By Popular Demand – How We Became Travel Bloggers

We’ve never formally talked about being travel bloggers on our website. But we’re being asked about it more and more, so we thought we’d open a dialogue.

In truth, we’ve always felt like we kind of stumbled blindly into our recreated lives – and by no means consider ourselves experts (in travel or blogging).

And, seriously, we thought, who wants to hear us talk about what goes on behind the curtain?

When we hit the road … CONTINUE READING >>

Since this is one of the most common questions we get asked, here is a recap of our story:

We’ve never formally talked about being travel bloggers on our website. But we’re being asked about it more and more, so we thought we’d open a dialogue.

In truth, we’ve always felt like we kind of stumbled blindly into our recreated lives – and by no means consider ourselves experts (in travel or blogging).

And, seriously, we thought, who wants to hear us talk about what goes on behind the curtain?

How to Become a Travel Blogger - GypsyNester.com
In Australia

When we hit the road in 2008, we were vaguely aware that travel blogging even existed.

For the first year, we were simply out in the world, enjoying each other’s newly empty-nested company and writing about what we were discovering so family and friends could keep up with where we were.

Our early posts were all over the place – and inconsistent. We posted photos that we would never post now because we had no idea what we were doing.

How to be a travel blogger. GypsyNester.com
In Peru

But we kept on writing. And writing. And writing.

Eventually our posts became less cringe-worthy and had more focus.

We discovered what we liked and didn’t like about our travels, and how to relay it in a (hopefully) engaging manner. We researched how to make our photos suck less.

How to be a travel blogger. GypsyNester.com
In Newfoundland

But it wasn’t until we learned to be authentic, when we found our voice, that people started to like our little website.

Still, it was very strange to us when folks began emailing with questions about how to do what we are doing. It still seems strange. Stranger yet, we’ve been asked to wax poetically on the subject in public.

WATCH: We join Michael of Time Travel Turtle, Elia of Blame the Monkey, Malini of MissMalini.com and Chris from Tourism and Events Queensland for “How to be a World Famous Travel Blogger.” (Forgive us if we seem ditzy, it was 3:00 AM in our time zone!)

All travel blogs are different and we highly suggest that you watch this video before reading on. There is certainly more than one way of approaching travel blogging, as this diverse group shows. What follows is OUR story more in depth.

If that’s not enough information, here’s (more of) our two cents (yes, we admit our lives are a happy accident, but we really do have some hindsight insights):

We Wish We Could Tell You a Big Short Cut, but there is no Big Short Cut
Keeping in touch in Queensland, Australia
In Queensland

We had to do the work. Period.

We had to write, write, write. And we had to love it because it never stops.

Yes, we love it. We feel like we have the best life in the world – for us.

Because we also love to travel, we wrote about travel. A lot.

We Started out Small
Our RV, Bamf!
BAMF

Before we traveled, we wrote about travel.

Confused?

First, we wrote about things going on in our hometown. We home exchanged and wrote about that. Then we quit our jobs, sold our house and bought an RV for $3,000 that we named BAMF on eBay and wrote about that.

Then we drove all around the United States and wrote about that. Then we branched from the US borders and wrote about that.

And had a blast doing it. So we never stopped.

We Became Social
How to be a travel blogger - GypsyNester.com
On our amazing Asian cruise

There’s a reason it’s called social media.

We had gotten a few comments on our site and our oldest daughter, The Piglet, decided that we were on to something. She suggested that we start putting some effort into social media.

So we started a Facebook Page, thinking that was that. We’d post stuff and check it occasionally. It was fun. Then The Piglet dragged us kicking and screaming into Twitter.

So we sucked it up and tweeted our first tweet – we think it was something really fascinating like “Drinking coffee.” Then we wondered why no one tweeted us back (seriously).

Once we realized that social meant social, and we began being social, something wonderful began to happen – people started following us.

The Piglet kept at us – start creating videos, she said. There’s this new site called… So now we’re on YouTubePinterestGoodReads, and Instagram  – each with their own merits and each with varying success.

But posting videos of squirrels (yup, we did that) and tossing up photos of what we were eating for dinner was not cutting it, and we made mistakes and learned from them, but thankfully…

…Somewhere in There We Found Our Voice, We Became Authentic
The Maglev Train in Shanghai, China!
David now embraces his inner train nut!

We finally learned NOT to write what we thought people wanted to read.

This was THE big epiphany for us.

Taking a hard look at our posts, we realized they contained very little of ourselves in them. Even when we had been writing for our family and our friends, we were writing generic little pieces.

There was nothing in them that were uniquely us. Actually there was no uniqueness at all.

How to be a travel blogger - GypsyNester.com
Veronica is crazy for ALL animals – even this guy in Costa Rica!

So we decided to be ourselves, we started being authentic. At first it felt at like oversharing (still does sometimes) to talk about the real us, and perhaps it is oversharing.

But immediately writing became easier, even more fun, and began flowing out of us freely.

Now we discuss how destinations make us feel, let our innate goofiness fly, and write as we speak in real life. We admit our history nerdly-ness, we aren’t afraid to confess when we’re scared.

David now embraces his inner train nut, Veronica isn’t embarrassed that she happily squeals, bounces, and claps like a little kid whenever an animal comes into view.

We Have Support and Give Support
The GypsyNesters as Mae West and WC Fields
Dressed to the nines as Mae West & WC Fields at TBEX.

We are not alone.

As wonderful as we find our Nation of Two, we are part of a some very generous communities.

Like any well functioning community, we help and are helped.

We meet, learn, network, and have a blast at TBEX conventions – an excellent resource for travel bloggers and aspiring travel bloggers, highly recommended by us. We also read the TBEX blog.

As folks of “a certain age,” we also gather inspiration at AARP’s Life@50+ Expos (we’ve attended in Atlanta and Boston so far), and are members of the Facebook group Boomer Travel Bloggers (the criteria to join the latter are people who are travel bloggers with their own blogs and were born between 1946 and 1964 – but, if you don’t fit the demographic there are similar groups out there to join).

Once We Became Fairly Established, We are Diligent That…
…We Don’t Let Our Community Down
How to be a travel blogger - GypsyNester.com
On a boat in the Galapagos Islands

Now that we are a part of a community, we take our responsibilities seriously.

We are no longer an outpost in the desert.

We keep in mind that if we publish shoddy posts, our entire travel blogging community suffers.

From time to time we are offered sponsored trips by folks within the travel industry. In doing so, we have been able to bring stories to our GypsyNester community that we would not have been able to otherwise. And for this, we are very grateful.

When we do accept these trips, we are careful to act professionally, to work hard and do our research. Most nights on these adventures, we happily fall asleep while typing mid-sentence with our laptops on our laps.

For further reading on the subject of deportment and ethics while on sponsored trips, see this commentary from a travel blogger’s perspective and this one from an industry person’s perspective.

…We Remember to Give Back
How to become a travel blogger - GypsyNester.com
Delivering supplies to a little school in the Costa Rican jungle with Pack for a Purpose and Hotel Parador.

One of the most joyous parts of being a travel blogger is the ability to do good.

We have found ways that our little website can help others and inspire the GypsyNester community to find the joy in helping, too.

We have begun to Pack for a Purpose, and have a dedicated “how to help” section of our site. We can’t express the joy that has come into our lives by sharing ways to help others.

It’s highly recommended. 🙂

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

YOUR TURN: We’re sure we didn’t cover everything – so let your questions fly and we’ll do our best to help out! If you are a travel blogger and you have tips about subjects we covered (or didn’t cover) – please share!

5 Essential Tips for Your First Camping Getaway

There are very few things that’ll bring as much joy to your life as a camping holiday would. But if you’re planning to go camping for the first time, things can get a little tricky…
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What’s your idea of the perfect vacation? Does the thought of sleeping under a star-studded sky and waking up to the gentle chirping of birds sound appealing? Then it’s about time you go camping in the heart of nature.

There are very few things that’ll bring as much joy to your life as a camping holiday would. It’s exhilarating, peaceful, and relaxing – all at the same time. Also, it’s ideal for people who want to avoid swarms of tourists on their vacation. Considering its secluded nature, camping is also a viable travel option amidst the pandemic.

But if you’re planning to go camping for the first time, things can get a little tricky. In the absence of proper planning, your camping holiday could easily turn into the worst nightmare. You’ll end up feeling exhausted from constantly having to do things, such as setting up your tent, cooking your meals, etc.

But that shouldn’t discourage you from venturing into the splendid world of camping. It isn’t rocket science, after all. You just have to plan everything in advance and make sure you’re carrying all the essentials.

That’s why in this blog, we’ve handpicked a few essential tips that every first-time camper should know. Let’s take a look.

1. Choose the Right Campsite

From state parks and national parks to the beachfront and mountains – you can find a treasure trove of spectacular campsites wherever you are. But if you’re camping for the first time, it’s recommended that you don’t venture too far away from your home.

It’s also a good idea to understand your travel preferences and pick a campground accordingly. For instance, if you enjoy hiking, a secluded campsite higher up in the mountains is a great idea. But if you’re looking for an easier option, choosing a campground in a national park would be better.

Once you shortlisted a few campsites, hit the internet for a closer look at the amenities they provide. What kind of washrooms is available near the campground? Are tents available or do you have to pitch your own?

Are essential supplies easily to procure from nearby places? Is it possible to reach the campsite by car or do you have to walk/hike a long stretch? These are all questions you should consider before choosing your campsite.

It’s also a good time to understand what form of camping you’d prefer. If pitching your own tend isn’t your cup of tea, you could explore other options, such as RVs and deluxe cabins. Or you could even consider car camping.

2. Know Your Weather

Now that you’ve selected your campground, it’s time to find out whether this is the right time to go there. After all, a rain-soaked camping holiday won’t be a pleasant experience. Likewise, camping in the scorching summer heat won’t be particularly rewarding either.

That’s why you need to check the weather forecast for the campsite and make sure that the temperature fits your itinerary and travel dates. Also, check and find out the complete weather information, including wind and precipitation details. Make sure there aren’t any warnings for bad weather on your travel dates.

3. Start Packing

If there’s one ground-rule of camping, it has to be this – carry all the essential supplies you think you’re going to need for your trip. From sleeping bags and pillows to kitchen tools and utensils – make sure you pack everything.

This is important because most campsites any nearby convenience stores or eateries. You wouldn’t want to ruin your holiday just because you forgot to bring mosquito repellant and can’t buy it from anywhere near the campground.

That’s why it is always a good idea to start with a list of all the things you’re going to need for camping. Apart from your tent and sleeping gear, you’re going to need the following:

    • Portable phone charger
    • Portable stove
    • Cups and plates
    • Garbage disposal bags
    • Bug spray
    • Mosquito repellant
    • Rain gear
    • Flashlights
    • Swimwear
    • Comfortable footwear
    • Toiletries
    • Sunscreen lotion
    • First-aid kit

Depending on when and where you’re camping, you might also need to pack some winterwear. While you’re at it, don’t forget to keep plenty of synthetic clothes that’ll dry easily even if you get wet. Also, make sure you carry an extra pair of shoes and slippers.

Apart from the essentials, you could also consider bringing a few board games along to dial the fun up a notch. Likewise, don’t forget to bring your camera and a pair of binoculars. While you’re packing, do keep in mind whether you have to walk or trek for a bit to reach the campsite.

4. Plan Your Meals

Roasting marshmallows on a rustic fire – this is one of the first things that’ll come to your mind when you think about the food at a campground. But you’re not going to survive on s’mores for the entire duration of your trip. And chances are, you won’t find a fast-food joint or restaurant anywhere near your campsite.

That’s why you need to plan all your meals beforehand. Whether you intend to extensively use a campsite grill or carry ready-to-eat meals, make sure you have a clear idea before the trip. Get all the tools, ingredients, utensils, and other supplies you’re going to need to prepare your food.

Make sure you find out whether it’s permissible to burn firewood at the campsite. Otherwise, you’ll have to make do with a stove. Also, don’t forget to pack some energy bars, cold beverages, and other snacks that’ll fuel your body between meals.

5. Be Mindful About the Trash

Garbage disposal isn’t the first thing that’s going to be on your mind while planning a camping trip. But it’s essential that you leave the campsite in the same pristine condition as it was before your arrival. This means you should find a way to get rid of the trash without affecting the campground.

Firstly, check if the campsite offers a provision for garbage disposal. If this isn’t the case, you’ll likely have to carry the trash all the way back to your home. Make sure you keep enough garbage disposal bags to securely pack all the trash.

Do you have any other useful hacks for first-time campers? Share your suggestions in the comments section below.

We are happy to present this collaborative post to offer valuable information to our readers.

Clean Water is VERY Important, Life Depends on It

A few years ago we took a trip to the Dominican Republic to help with planting trees, building homes, and making water filters. Sadly, the group we went with does not exist anymore, but the work for clean water continues and we want to help spread the word…
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A few years ago we took a trip to the Dominican Republic to help with planting trees, building homes, and making water filters.

Sadly, the group we went down there with does not exist anymore, but one of the people we met, Frank Vasquez, is continuing the work for clean water and we want to help spread the word.

Please check out his story here, and you can help to fund his efforts as well. Meanwhile, here is a look back at our adventure of making filters. Spoiler alert, it’s ingenious!

Making water filters in the Dominican Republic with Wine to Water on Fathom Cruises

We traveled to the village of Higuerito with our cohorts under the guidance of Frank, our Impact Facilitator du jour, to work with Wine to Water.

Wine to Water worked to make 1,500 clay water filters in a year’s time, impacting 7,500 people in the Dominican Republic.

Participating in most every step of the production process, we sifted sawdust, worked the clay, molded the filters, and helped check safety levels of water after initial filtration.

Making water filters in the Dominican Republic with Wine to Water on Fathom Cruises

Making water filters in the Dominican Republic with Wine to Water on Fathom Cruises

As we worked, we spoke with Wendy Lemus, who heads Wine to Water with her husband, Carlos, and learned about the innovative way the filters work.

As I said, it’s pretty ingenious, but here is the short version:

The materials used to create the filters are all locally sourced, except for the liquid silver needed to kill bacteria.

When the filters our team molded are fired in the kiln, a layer of charcoal is created from the sawdust – trapping the bacteria to allow the silver to do its work.

Snaps to our team for making 30 filters – touching the lives of 150 people!

Making water filters in the Dominican Republic with Wine to Water on Fathom Cruises

Have to say, it’s a good feeling to know we made an impact, and you can too by helping Frank with his ongoing project.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

YOUR TURN: What do you think about this innovative concept?

Don’t Let the Cost Stop You from Seeking Help

Even before the pandemic and political chaos of the past several months, stress has always been a regular part of modern life. It is not only OK to seek help dealing with it, it is sometimes a necessity… CONTINUE READING >> 

With the new year, we can all put 2020 behind us and hope for better days ahead. Yet the reality is that the everyday strains and pressures of life don’t disappear just because we turned a page on the calendar.

Sure this past year was much harder on many of us than usual, but even before the pandemic and political chaos of the past several months, stress has always been a regular part of modern life.

In our story from a few weeks ago, Anxiety is Almost Unavoidable These Days, we discussed how current events have pushed many of us to the edges of our stress limits. We also looked at why it is not only OK to seek help dealing with it, it is sometimes a necessity.

So now we would like to continue by exploring some options for obtaining that help without going broke. There is no doubt that therapy can be expensive, but there are often options available that can significantly reduce that cost and lighten the load.

In fact, it may very well be possible to find a qualified professional, such as a counselor or therapist, at no cost at all. Let’s take a look at some of the possibilities that we discovered in this excellent article from BetterHelp.com.

In fact, online just might be the best place to start. You may find books that can be helpful, or there are some websites that offer varying degrees of free counseling.

However, if you feel that this is not enough, the first place to start is by checking your health insurance, along with your primary care physician. Your doctor should be able to recommend some treatment plans and your policy may very well cover most of the costs other than copays and prescriptions.

That certainly makes a big difference, but sometimes even those expenses are too much. There are also some insurance plans that do not cover mental health treatment at all.

In that case, it is imperative to seek out other options. One alternative is to look for free or low-cost programs aimed to help people in need of financial assistance. These may depend on where you live and usually they are also dependent on meeting certain income requirements. Still, this is definitely something worth checking out.

If there are no programs like this near you, don’t give up, there may be other alternatives. It is a good idea to check with your local Social Services. They will be familiar with all of the community resources in your area and can also help with some of the additional problems that may arise during a crisis such as child care and assistance paying bills. They might even be able to help with finding a job.

Your place of worship can be another good place to ask about assistance. While they may not be a doctor, most clergy have experience in counseling and are also likely to know of possible treatment programs nearby.

So please, do not try to face severe anxiety or stress alone. Ask family or friends and we are sure you will find, as we did, that many people are going through similar circumstances and help is available.

But you have to take that first step and ask.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Dog Sledding in Montana!

There are all kinds of fun things to do in the snow, but after trying it we have come to the conclusion that the best of them all is… dog sledding!
Much less bone crunching than skiing, and possibly even more exciting…
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Dog Sled Adventures, Olney, Montana outside of Whitefish

As we began investigating Whitefish before our trip, we discovered a winter option that we knew we had to try… dog sledding!

Much less bone crunching than skiing, and possibly even more fun. Next stop Jeff Ulsamer’s Dog Sled Adventures just up the road a piece in Olney.

Poor little guy is pouting because he doesn't get to go this time
Poor little guy is pouting because he doesn’t get to go this time.

When we pulled up over one hundred dogs were barking their brains out. To be exact, one hundred and twenty-four according to Jeff.

He explained that the barking was because the teams were being set up with the sleds, and the dogs that were not chosen to pull were pretty upset. They love their jobs! So we showered some of the unchosen with affection – they are incredibly friendly dogs – and readied ourselves for the run.

Getting ready to dog sled in Whitefish, Montana!
All warm and cozy and ready to dog sled!

We wedged our way into a comfy, warm sled and, without a word from our driver, we were on our way. Instantly all of the racket stopped. We slid through the forest with surprising speed, and an even more surprising lack of sound.

Turns out that the cracking whips, yelling of “mush,” and constant barking of the teams are just movie make-believe. In fact, we’ve never seen so much tail wagging in our lives!

Dog sledding through Stillwater State Forest in Montana

In real life the dogs respond to subtle signals from the driver. Most of these are made by shifting the sled, but a few are audible, including periodic “good dogs.”

The team also works on feel, knowing when the sled picks up speed down a hill, or to pull harder on the way up one.

Dog Sled Adventures in Montana

For over an hour we glided through Stillwater State Forest with goofy grins pasted on our faces. It was impossible not to smile watching those eight huskies pull us along.

Actually, we asked about the dogs and they are not necessarily pure bred huskies. They are mixed husky, German shepherd, greyhound, and other breeds that mostly come from a line of rescue dogs that Jeff has been refining since 1979.

Through the years more dogs have been rescued, and the ones that have the right mix of temperament and desire to pull are added into the bloodline. Some might not have any husky in them at all.

In fact, perhaps Jeff’s most famous dog, Bowser (star of local parades, festivals, and fundraisers), is a Blue Tick Hound. Don’t tell him though, he thinks he’s just one of the guys and loves to pull a sled.

Dog sledding through Stillwater State Forest

Dog sledding through Stillwater State Forest

After the ride we warmed up by the fire with hot chocolate, fresh cookies, and some conversation with Jeff and the folks from the other sleds.

Then it was time to say goodbye to the dogs and make way for the arriving next batch of riders. As we pulled away, the barking told us that the team selection was underway, and rumor had it that Bowser was going to get to pull this time.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

See more:
Sled Dogs & Snow Ghosts – Whitefish, Montana in the Winter
A Winter Wonderland Aboard Amtrak’s Empire Builder