Travel Bloggers’ Club – September 2018 Challenge

September 1, 2018.Jim Jones.0 Likes.0 Comments

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A Travel Blogging Challenge

I’m a big fan of Eliza French’s Digital Travel Guru website and Facebook group. Eliza has challenged me and many other bloggers to write every day for at least 14 days, and (hopefully) every day in September. I’m big on signing up for challenges – but when it comes to follow through, I’m kind of “meh.” But with the support and accountability the Travel Bloggers’ Club challenge group gives me, I really think I can do this!

I’m very irregular in my publishing schedule, even though I know consistency is key to building an audience (and to perfecting our craft). I also tend to write very little about myself, other than a personal opinion or idea here and there. I like to keep my posts more about travel destinations and travel photography, and less about me. I don’t feel like I’m really that interesting.

That said, our “day one” challenge was to answer some questions about ourselves. This, then, is a little bit of the man behind the curtain.

A Bit About Me

I’m a 50-something guy who has worked in the software industry for a really long time. I live not too far from Chicago, Illinois in the good old U.S. of A. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel a lot for both business and pleasure and I like to think I’ve taken a decent photo here and there. Fun fact: that’s actually how I got the name for my blog. I didn’t have any recent travels to write about when I started the blog, but then I thought, “Well…I’ve got some good images, and I could probably tell a story or two related to the images or to places I’ve seen, so how about calling it ‘Travel Stories and Images‘?” Thus – my blog was born.

Another fun fact: I love fun facts. Useless bits of trivia. Like the fact that a group of geese traveling through the air is called a flock, but when they’re on the ground they are called a skein. I love collecting terms of venery.

Why I love traveling

I sort of started traveling before I knew what it was.

I grew up about a 3-hour drive away from my mom’s parents and we used to drive to visit them once a month. We always took nice driving vacations when I was a kid, and I’d probably seen 30-35 of the 50 US states by the time I graduated from high school (I have now seen all 50). I also took my first international trip when I was in high school: I was an exchange student with AFS and lived in Patras, Greece for a summer.

After college I moved to Chicago to go to college and took a job here, and have stayed here ever since. My wife and I both love travel, and we make it a priority to take a memorable trip every year. I think the most memorable trip we’ve ever taken was our 9-day safari through Tanzania for our 25th wedding anniversary.

At one point in my life I traveled a lot because of various jobs I held. I lived in Japan for 3 months in 1996, and traveled to and from the San Francisco Bay Area 1-2 times a month from 1999 through 2010. I’ve always had a knack for working in some personal time during business travel, and I want to encourage other business travelers to do the same.

My favorite place to travel

My wife is my favorite traveling companion, so I’d have to say “anywhere she goes.” Besides that, I’m in love with Africa right now – I’ve visited Tanzania and Kenya, and plan to go through Uganda on my next trip there to spend some time photographing primates. I’m also a big fan of U.S. National Parks. If I won the lottery I’d buy the biggest, most luxurious camper I could get and visit U.S. National Parks all the time.

My #1 travel tip for saving money

Rough it. Seriously, y’all. Once I got over my fear of flying (yeah, imma write about that someday), I found that just about any seat on a plane was good for me. I’ve trained myself to sleep on longer flights – and Xanax and melatonin definitely help with that. Give me a seat anywhere, some stuff to relax me, a set of earplugs, and I’m good to go.

I don’t need 5-star hotels – I’m just in a hotel or hostel to sleep, anyway. One or two fancy meals in a trip are great, but I don’t need a four-course meal every night.

How I plan my travels

I do all our travel planning. We typically plan a year in advance just to get the best pick of cabins or rooms, and also to allow us time to save for the trip. We bounce destinations off each other, and we find something we can both be comfortable with and that fits our budget.

If we’re doing a land-based trip I arrange all the flights and make some suggestions on lodging. My wife likes to plan the activities for the trip…and since I’m the photographer, I stake out the spots I want to shoot.

If we do a cruise, we have a fantastic travel agent we work through. We’ve worked with her for 10 years or more, and because of our relationship she knows our preferences and likes. She has also been able to get us some killer deals on upgrades and the like.

My favorite continent to visit

North America. Because U.S. National Parks. I almost answered “Africa” for this question, but really – there’s no place like home.

The moment I realized I needed to travel

Bit of an odd question for me – it was never a “realization,” as much as it was “this is what I do.” Like I said, I’ve traveled since my very early days and it’s always brought me such joy and so many wonderful memories. I wouldn’t trade a life of travel for anything else in the world.

Travel Bloggers Club

So, this Travel Bloggers Club!  I need to tell you about it.  Eliza French is fantastic – she has a great site, and is passionate about developing the travel community. This is a place where I feel like I’m among friends. I learn from everyone on the group, and feel fortunate when I can help promote someone else’s blog or help them with a technical issue.

So…What’s Coming Up On Travel Stories and Images?

Over the next 14 (or 30…) days, I’m going to write on the following topics:

  • My top 5 tips for photography in US National Parks
  • A photo essay on the Chicago Botanic Garden
  • Creating perfect panoramic photos
  • Tips for nighttime photography

Travel Blog Challenge Participants September 2018

Finally – a little list of all those taking part in the September of madness!!!  Have a look a their blogs, all a bit different with some amazing travels and adventures.



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