We did it!
After almost 15 years of travel writing and blogging on Movable Type system we moved our blog from Typepad to WordPress.
Over the last few years we have begun to question our blog strategy more and more. Apart from not wanting to spend much time on SEO and social media we also felt that Typepad did not offer the same range of possibilities as WordPress. When Typepad announced that they would not accept new sign-ups anymore at the end of last year we finally decided to switch. For sure it means that they are not sticking around for much longer.
The beginnings of the Westwards blog
So, time for a short recap how it all began. When we started out with blogging in 2006 in Japan, we thought it would be a nice way to stay in touch with friends and family. We had quit our jobs and were on the verge of a one-year-plus overland travel back to Germany. Always moving Westwards, hence the name.
Although blogging had been around for a few years and we read some blogs (or travel websites) in preparation for our own trip, we didn’t personally know any bloggers nor how blogs worked. Typepad back then seemed to be the most popular content management system.
Travel blogging in 2006
In fact, almost nobody around us knew what a blog was. Some friends did not realize that you could go deeper into the blog than the landing page. Others kept referring to it as “Your Block” (German for writing pad). As we intended our Westwards Blog also for private communication with friends, we established a password protection in the beginning. However, some friends found it bothersome to enter the password. Almost nobody, to our disappointment, used the comment function.
Travelling overland in low-developed countries, we struggled with more basic problems, too. Even electricity was often scarce, let alone an Internet connection. We uploaded our texts – few pictures! – from Internet cafés with names like “Need for speed” or “Troy”. Bringing the laptop over borders was sometimes a stressful affair, and once we were almost kicked out of a hostel because we disturbed the casual atmosphere by sitting in the common area writing on a computer!
But despite all those problems it worked out – some people followed our sometimes quirky stories of overland travel from Japan back to Germany. When we kept on travelling to South America and Africa in 2007 we lifted the password protection and made the blog public. By then blogging had become a bit more popular.
Going professional – in print
In the meantime, we have come to make our living by writing guidebooks for German print publishers and working as tour guides. Although we do not consider ourselves professional bloggers we did stick with our Westwards blog over the years.
The travel blog offered us an opportunity to try different writing formats such as restaurant reviews, practical hiking advices, thoughts on travel ethics etc. In contrast to paid content, e.g. for newspapers, on our own blog we could write about everything that interested us. We could also write critical reviews, or not write anything at all about places we didn’t like. That’s a lot of freedom for professional, and enthusiastic, writers.
In addition, we also felt that we would need some sort of professional Internet presence in our offline jobs as self-employed guidebook authors and guides.
The Typepad blog has served all these purposes rather nicely. We could change the design ourselves to fit our needs. The technical support was always swift and helpful, and the price very reasonable for an all-in-one package. However, technical issues have increased recently in Typepad, and features we would have liked were not available for the Movable Type system.
The move from Typepad to WordPress
So, it was time to grapple with a new system, and new difficulties. Of course we wanted to keep our web address, the structure of our blog, incoming links, our long-standing history and status for the search engines.
It was possible to import some of the text material from Typepad into WordPress, such as posts and comments. However, Typepad did not export our travel photos, and we did not find the plugins to import photos in batch satisfactory. Anyway, many of our earlier photos were so small and stingy – remember, the Internet cafés those days … We decided to import them all anew, manually. This means – a lot of new pictures to browse!
Reading through 15 years of travel writing was fun, but also intriguing. In the beginning we would just write pieces about the places we had visited. We thought post headers should be interesting and unusual. In addition, we used to write regularly about our general impression of a country or region, not just single-issue sightseeing posts. Perhaps SEO wasn’t a thing back then, and we certainly did not waste much thought on it. We still don’t so much, to be honest…
And then, there are still a number of technical issues, such as dealing with cookies, taxonomies and broken links. We have solved some of them and hope to solve the others, too. If you should still encounter a hiccup: We are working on it!
Without the corona-induced slack it might have been difficult to find the time for such a task. We did not move the old Photo galleries (well, some of them) and some other posts. For a while we had written “Quarterlies” every three months – just summaries of what had happened. These posts did not make it on the new site. On the other hand we did move the New Year’s posts; we even created a new category for them.
Hopefully you enjoy browsing through 15 years of travel stories in a new fresh magazine style. If you do, then like us on social media or subscribe to new blog posts via email or RSS.
We are looking forward to stay in touch with all of you!