In the News Again

Cool! I got into the paper again! It was about this time last year that the Edmonton Journal did a very similar article. This time we are in the Vancouver Sun.

Check it out:

This is the link to the article

“On the road with the blog at your back

When Carmella Lesiuk set out to travel the globe, little did she realize `the entire world` would go whereshegoes on travelpod.com

Rebecca Osler, Special to The vancouver Sun
Published: Saturday, January 27, 2007

It used to be a lonesome road for travellers. When homesickness, a rotten day or the creeping “what have I gotten myself into?” feeling struck, a backpacker had a limited arsenal of tools to relieve isolation. A battered journal, a stack of postcards or a coin-gobbling phone booth — that was about it.

But now, an explosion of travel blog websites is enabling travellers to join virtual communities that stay put no matter their physical whereabouts. More than just platforms to showcase trips, these sites enable instant communication with family and friends as well as the opportunity to forge new relationships with like-minded wanderers.

Carmella Lesiuk is well-acquainted with the ups and downs of being on the move. In 2002, the Edmontonian quit her IT job, sold most of her possessions and embarked upon a four-year odyssey to discover not just the world, but her own destiny.

“I realized I didn`t want to become a computer,” says Lesiuk, now 30. “I didn`t know where my fingers ended and the keyboard began.”

Not wanting to assault loved ones with obnoxious group e-mails, Lesiuk joined TravelPod, a free Ottawa-based site that claims to be the Web`s original travel blog.

As she journeyed across Europe, Africa, Asia and South America, Lesiuk posted religiously under the username “whereshegoes.”

She wrote not just of her journey, but of the emotions she met along the way. FOR INSTANCE:
“I`m sitting on my sunny rooftop patio in Riomaggiore. My freshly washed laundry swaying lightly on the line as I nibble on toast with Camembert from France and vine-ripened tomatoes. I look out beyond the terrace dotted with flowerpots spilling over with pink and purple blooms and notice a lemon tree with what seems like hundreds of plump neon yellow lemons.

“In the past, I have been so caught up in trying to anticipate the next moment that I have forgotten to breathe in this one,” she wrote.

At first, Lesiuk assumed only her mom was reading her photo-laden missives.

“Then I started receiving these random e-mails from people … strangers from all over the world commenting on my blog and how they were enjoying it,” she says.

“There were actually people who sent me messages saying: `Okay, you`ve inspired me. I`ve quit my job and I`m going to travel around the world now.` ”

The cheerleading went two ways, especially on those occasions when Lesiuk felt down and very much alone.

“It was almost like having a friend that was always there to listen to me and to be there for me. It was like therapy,” she recalls. “The days that I considered quitting and was having a bad day and just wanted to go home, I would get an e-mail like that and it would just change my whole view.

“It`s probably one of the biggest reasons I stayed out travelling for so long,” she says. “The entire world would encourage me.”

Furthermore, Lesiuk says the blog provided stability when everything around her — location, people, cuisine — was changing daily.

Four years later, Lesiuk is now TravelPod`s top-ranked user, as whereshegoes has garnered more than 400,000 views. TravelPod itself has mushroomed since its inception, having tripled its membership (which currently sits at 65,000) in the past year alone.

And unexpectedly, Lesiuk — who found herself back in Edmonton struggling with reverse culture shock — was offered a job moderating TravelPod`s forums, which she gladly accepted.

Like many sites, TravelPod is not limited to virtual connections. It also enables users to search for specific destinations, allowing members to meet in person if they so desire. Lesiuk says she met 10 to 20 members on her trip, including a guy from Calgary who saw that she was in South Africa and asked to converge.

“We ended up meeting and working in the same hostel for a month or two and becoming really good friends. The guy is one of my best friends now,” she says.

Not all travel blogs are created equal. For instance, TravelPod, travelblog.org, realtravel.com and igoUgo.com, while free, are visually busy and contain advertising. Mytripjournal.com, the brainchild of Vancouver`s Dan Parlow, requires a paid subscription after the complimentary 45 day trial period, but is entirely ad-free.

“We wanted to keep a clean look and feel,” says Parlow, a former lawyer who launched My Trip Journal after keeping his own website during a family trip to China in 2001.

Parlow`s site is heavily map-centred. Even if you`re headed to a remote corner of Romania with a population smaller than your average Canadian household, Parlow`s staff will customize a map that represents your exact trip.

Another highlight is the fact that users can store high resolution images online and have the entire site e-mailed and burned to CD or DVD later (perfect for those “oops!” moments when you drop the digital camera into the Amazon).

“It`s replacing the need to keep a written journal when you`re travelling. It`s replacing all the time you have to spend assembling a journal of the trip when you come home,” says Parlow.

Instead of inundating friends` inboxes with large photo attachments, travel blogs are a one-size-fits-all solution for images. They are also a time-saving alternative to postcards, according to Parlow.

“If you get to Paris and you go to the Eiffel Tower . . . now you`ve got to write the same thing to like 24 different people and you have to figure out how to make every one sound a little bit different and personalize it,” he says.

My Trip Journal, which currently hosts 20, 000 active users, is rated “one of the best travel websites” on forbes.com. In addition, Parlow has established relationships with Lonely Planet, The Good Sam Club (RVs) and family.com (a Disney company).

At first, Parlow figured his users would be mostly youngsters. Yet, to his amazement, travellers in their 80s are blogging up a storm.

Topics are equally diverse, including travelling with kids, overseas development, youth travel, honeymoons, travelling to adopt, cycling adventures, cruises and road trips.

But even the occasional visitor to cyberspace knows of the common pest known as the “bland blog.” So, what makes an online travel saga stand out?

“Talk about your feelings, because your feelings are usually going to be what you remember afterwards,” says Parlow.

Also, don`t dawdle.

“The real prizewinners are made when people write when their memories are still fresh,” he adds.

Lesiuk says: “Be honest and describe your experience fully, as deeply as you can.

“Describe how things taste, how they smell, how they feel. Describe the temperature of the rain as it falls on your skin.

“Look at it as if you were describing it to someone who wasn`t from this planet.”

Rebecca Osler is a U.K.-based travel writer and former Vancouver Sun staff member.

CHECK OUT THESE INSPIRATIONAL TRAVEL BLOGS

www.travelpod.com

Whereshegoes: A young woman`s discovery of the world and her place in it.

Thymeoff: Retired Ottawa couple drives from the country`s capital to the tip of South America.

www.mytripjournal.com

RichWorld: The adventures of a “classically homeless couple” that has been travelling for 14 years, living in 113 countries.

Honeymoonplanet: Bold (or just indecisive?) Vancouverites honeymoon around the globe.

www.igoUgo.com

Btwood2: Full-time, budget conscious motor home enthusiasts explore North America. Callen60: A self-professed “national park junkie” rates America`s protected nature reserves.

www.travelblog.org

Bikepacker: Man bikes from central England to Singapore, encountering good times as well as bike breakdowns, wild animals, and severe injury.

Mel-and-Gareth: Braving a bitterly cold winter while teaching English in Mongolia.

www.realtravel.com

Len and Jenn: Toronto duo hikes Nepal`s Annapurna circuit.

The Cheng Family: Two teens and their parents depart Vancouver for a `round-the-world odyssey to gain perspective and promote family bonding.

I was standing there for 10 mins like this…

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