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Tag Archives | Blogs

Seven ways for travelers to empower themselves by blogging

CNNThis article from is worth a read for aspiring travel bloggers (even though it was published a few months ago):

Pushy bloggers to travel industry: Be nice

While all of Christopher Elliott’s suggestions are worth following, pay special attention to his second tip: “Find a specialty.”

There are thousands of general travel websites on the Internet, many of which are owned by media outlets or barons with more resources than you have. Don’t try to compete with The New York Times, Rick Steves, or Weblogs, Inc.

Instead, find a quirky aspect of travel that appeals to you and you are an expert about (or at least want to become one).

Examples of such niche blogs include

  • European travel for seniors making their first trip outside of the United States
  • tips for traveling with a musical instrument
  • travel for the professional travel writer

Vote for Andrew Evans to be the blogger for Quark Expeditions’ voyage to Antarctica

If you’re the kind of person who does what I tell you to, without asking questions

  1. Vote for Andrew Evans to be the official blogger for Quark Expeditions’ voyage to Antarctica in February 2010. [Update Jan. 3, 2015: Link no longer works, likely because voting was like six years ago.]
  2. Introduce yourself to me, as I’m yet to meet anyone who just does what I ask.

If you need reasons to follow my suggestions (and really you should)

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Automatically share your latest blog post on 30 social networks and microblogs with twitterfeed and

Given my vocation, it should be clear I’m not a visual thinker. But when it comes to explaining how to share your latest blog post automatically on more than 30 social networks and microblogs, an illustration is better suited (my penmanship notwithstanding).

Website flowchart: From new blog post to twitterfeed to to social networks and microblogs to readers

Website flowchart, how to automatically share a new blog post on social networks and microblogs

Website flowchart: How to automatically share a new blog post on social networks and microblogs

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The only three WordPress plugins your website or blog needs

In my last post (Four easy steps to starting your own website or blog) I covered the basics for marking your territory online. Once you’re comfortable with using WordPress, however, you’ll probably want to add some features that extend its functionality.

That’s where plugins come in.

How to install a WordPress plugin

  1. Find a plugin you want to install (the WordPress Plugin Directory is a great place to start)
  2. Download it to your computer
  3. Upload that plugin from your computer to your website’s WordPress plugins directory (wp-content/plugins/)
  4. Activate the plugin in WordPress (Plugins > Installed)

There are thousands of WordPress plugins available (4,245 as of this writing actually), but the only essential ones are these three.


Askimet is a spam filter for your blog’s comments. It’s a must if you allow comments on your website (it’s blocked at least 7,343 spam comments from this website).

Askimet comes bundled with your WordPress installation, so you don’t need to download it, but installation requires a few steps. They’re self-explanatory though and WordPress will guide you through them via the Plugins menu.

All in One SEO Pack

The All in One SEO Pack helps your website perform better in search engine results. While installing it doesn’t mean you won’t have to do anything else to improve your website’s search engine optimization (SEO), it is a good first step toward getting more visitors through Google.

(For more information on search engine optimization, read my posts on the subject.)


You see that little green icon with ShareThis written next to it at the bottom of this post? This plugin is responsible for it. ShareThis makes it easier for visitors of your site to share your content with people via social networks and e-mail (marketers get paid a lot of money to refer to this achievement as “going viral”).

You want your website’s content to be spread around the Internet, so make it easy for your visitors to do so.

Four easy steps to starting your own website or blog

Recently I’ve helped a few friends and clients start websites (creating one seems to be contagious this time of year). Here’s a basic look at the steps involved.

1. Buy a domain name and server space for your website

I use Bluehost for both. You can save money by going elsewhere, but Bluehost’s customer service is fantastic (I have a tendency to blow up websites at 3 a.m.; a calm, knowledgeable Bluehost rep is always available, even at that hour, to help me undo the damage). It’s hosted my sites for years and I’ve never had a problem. I pay about $150 a year, which includes the domain name and e-mail accounts too.

2. Install the website software

I use WordPress for all of my sites. It’s a free blogging platform, but it also can be used for non-blog websites (like this one I created to rent out my house for the Kentucky Derby). It’s easy to use and costs nothing (hence my use of the word “free” in this paragraph’s second sentence).

WordPress is easy to install through SimpleScripts in the Bluehost control panel. And if you have any problems doing so, call Bluehost.

3. Install a theme for the website

The template is the website’s design. Don’t use the default one because, well, it looks like a default setting; using it is the equivalent of buying a Lego set and just making what the instructions tell you to rather than constructing your own crazy contraption.

There are many good themes available for free. I like the free ones at (this site uses its Typebased theme), but you also can find free ones at

Choose one with a lot of positive reviews. If the theme doesn’t work well, it can cause a lot of problems. To install a theme

  1. Download a theme from one of the aforementioned websites to your computer
  2. Upload that theme from your computer to the theme directory in WordPress (wp-content/themes/)
  3. Activate the theme in WordPress (Appearance > Themes)

4. Start writing web pages or blog posts

WordPress has an easy-to-use what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) editor (Posts > Add New for blog entries, Pages > Add New for static page). When you’re happy with your content, select Post.

Seven travel blogs you should read

As so much of my work these days involves travel writing, I figured I’d pass along a list of some of the great travel blogs that I read. These websites are excellent sources for ideas—either to write about or travel to ideally both):

Any sites I’m missing? Please let me know in the comments.

WordPress updates to version 2.7, and it’s not a release to be skipped

Like many of you, I don’t like it when change comes to a blog platform or social networking site (talking ’bout you Facebook). It takes time to become acclimated with the new layout, and it can be frustrating relearning where to find information.

For once, however, I am fine with such a change (and it had nothing to do with Who Moved My Cheese):

WordPress 2.7 (aka Coltrane) is fantastic.

Released on Dec. 10, the upgrade’s interface is much cleaner and intuitive than version 2.6.5, which I was running previously.

QuickPress, an area in the Dashboard that allows users to quickly add a post, is handy—and was where I wrote this post.

Many bloggers are reluctant to update their software, having to backup, deactivate plugins, upgrade, and reactivate plugins, hoping the process doesn’t destroy their hours of effort.

WordPress 2.7., however, is worth the upgrade.

Behold the renovated (again)—feedback appreciated!

As overhauling this blog seemed less daunting than unpacking all of my possessions after my recent move to Louisville, I spent the past couple of days renovating the website. I

  • upgraded the blogging platform to WordPress 2.6.5–it has a slew of new features, so many in fact that I only needed to install two plugins
  • installed the ShareThis plugin–it appears after each post and allows visitors to easily, um, share the post via social networking and bookmarking sites, blogs, or e-mail (previously I needed three separate plugins to handle these feunctions)
  • added the fantastic free Typebased theme from Woo Themes
  • corrected a coding problem that caused a lot of punctuation to appear as code (which is certainly not acceptable on a blog that covers grammar and punctuation)

Feedback—good or bad—on the update is appreciated. Thanks!

Andrew Evans wins travel journalism award

Andrew Evans, a former fellow Washington, DC, Gridskipper correspondent, won a silver medal in the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Competition’s Guidebook category. Drew earned the recognition for his Bradt Travel Guide on Iceland.

Never having been to Iceland, I haven’t had occasion to read Drew’s book yet. But I hope to both travel to Iceland and read his book soon. His contributions at Gridskipper have been great and useful.

Drew also blogs about his travels and writing at Walked & Walked.

The Obama campaign and new media and social networking

While I’m politically active, this blog isn’t—if you want to read about politics you probably can find a few other websites that delve into the subject.

But anyone interested in online communications and social networking has to be paying attention to Barack Obama’s campaign: Nov. 4 will be the biggest test of the real-life power of that emerging technology.

The Obama campaign isn’t just using, but is distributing quality content via

And the campaign got 2.9 million people to opt-in to receive text messages from it in exchange for being the almost-first person to know whom Obama selected to be his running mate. Think it might use that data as part of its get-out-the-vote efforts?

Will it pay off on November 4? I suspect the Obama campaign has studied Howard Dean’s candidacy in 2004 and realized what it needs to do to translate virtual support into real votes.