Archive for the ‘Website’ Category

One Year Abroad

Posted by Arlo on Nov 10, 2011 under Postcard Valet, Travel, Website

Last year, on November 10th, our flight from Miami to Quito kicked off our trip around the world.  Since then, we’ve traveled tens-of-thousands of miles across five continents, seen amazing sites, and met amazing people.  One year later, to the day, we’re still going strong.  We just arrived in a new city, Thailand’s Chiang Mai, and because of a fantastic coincidence, we happened to arrive during their Festival of Lights (Loi Krathong.)  We pretended the whole city was turning out to give us a huge anniversary party!

Originally, our year of travel was supposed to begin on July 1, 2010.  We’d budgeted $100/day for the entire year, setting aside a whopping $36,500 for our trip.  But we had setbacks and delays in the States which eventually delayed our trip by three months.  By the time November 10th rolled around, we had already been gone from home 140 days.  Assuming we’d stuck to our travel budget, that was $14,000 already spent.  We discussed it and made the tough decision to start again at zero – time-wise and money-wise – when we flew to Ecuador.

We did fairly well in South America (aside from spending too big a chunk on the Galapagos Islands), but Africa pitted our travel budget spreadsheet against us.  We regained some ground when we stayed with friends and family in Europe and Russia, saving on housing, but the transportation costs caught us again.  By September 12th, we had exhausted the $36,500 we’d set and realized that any remaining travel costs would be coming out of our savings.  We had fallen 58 day – almost two months – short of our goal.

Read the rest of this entry »

One Year of Travel

Posted by Arlo on Jul 1, 2011 under Postcard Valet, Travel, Website

One year ago today, we left our home in Juneau, Alaska, and started our trip around the world.  If everything had gone according to plan, we would be returning to work after the Fourth of July weekend.  Thank goodness things didn’t go as planned!

A quick recap:

  • Our trip started with a road trip through the Canada and the United States.  13,000 miles later, we’d visited Seattle, the Redwoods, San Francisco, Las Vegas, the Outer Banks, Key West, Manhattan, and Niagara Falls.
  • An unexpected family emergency delayed our plans and we stayed with my grandparents from mid-August to early November.
  • On November 10th, what we considered to be our “real” start date, we flew to Quito, Ecuador, and met five friends for a week-long trip through the Galapagos Islands.
  • From the end of November, 2010, to May 1st, 2011, we worked our way through South America, exploring Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay.
  • We rented an apartment in Buenos Aires for a month and played the role of ex-pats for a time.
  • May found us in Africa, a first for both of us.  We have since worked our way north from Capetown, South Africa, through Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania.  We’re in Dar es Salaam right now, bound for the island of Zanzibar for a week or two of relaxation.

In all, over the course of a year, we’ve passed through 15 countries.  That may sound like a lot, but I expected to be much further along by now.

Read the rest of this entry »

2011 Galapagos Wildlife Calendars

Posted by Arlo on Jan 5, 2011 under Photography, Postcard Valet, Travel, Website

Galapagos Calendar Preview

One of these days, I should probably try to put into words my philosophy about making money off our Postcard Valet web site.  In a nutshell, we want everything we have to offer – photos, videos, writing – to be free for you to enjoy… but more money means more traveling, and that’s important to us, too!

It would be easy enough to put up some Google ads or to explore other set-it-and-forget-it revenue streams on the site, but I hate how banner ads destroy the aesthetic.  Besides, when I visit other sites, I tend to completely ignore all the ads, anyway.  Don’t you?

The best solution, in my mind, is to create something special that you’d want to spend your hard-earned money on.  For example, we haven’t really pushed it, but we already have a link to our Smugmug gallery where you can purchase a print of any one of the photographs posted under the “photography” category on Postcard Valet.  And today we’d like to present you with our first published product: A 2011 Galapagos Wildlife Calendar!  (Actually, there are two of them!)

2011 Galapagos Calendar Cover (Premium) 2011 Galapagos Calendar Cover (Standard)

Visit our Lulu storefront to purchase one of these calendars!

The premium version of our calendar is printed on glossy white paper, is 13.5″ wide by 19″ tall, and has a coil binding.  It’ll run you $29.79, which puts exactly $5 in our pockets.

The standard version is a little bit smaller at 8.5” by 11”, but costs only $18.79.  Buying it, too, will give us five more dollars to travel on.

If we to sell 20 of these, we’ll be able to add another day of travel to our trip!

I’ve dealt with Lulu, the self-publishing site, before and the quality of their products is superb.  You can order directly from them and have one of these calendars for your own in just a few days.

I put a lot of effort into making this a product that I would want to own.  Hopefully, after you see them on our Lulu storefront, you’ll want to own one, too!

A Christmas wish

Posted by Arlo on Dec 24, 2010 under Postcard Valet, Website

Postcard Valet iTunes logo
I have a favor to ask.  A Christmas wish, if you like.

As you probably know, we have a video podcast on iTunes.  One of the best ways to advertise a podcast is to get it to “float to the top” in the iTunes directory.  In order for that to happen for Postcard Valet, we need to have a few ratings (more than 25, I think.)  Now, we have no illusions that Postcard Valet will top the charts or anything, but it sure would be nice if it were to show up on the first page of search results in the travel podcast section!

So, if you’d like to give Oksana and me a wonderful – and super simple! – Christmas preset, head on over to our iTunes page, click “View in iTunes,” and rate our podcast for us!  I’ll bet it’ll take you under a minute (maybe five if you want to leave us some constructive criticism, too)…

For those that take the time to do this for us, I would love to send you a South American thank you postcard in return; just email me your address afterwards and I’ll get right on it!

A couple notes:

If you don’t have iTunes installed, it’s a free download from Apple.

After installing iTunes, you’ll have everything you need to subscribe to our podcast.  New episodes will be delivered to iTunes as soon as we post them – you don’t even need to have an iPod or anything like that!

After iTunes is installed, subscribing to our podcast is as simple as clicking the following link:

( If, for some reason, that doesn’t work, follow these directions:
1) Open iTunes
2) Click on the Advanced menu and select “Subscribe to Podcast…”
3) Copy and paste the same link into the box:
4) Enjoy! )

And finally, you may have noticed a new Facebook widget in the sidebar over there on the right.  The Postcard Valet Facebook page is Oksana’s new project and if we can 6 more people to “Like” the page – we’re at 19 now – it’ll unlock a few features (such as a custom URL) that she’s eager to implement.  A click there would also be much appreciated!

Travel Blog & Video Podcast Questions

Posted by Arlo on Sep 21, 2010 under Postcard Valet, Website

Okay, so I have a question for our readers.  Down below is a quick poll for you to complete, but first, a little background:

When Oksana and I started thinking about a travel podcast, I made some decisions that I hoped would keep me organized.  You may have noticed that all our video episodes begin with “PV” and a number.  Makes it easy to count episodes that way, right?  I set up the podcast on iTunes to only accept videos with a certain tag so that all the extraneous entries, say those tagged with “photography” 0r “writing,” wouldn’t pollute the feed.

Well, recently I posted two videos that were never intended to be included in the Postcard Valet video podcast, but that were still travel related.  One was a repeat episode of PV011 with Russian subtitles, the other was a quick one-off about Hurricane Earl, which I planned to rush through without knocking myself out on things like editing and music.

When it came time to post them online, I really didn’t know how (or whether) to integrate them into our video podcast.  Ultimately, I opted not to, but I wonder what option you, our subscriber, would prefer, if given the choice.  If you wouldn’t mind taking the time to let me know your preference below, I’d really appreciate the help in making the decision.

By the way, there are at least three feeds you can subscribe to right now:

1) The A Midgett Blog feed contains everything I post, travel-related or not. It also works as a podcast.
2) The Postcard Valet feed on iTunes contains only the videos we’re most proud of (there are currently 11 episodes.)
3) There is another (sort of hidden) Postcard Valet feed that includes all travel-related content.


If we were to post "casual" travel-related audio and video clips on Postcard Valet, how would you like them to appear with respect to the existing video podcast?
View Results

I’ll leave this poll up for a week or so, before making a decision.  Thanks for your help.

Introducing Postcard Valet

Posted by Arlo on Apr 12, 2010 under Postcard Valet, Travel, Website

From this to that

I haven’t posted a blog entry about blogging in awhile.   Nothing more boring, really.  But sharing the jumble of ideas in my head is sometimes an effective way of sorting it all out.

As you may know, Oksana and I are gearing up to leave on a round-the-world trip and I’ve been busy setting up a new web site for it.  I don’t expect the new site to be 100% done until we start off on our journey (on, or around, July 1st,) but that doesn’t mean it isn’t ready to be seen.  Consider this our website’s “soft launch.”  Please, take a look:

Setting up that website was a lot harder than I thought it’d be!  I spent a lot of time switching over my web hosting and domain name to Dreamhost and, once I figured out their new control panel, I set about importing my blog’s database.  One of my primary goals in this whole endeavor was to keep posting to my personal blog (A Midgett Blog, this one)  while having the new, travel-only blog (Postcard Valet) simply pull pertinent posts from the same database.  The Domain Mirror plug-in solved that fairly easily, but when I decided to buy the Postcard WooTheme, I ran into all sorts of difficulties.  A friend, Pat, is helping me smooth out some of the kinks, but I suspect there will always be a few things I can’t do, just because I need each entry to display correctly on both blogs.

If you take a look at Postcard Valet, you’ll notice that I’ve already seeded the site with a number of travel-related blog posts from A Midgett Blog.  That should at least give anyone that stumbles upon the site an idea of what to expect.  I’ve spent some time working on the FAQ (a great place to start if all this is news to you!) and Contact pages, too, but there’s still work to do on the About This Site, Archives, and a yet-to-be-created “Subscribe to the Podcast” page.

In the next week or so, I hope to find enough time (and knowledge!) to get our podcast listed in the iTunes directory (currently the “Podcast (iTunes)” link in the sidebar only links to my own RSS feed – but I think it works if you want to subscribe early.)  Oksana and I also plan to record video introductions for the About This Site page as well as keep plugging along on our “practice” video podcasts.

Speaking of.  Tomorrow will be the start of a regular schedule of postings, beginning with a video podcast we’ve been working on about the Sydney Opera House.  Hopefully that will kick off a new schedule.  From now until July 1st, I’m going to try to commit to the following:

  • First Monday of the month: A new video podcast episode.
  • Every Wednesday: A written blog entry. (This may be a travel story, a short update on our travel preparations, or possibly even website-related stuff like the “How to Subscribe” or a “What is a Podcast” page.)
  • Every Friday:  A “picture with a story” blog entry.  I think of this as “Photo Friday,” and it will likely follow the same format I’ve used in the past.

Considering all the packing and planning we have to do in the next three months (on top of our full time jobs!) I think that’s an ambitious schedule.  If you like what you see, do me a favor and keep me on task.  Any feedback you give, criticism or praise, translates directly into valuable motivation.

So, please, take a look at our new website, try to see past the rough edges for now, and let me know if there’s anything that’s missing or that we could be doing better.


Posted by Arlo on Jun 12, 2009 under Postcard Valet, Travel, Website

Points of Interest in South America

When Oksana and I got serious about planning our year-long trip, I started bookmarking all the intriguing travel sites as I came across them.  I mean, of course, we’ll see the pyramids in Egypt, walk along the Great Wall of China, and visit the Taj Mahal… assuming we find ourselves wandering anywhere near those places, that is.  But what about those things that hardly anyone even knows about?  The fireflies of Thailand that blink in perfect synch, the starling congregations on Ot Moor, or the Darvaza crater in Turkmenistan?  The things you’ve never heard of are so easy to forget…

While we’re traveling, I want to try to update a map of our progress around the world.  Ideally, some combination of a GPS unit and the Google Maps API would automate the process for us, but at the very least, I’ll update the website myself just to let people know our current location.

This week, I’ve been playing with the Google Maps interface, just to see what I could whip up without any real work.  The results are pretty cool and I liked them enough to go ahead and create a new page on my website.  There’s a permanent button up above on my navigation bar, but here, let me make it easy; Check it out: Destinations.

It’s a good start; there are already a few dozen entries on the map, and I still haven’t quite depleted my store of travel bookmarks.  Go ahead, click around.  If your sense of wonder about the world is at all similar to mine, you’ll probably end up following a few of the handy links.

Already we’re visualizing how best we can use this map.  Oksana has recommended that we change the colors of the pins to green as we visit each site – a great idea that will very quickly show what we’re up to.  Also, as more pins are put on the map, I can’t help but notice when they start to cluster.  I imagine that whenever we face a fork in the road, we’ll take the path that travels towards the biggest group of pins!

If you have a minute, take a look at the map, down Argentina way.  See how we’re using different types of pins already?  We’re going to use the “person” icon to remind us where we should go to visit friends and family, the “film” icon to point towards our own video podcasts (I used the Transient Books video as an example), and the little “camera” icon to share the photos we take.  Google makes it easy to embed YouTube videos, image tags, etc.  This could be a pretty neat document when we’re done.

As I said, right now we have a couple dozen points of interest already saved on the map.  I’ve got enough ideas – mostly common one, but a few more  “off the beaten path” ones, too – to round out the first hundred or so, but I hope to have at least two or three hundred before we set off.  We don’t want to pass right by something cool just because we forgot to write it down!

If you’ve been somewhere really neat, heard of a place that sparked your imagination, or even if you simply come across something on the internet and it reminds you of our upcoming trip, please, please, please, send me a link!  I’d love to consider it for one of our Destinations!