I’m Mose Hayward, and I’ve been bouncing around the world and writing for a living for most of the past two decades. That makes me a “digital nomad” since long before that was a thing. It used to be that when people asked, I would say I was a “schemer” or “vagabond”. I’m not sure that the neologism is an improvement.
In 2008 my second book failed. The marketing teams nixed editors’ plans, saying there was no future for quirky travel guides. So I turned that project into a website on dancing, drinking, and bonking as experienced across the world’s cultures. I continue to write there from time to time about whatever quirks I come across on the road that capture my interest.
But I noticed that my audience was more interested in my takes on backpacks and train booking than on how Serbians drink brandy, Albanians lose their virginity, or Brazilians kiss (ahem, slobber into) each other). So in the end I made a website devoted purely to more practical travel tools and advice, and that’s what you boring jerkwads reading now. And I’ve got another site devoted to even more serious, non-travel tools: SelectoGuru.
I’m lucky to be joined by a few other participants in this endeavor. In particular: Inca, a terminologist and naming expert, does the Spanish version. And Philippe offers us the perspective of a train inspector.
Milena and Ivana are our researchers, proofers, and fact-checkers. Melessa handles research and WordPress wizardry.
What’s the secret to running a blisteringly awesome travel site like this?
We think the key is to spend tons of time researching the things that we really care about, and writing and revising to perfection.
Everything else is secondary.
But sure, the right tools also help. We obviously take a very minimalist approach to this website itself; we don’t want any bells and whistles to get in the way of delivering quality content to readers, quickly. I’d say that the number one mistake most people make when creating a website is focusing on the design and tech side of it, rather than just creating useful, quality content.
But if you’re wondering what we have found (through lots of trial and error) works best for running our websites, here are our favorite tools.
- Fiverr — For hiring out occasional art, research, and other tasks. In particular, various illustrations on this site have come from creative minds that I never would have connected with otherwise.
- Themeforest — We’re using the Presso WordPress theme purchased there, and it’s working fine for us with a bit of modification. There are perhaps better options out there now though.
- Siteground — Often rated one of the fastest web hosts for WordPress. And more importantly, the 24-hour online support has been quick, useful, and helped resolve issues caused by my own ignorance. I do wish that they were a little less geeky and more quick to switch to plain English, but they’re by far better communicators than the four other hosting companies I worked with in the past. Even their most basic packages include quality unintrusive tools that speed up WordPress performance on the hosted sites. Not a lot of upsell bullshit.
- Squarespace — This would be my top recommendation if you’re making a travel site in a single language. I used it and liked it until we wanted to offer more languages. Squarespace is an all-in-one service so you don’t have to worry about conflicts between plugins, themes, WordPress or another CMS, and your hosting provider — such conflicts can eat up an enormous amount of your time and energy. Unfortunately after years of talk Squarespace still doesn’t offer any real way to do multilingual sites (you can do it manually, but your site’s built-in text like navigation buttons remains in one language only). But if you’re just writing in one language and don’t want more headaches, Squarespace is the way to go.
- Skimlinks — The easiest automated way to monetize all sorts of links, so you don’t have to think too much about your affiliate programs and can just get to writing.
- Amazon Affiliates — We link to all sorts of websites for electronics, backpacks, and whatever else — but this is where people seem to actually go to buy. So it supports the writing substantially. Also it’s nice to know that we can recommend just about any product it will be available. We do continue to encourage shopping around though with links to other vendors. Amazon is one of the easiest programs to join for smaller sites too, if you’re just starting out. Just make sure your focus remains on useful content for the readers, and don’t obsess over affiliate program details.
- Italki — By far my favorite way to learn languages. Here’s a full explanation of my methods, developed as I became fluent in seven of them.
- Google Translate — For those languages I don’t speak, this is a lifesaver for both deep travel and broad research. Particularly the Chrome extension and app when I’m on the road.
We’re always growing. We’re looking for writers, artists, and photographers with similar perspectives and wisdom to share on travel.
And we very much enjoy getting suggestions and feedback from readers.
Are you offering website design/SEO services/web videos/link exchanges/etc.? We’re not interested. All such senders who get through our filters will be blacklisted as spam and deleted.