- I'm working hard to develop the updates to the Costa Rica section of my JoeTourist™ website. The updates will be posted within the next few weeks. I find it odd that folks never ask me how I develop the content for JoeTourist™ website, and yet everyone I talk to seems to like the content, the layout, and the information and photos. So here is how I do it:
- My Travel Journal – Without a doubt, the most valuable tool for development of the website content is my travel journal. I take time each day to sit down and write about what I'm feeling, who I have met, what I've eaten, describe new experiences, and take note of place names, routes taken, the weather, wildlife and flora, and any other information that might add to my travelogue. Keep in mind, the JoeTourist™ website is written in a travelogue style, which means most of the text is written as thought I am writing a letter to someone about my experiences while traveling. If you want more explanation for this concept, Wikipedia has taken a stab at defining a travel journal, road journal or travelogue.
- Please remember my travelogue is personal, so I don't attempt to be balanced in my coverage of a place. I write about what I experienced while traveling – no more. I don't write about places I've not traveled to. I use my JoeTourist™ blog (what you are reading now) to present my more immediate thoughts and experiences while I'm traveling. There aren't too many places left in the world which don't have some type of connection with the Internet, and all I need is a web browser and a not-so-fast connection to post to my blog. I try to upload a photo or two to my blog, but it doesn't compete with my JoeTourist™ website. My website has many more photographs, maps and satellite imagery, links to destination resources, and of course the text is very much expanded and edited to present a polished product that will stand the test of time.
- Photographs – My JoeTourist™ website wouldn't be complete without my photographs. I work hard at telling a story with photos, and I'm always keeping this in mind when I'm shooting images while traveling. I take my fair share of sunsets, waterfalls, and "I was there" photos, but I also add photos which show how I got to a location. My photos may also show some negative aspects of a locale or my bad experiences – perhaps some political graffiti, or a traffic jam, or some guys carrying weapons. These are all part of the story…part of the travelogue. Also, my photos tend to show my biases – I'm interested in wildlife, astronomy, techno gadgets, among my other interests.
- Maps – I used to scan in paper maps, then I progressed to various digital atlas products, but now I use Google Earth almost exclusively for producing the maps you see on my JoeTourist™ website. I always take paper maps with me when I travel so I know where I'm at and where I'm going. You will find I take some care to use properly spelled place names on my JoeTourist™ website, and where possible I try to supply a map showing where my travels took me.
- Links and other references – I collect links to online travel resources relevant to the destination I'm traveling to, so I share a subset of the more interesting ones on my JoeTourist™ website. These online resources are not always commercial ventures. I often link to other online travelogues, photo galleries, and some resources I think may otherwise be hard to find. I make use of guidebooks and other published travel material, and so I may offer information on how to find these resources.
The step-by-step process
- Organize photographs – This has turned into the job requiring the most effort, especially now that I shoot digital photographs exclusively. I try to keep a catalogue of photos as I take them, but sometimes I am just too busy while traveling to keep up with this. I always keep my journal up-to-date, so sometimes I just have to piece together the sequence of events by referring to my journal and the photos taken for a particular day. Sometimes referring to the photographs jogs my memory to an event or point of detail I missed in my journal, so I update my journal after I return home. Getting to this process early, while my memory is still fresh is essential! Anyway, the process of selecting the photos to use on the website is an iterative process. Once I decide a photo will be used, I edit it for presentation on the web: reduce the size, crop and adjust as required, give the photo more punch for website presentation, and decide where it will be placed.
- Edit journal – As I stated above, my journal is the essence of my JoeTourist™ website. I carefully edit everything found in my journal: removing the material that is too personal or irrelevant; adding details as I remember them when re-reading my words; researching the accuracy of facts such as people's names, place names, and a myriad of other details. I break the journal material up into logical chunks that make the website easier to navigate. This also allows people to jump to parts of my travels they are interested in, rather than having to plough through the whole thing chronologically.
- Create maps – Using Google Earth, I create maps to add context to my travels. Recently, I've found oblique view satellite imagery hybrid maps seem to work best. I save them as jpg graphics to ensure they will load quickly from my web server.
- Create web pages – Blending photographs, maps, links and my travel journal into web pages that look good and are interesting to people is where it all has to come together. I tend to create longer web pages with more words than contemporary advice dictates one should use for a web page. After all, this is a travelogue. I'm not trying to sell tins of soup! I'm trying to give people a flavour of what I experienced while traveling. It has to cover some ground; otherwise it would take forever to tell my story. I go through countless revisions to each web page – adding text and moving it; placing a photo in one spot and then deciding it doesn't look good; asking myself countless times "what am I trying to say here?" Eventually it comes together sufficiently, and I publish the whole thing to the production website. Then I repeatedly test it with various web browsing software to ensure it hangs together properly at various resolutions and various sized windows. Along the way, I see some errors and make corrections.
- Notify interested people – Invariably I've met people during my travels. These days, I often only get a name and an email address – such is our modern world. I send a notification to these folks, as well as to a few friends who have shown interest in my work in the past. Since I've been writing this blog, I also post a notice here, since a blog is a great way to get the word out quickly and easily.
Well, there you have it. Now you know what I'm up to (steps 2 & 4 at the moment). Please hang in there!