Archive for the ‘Projects’ Category

One Passion Fades, Another Is (Re)Discovered

November 30, 2016

I was catching up with a very old friend of mine in London a couple of weeks ago when I told him how, as I rapidly approach 40, that I’d finally come to the end of the road when it came to arguably the biggest passion of my life so far: partying.

The dancing to crap music, the wasted hungover days, the tinnitus, the deceptive sexual promise (ie. the promise rarely materialises – and even when it does normally leaves you disappointed), the long cold journeys home… the cons just outweigh the pros so heavily when you’re in your 30s, and to be honest I’ve been winding it down for at least 5 years now. The problem for me was what do I replace it with!? I love sports but as I grow ever slower and less fit they are as much a source of frustration as anything else. Meanwhile a hatred of the cold, water and mornings, not to mention anything mildly dangerous, rule out 90% of outdoor activities.

For most of my mid-30s I have been on the look out for a new passion, and about a year ago I discovered it… or rather rediscovered it, and from an unlikely source at that. I’d run into an acquaintance of mine at a concert, a guy who was a notorious playboy, and asked him what he’d been up to. He looked a bit sheepish before admitting that he’d been “taking it easy, playing a lot of Dungeons & Dragons.”

Well what do you know, from ages 11 right up until 18 I’d been completely addicted. I’d started as a player but quickly became the de facto Dungeon Master of my group and spent many long evenings after school constructing dungeons, adventures and characters and revelling in the creativity of the game. Well sure enough that acquaintance, who I can now safely upgrade to friend, invited me to come and play with his group and it seems that time has not dulled my love for this pastime.

In fact I’m taking it so seriously that I’d love to branch out from my travel writing and become an authority on tabletop roleplaying as well. Indeed, inspired by the rather rock and roll characters I play with every Sunday, I’ve already launched my roleplaying blog, Hipsters & Dragons, with the aim of not only sharing tips on playing, but also maybe to challenge the negative perceptions that seem to follow D&D around… strange really when you consider that it’s a social activity that requires a lot of creativity (and usually a good sense of humour).

Anyhow, for newbies I went straight ahead and posted a long article explaining what Dungeons & Dragons is (as most people don’t really know, and it is a little abstract if you’ve never played before!) as well as some more technical articles for those already in the game, like this Critical Fumbles Chart.

With Game of Thrones making fantasy cool for possibly the first time, and a popular new edition of the rulebooks in print I have a strange feeling that this old school roleplaying game from the 1970s is on the cusp of a gargantuan comeback… so I’m actually pretty excited about getting involved!

Yes it’s not quite as glamorous as the addiction that was my raison d’etre through my 20s and 30s, but I’m really glad to have rediscovered it at just when my passion for partying really needed replacing…


A New Travel Blogging Team

February 17, 2015

Since starting my travel blog I have naturally spent a lot of time mulling over the question of how to monetize it. The question goes hand in hand with the question: who profits from travel content? The answer to the latter is easier at least and I’d say broadly speaking that three parties do:

1) The reader (who either uses the content for valuable info or inspiration)

2) The destination (assuming that the travel experience was good – and most people do enjoy their travels – then obviously the destination benefits for having been written about, as it follows that more people are likely to turn up in the near future [if that content was published on a blog/website of any influence at least])

3) The travel brands / companies / agents (obviously anyone whose services are recommended stands to gain).

We live in a world where readers expect free travel content (hell, many of them expect free movies and music, despite the higher costs of providing those… so they are certainly not forking out for mere “information”!) so that only leaves 2) and 3) as possible patrons of travel writing. The good news is that both parties are happy to invest in content marketing… the bad news is that as relatively small media (let’s face it, even the largest of travel bloggers has a fairly pifling audience compared to the likes of Conde Nast or The Guardian etc) it is hard to get the decision makers in those organisations to pay attention to us. They key I believe is teaming up…

That’s how The Travel Mob was born. More soon!


Barcelona Nightlife Video

April 11, 2014

People have been talking about video as a way to gain traffic for many years now, and I’ve always had my reservations… but now that Google have bought the world’s second largest search engine, Youtube, and are showing video results on many searches, it seemed well worth at least investigating if I can use video to my advantage. So I decided to invest in a video shoot, which I am hoping will drive traffic to my website, Barcelona Life…

…Now, ever since I began Barcelona Life, I concentrated on making nightlife a major content theme, conscious that the likes of Booking dot com and Hostelworld were the go-to guys on hotel info and hostel reviews respectively. Then Tripadvisor came along and stole a march on Booking dot com in the hotels sphere, plus they also now dominate restaurant reviews, and even attractions. In fact there’s one or several major player in every travel niche pretty much, from car hire to activities and tours, driving small websites like mine down in the search engine results and making it harder to survive… that’s business for you! Anyway this isn’t a sob story, but rather an experiment to see if I can’t give myself an advantage by adding great video to my content and also, by hosting it on Youtube as well, drive some traffic to my site. I chose nightlife for the film’s theme, because despite competition, it’s one area where BL is still a leading resource, and I wanted to strengthen my depth of coverage on this field.

The jury’s still out on how effective an investment in time and money this mini-project will be, but the video at least has been expertedly shot by The Travel Vlogger and starred in by many of my amigos… including the lovely Jessica from Hola Yessica, now known as the Barcelona Blonde! (I’ll give her a big up for helping out as she has her own, high quality blog and Youtube channel which you might want to check out).

Anyway you can see the results here in our video on Barcelona’s wild nightlife! And whilst it was a pain in the arse to organise, in the end it was great fun to shoot. Getting lashed on mojitos and shots in four different bars, illegal beers on Las Ramblas, killing time on Plaza Reial and taxi to Opium Mar pretty much encapsulates what a night out in BCN is all about… so do check it out if you want a flavour of the city’s vida nocturna.

Freelancer’s Working Timetable 2013

January 2, 2013

Holy sh!t… it’s 2013 already! Last time I updated this blog was to have a bitch about the cons of freelancing! And that was way back in May 2012. Safe to say a lot has happened since then. My main project Barcelona Life travel guide, made a nice recovery from Google’s Panda and Penguin updates and is flying again, after that little wobble, and there’s also been an uptake in interest from advertisers. I guess Spain’s economic crisis also means that more and more local businesses in Barcelona are relying on foreign coin, so obviously BL is a great platform for them in that respect.

Meanwhile Urban Travel Blog finally launched a new design and is now actively looking for premium partners in the travel industry to work with. We’ve got one almost signed up, so let’s hope others follow suit! Overall my strategy is simply to publish more and more of our flagship content, which are our (long) weekend guides to the world’s best cities, plus of course keep the travel stories coming and hope the traffic continues to rise! Hush hush but there’s also side project in development (idea phase only!) here, so let’s see how that goes.

After hearing that my favourite wine blog was about to close, I’ve also started helping out over at developing a new travel section, with gourmet guides to Barcelona and beyond, plus a tours section where we put their readers in contact with some of the best wine tour providers in Spain and Portugal and help them book a great trip or experience.

Get Sailing is another project I’m heavily involved in… 2012 was a slightly painful year of experimentation and possibly too many meetings and not enough action, but we’ve relaunched the site on WordPress which should enable us to dramatically increase the functionality of the site simply by using plug ins (rather than programming from scratch). Once we’ve got the site looking a fraction better I need to wave my magic content and SEO wand to get us much more traffic. We’ve got a good search engine but no where near enough visitors to take bookings just yet. Naturally I’ve got a good plan cooking how to fast track this a bit!

So 2013 looks to be one full of opportunities! The main threat being spreading myself too thinly. As I’m quite committed to all the above however there’s no chance to pulling out of any of them just yet – plus I can’t really afford to pay anyone to replace me anyhow – so what is needed is a good work ethic and maximum efficiency. In fact today, January 1st 2013, I’ve overcome my hangover to work out a daily working schedule which I hope will keep me on track, breaking down my hours into specific activities and ensuring that not too much time gets wasted on things like checking email and social media – or even worse pointless Facebook browsing etc!

A typical day might look like this, with three main windows for getting important tasks done.

12:00 – Get up! (Yes I like to lie in:).
13:00 – Check and reply to emails, social media if time
14:00 – Major task I
16:00 – Lunch
16:30 – Major task II
18:30 – Check and reply to emails, social media if time
19:00 – Siesta
20:00 – Dinner
21:00 – Major task III
01:00 – TV series / Spanish reading
02:00 – Reading
03:00 – Sleep

Importantly two of them are in the afternoon, so that if I do decided to go out or play football in the evening I still have two thirds of my usual working day to get things done. Last year, because I relied so much on my evening/late night work shifts, when I did take a break it was almost liking taking the whole day off. Ok, let’s see how it goes! I plan to write down motivational goals and rules as well and print them off, to keep me focused. Plus I also plan to have a work window on both Saturdays and Sundays, at least during January to April, when the summer fun and travels are not a major distraction.

Of course if you’ve got any tips on being super efficient in 2013 please do share them! Especially if you’re a fellow freelancer, who can get distracted easily!

Barcelona Activities

January 17, 2012

Right, happy new year y’all. Thought I’d better lay down the first post of 2012 and I think it’s going to be a busy year. If you’ve read any of my previous posts about travel writing as a job then you’ll know that I’ve got my reservations about round-the-world blogs that naive backpackers assume are somehow going to make them millions, or in the very least fund their travels. In fact I am working on a global blog, but it’s a little different in concept… more on that in a later post!

For now I’ve been concentrating on my travel franchise, Barcelona Life, and trying to add to the revenue streams. When you start a travel guide the hardest markets to tap into – on the grounds they are the most competitive – are hotels, then apartments and then hostels. You’re fighting a losing battle if you think you’ve ever going to make any discernible income from hotel bookings when the likes of Tripadvisor, and countless other heavily funded global brands out there are sweeping these all up, dominating both the Google search results and bidding heavily on Adwords as well. So what’s left for the little guys? Activities for one, and that’s where Barcelona certainly gives you a helping hand… there’s a million great things to do around here, and if you can help people find and book those activities then there’s a little money to be made.

From this leading article about nightlife in Barcelona I make a bit of money selling both VIP nightlife tours and pub crawls, whereas this page about food and drink tours is the perfect place to sell cookery classes, wine tasting tours and even cheese tasting why not!

That’s just the tip of the iceberg concerning what’s possible, but in order to make any money you need great Google rankings and a reliable provider who you can trust! So brush up on your SEO before you get going and make some local contacts and meet them in person if at all possible.

Urban Travel Blog

October 24, 2009

The last couple of weeks have been exciting times for me, as ideas for an online travel magazine, which have been floating in my head for the last eight or nine months, settled into a concrete plan – which I quickly turned into an up and running website! I’m delighted to unveil the Urban Travel Blog!

For some time I had been discussing the creation of an online travel magazine with my web developer friend, but I guess it was always wishful thinking to suppose he would find the time in his already packed schedule to knock up a site for me. But then I realised I didn’t need him! With publishing technology like WordPress, a few plug-ins and a willingness to step out of the knowledge comfort zone even a techno-retard like myself can launch a respectable looking and functioning site. Great!

As for why I wanted to launch my own travel magazine, it’s a point that I think is worth discussing. You don’t have to be trends forecaster to see that traditional media is increasingly being replaced by the Internet, and whereas I think there will always be room for physical guidebooks, magazines and newspapers undoubtedly that market will shrink rather than grow. Ultimately people don’t want to pay for information that they can access for free online, and with the trend for laptops small enough to actually carry around with you (such as my lovely Samsung NC10 notebook) combined with a growing number of places offering WiFi access, plus of course smartphones, an increasing number of travellers can access the Internet at any time – not just from their home or office.

So with the Internet still growing in power as a media tool, an online magazine is clearly the way forward over a traditional printed one. But there are already tonnes of travel magazines online I hear you cry – what’s different about your one? Well firstly, I don’t agree that there aren’t hundreds of travel magazines online. There are hundreds of printed magazines who at some point clumsily post their content in a user-unfriendly way onto a website that is merely a support mechanism for their paper product. Then there are hundreds and thousands of online travel guides, but these tend to concentrate on practical travel information, reviews, tourist attractions, and – as someone who has browsed a lot of such sites knows – are basically hotel booking sites dressed up with content. Finally there are some catch all contributor content tipping bins, such as Suite101, where all and sundry are encouraged to write about their every turgid moment over such a scope of topics that it hardly makes compelling reading. The model is basically designed to make money via Google adsense and fair play to them, but it’s not a route I’m interested in following, even if I hadn’t left it too late!

So what I’m trying to say, is there is still tonnes of room for an online travel magazine which is a) designed as a web medium b) publishes articles, not reviews, in the manner of a traditional magazine c) has a defined focus (urban travel/cities) and quality control. Phew, I think that’s it!

Hopefully this is something for city lovers to get excited about and enjoy, and if you’re one such person you can follow all the latest developments by signing up for the blog’s RSS feed (see homepage), or catching us on Twitter.