography, techniques, and equipment, and also learnt from professionals I’ve met on the road. My understanding has improved, my editing is more effective (with GIMP), and I think my eye for a good photo has developed too. Taking part in the weekly Photo Challenge might show this, but I haven’t been. Tut tut.
Last week I decided to go with Zenfolio as the place for my photography. I’ve used Flickr but wasn’t in love with it, Facebook reduces the quality so much that my shots look horrible, and Google+ would be my choice if I hadn’t been scared off by talk of them owning the image rights to whatever I upload. So my Zenfolio page means my photo’s are backed up and hosted, I can embed them in my posts, and I can also create nifty slideshows to embed in sites (like at the end of the Etna post on TravelUnmasked). You can create private galleries easily too, and even put a price on for people to order prints (for when I feel my shots are worth buying!).
This week, at the culmination of weeks of research, I bought new camera equipment, finally deciding on the Panasonic GH2 – the main benefit being top quality video capture. I also got a few decent lenses for it, not expensive ones, but I can already see the difference in quality from my old Sony kit lenses.
Outside of blogging, there has been a theme of death! Sad but true. September 2011 was not a great month in general, as I had no real plans for travel or otherwise, and then my grandmother, aged 89, passed away. It wasn’t entirely unexpected because of her age, but it was still an unhappy time. Cue big family gathering in Ireland. Only 3 weeks later, the elderly neighbour of my parents, almost like family, also passed away. We were all shocked to find out she was 98 years old, as she had refused to tell us her age ever since we’d known her, 19 years earlier! I returned to the UK in early May to arrange new tenants at my own house for the year, and a few days later my grandfather took his leave as well, aged 93. Another family gathering in Ireland was one positive point, but losing the last of the older generation from the family is strange to contemplate. Finally, in a dark and no doubt coincidental pattern, on getting to my place in Manchester I was sad to hear that the elderly grandfather from nextdoor, who I often chatted to and sometimes took advice about leaking drain pipes from, had also passed away.
Despite the morbid season, I remain perfectly upbeat about the rest of life! I made good friends in Catania working at a hostel for the latter 2 months in Sicily, and met lots of great people. I hung out with hordes of inspiring travel bloggers in Assisi, and had the chance to photograph stunning places.
I do need to concentrate on actually blogging more, and trying to be a travelling blogger just makes it all more complicated. The road is also the worst place to eat healthy and keep fit. Nevertheless, in the next day or two I’m off to mainland Europe, starting in either Belgium or Holland and then overland to Finland. I’ll have almost everything I need on my back, from tent and sleeping bag, to enough photography kit to make a donkey groan.
Looking back on the first 9 months (sort of) I’m not unhappy with my overall progress, but I’m aware of the need to prioritise the blogging more. It’s exciting to set off with my backpack again (its still going strong after 10 years!) and I cant wait to start shooting pictures, timelapse and video with my new setup.
Here’s to remembering those we’ve lost, and not forgetting to live our own lives. You can choose if you think I’m succeeding or failing so far, but either way, I’m quite happy marching on.
R.I.P. Gran, Poppa, Marian, and Jimmy, thanks for being there, and you will all be missed.