Answering Your Survey Responses, A Brand New Site Design, and Picking the Europe Contest Winner

questions for mattA few weeks ago I asked you to complete my annual reader survey. I got a lot of responses (thank you!) and I spent hours going through all of them. Your feedback lets me know what I am doing right and wrong, and what I need to improve on. I take all constructive feedback to heart, and since you took the time to respond to my survey, I wanted to take the time to respond to you.

Spelling/Grammar – “Hooked on Phonics” never really worked for me and I’ve brought in an editor for my blog posts. However, while she reads new posts, she doesn’t go through my archives or guide section. I’ve shared your concern about this for a while and in order to improve every written word on this website, I’ve hired someone to go through my entire archive and proofread it. It’s a long process as I have over 1,000 pages on this website; she started last month and we’re slowly getting there. If you do see any typos, please let me know so I can change it. We’re all human and sometimes we miss stuff. But the old posts are getting better and hopefully, you’ve noticed a change in the new posts!

Negativity – A few of you mentioned I’ve been a bit of a Debbie Downer lately and while I can really only think of two posts where that happened, that feedback really got me thinking and I’m going to publish a blog post on the subject in the coming weeks. I’ll briefly say that while I try not to be overly negative, this website is my personal journal as much as it is an informational guide. I’m very open here and I don’t really sugarcoat anything; just as there are bad days in life, there are bad days in travel and sometimes I’ll write about that. It’s not about being ungrateful for this amazing opportunity I have, it’s just that sometimes I have a bad day and I talk about it! However, I will be more conscious about this moving forward.

Responding to comments – It was also mentioned that I seem to be responding to fewer comments lately and I will admit that it has gotten harder for me to keep up with everyone. This year was a huge year for me (I wrote a book!) and as life has gotten busier it has gotten harder for me to keep up with all the comments, tweets, FB questions, and 100+ emails per day while still trying to enjoy life and travel. You guys are what keeps this site running, so I apologize for slacking off and will try to take Steve’s advice, become a productivity ninja, and be better at responding to everyone. The best way to reach me is via e-mail, so if you have a question, it’s best to e-mail me to ensure I don’t miss it!

Blog articles – Thanks for all your suggestions on how I can help you travel better. Your feedback made the wheels in my head turn and I have a number of great post ideas! some of the articles you’ll be seeing over the next few months include:

  • More interviews
  • Tips on cheap accommodation besides hostels
  • How to work on the road
  • Motivational articles, including profiles of people who have used this website to get on the road – because if they can do it, you can too!
  • Family travel
  • Suggested itineraries
  • Gear reviews
  • Guest posts by non-Westerners on how they find the money to travel and overcome visa issues that folks like me don’t have experience with.

Navigation – A lot of you have said it is really hard to go through my archives and find the information you want. This has been a major concern of mine for a long time. The last design was an improvement but I made some other changes this weekend. I’ve made the search button on the top of my website easier to read, increased the size of the topics button on the right sidebar, installed a “you might also like” plugin to point you to articles related to the one you’re reading, and made the back/older button on the blog page more predominant. If you have other suggestions, I’m all ears!

Another thing people mentioned was the design of my site. While they enjoyed the new layout introduced back in March, they still thought it was harsh on the eyes and a bit cluttered. I couldn’t agree more, which is why I’d like to announce today that I have a brand new design. Since my last change, I’ve learned a lot about fonts, spacing, and design and have incorporated those changes into a new layout with special fonts for easier reading, better spacing, and less clutter. If you are viewing this via RSS or e-mail, come over to the website and see the new design. I love it! I’m finally at a happy place with this site.

Who gets to go to Europe?
Lastly, unrelated to the survey, in August I partnered with Vayama and Hostelworld to give away a free 12 day trip to Europe. Contestants were asked to create a blog or video explaining why they should be the one to win. After wading through a couple hundred entries, a winner has been chosen.

Let’s congratulate Kay Rodiguez who made a post AND a video about why she should go to Europe. It was original, and was smart, it was humorous. Here’s the video that won it all:

P.S. – Has my site helped you move from cubicle to nomad? Has it just helped you save a bundle while traveling? If you would like to be featured on this website, I’d love to share your story as a way to inspire others. I love sharing others inspirational stories. If you want your storied shared, please e-mail me at [email protected]

P.P.S. – A number of you asked me questions in your survey responses. Since it was a blind survey, I can’t e-mail you back. If you have a question, visit my contact page and send me an e-mail.

  1. Hey, Matt. Long time no visit and click around blog… it’s looking really great! Nothing like lots of time and experience in the trenches to help you figure out what works.

  2. Will Rob Tuck

    Hey Matt,

    Great job on the new design. And thanks for responding to my email. I’m excited to see some of those upcoming blog articles, especially “how to work on the road”.

    It’s great to know anyone can do this, and I’m completely convinced that we’re the only ones holding ourselves back.

  3. Smooth new design, love the email address sign up box, the homepage looks sweet.

    In chrome the actual content text within the blog posts looks a bit “blocky” though, like an old NES game. It does my eyes in!

  4. Congrats to Kay! And also I think the new site design looks a lot better, so professional and clean. Good job, Matt!

    And not to be a stickler but there’s a little mistake here:
    P.S. – Has my site helpED you move from cubicle to nomad?

  5. Matt – I told you before, but I LOVE the new site layout/design. Very sharp, edgy, and clean! As for the survey, thanks for taking the time to address our feedback. I’m really looking forward to the coming articles – especially how to work on the road, gear reviews, and sample itineraries. Your site has helped power much of the preparation for my big 2013 RTW coming up, and I thank you very much. Keep up the good work!

  6. Congrats Kay Rodiguez! You’re post and video are fantastic – you definitely deserve this trip.

    Congrats Matt. The site looks cleaner, it is easier to navigate and I personally love it when you don’t hold back. If I just want a standard review I’ll hit lonely planet, but I come to your site (repeatedly) to get the naked truth. So bad day or just a bad place – let it out. Better for your health. *grin*

  7. Thanks so much Matt for choosing me and for your kind words! What an amazing opportunity from such an equally amazing person. I am so honored!

    Also, a note on the website design — I showed your site to a computer science major friend and, without knowing it was a new layout, he said that he really liked how sleek and organized your home page looks. I immediately agreed!

    • Kay –
      Congrats! I found your blog entry and video before the winner was announced and thought you were amazing!! The video was so cute, if I were picking the winner, I would’ve picked you as well. Very creative and I hope you have a fantastic time and take lots of photos!
      Matt –
      Great job picking the winner. I’m glad you had more entries than your Costa Rica trip. What a generous giveaway, same with your airline miles. Very amazing of you!

  8. Love the new design Matt! Seems like just yesterday you launched a new design 😉

    I do have to say that adding spacing helps for an easier read 😉

    You were on of the inspirations for me to get out and travel more and write about it. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to travel full time throughout Africa. Would love to go back to Egypt! Was there May 2011 and absolutely loved it.. one of the coolest places I have been.

  9. I get your updates straight to email, but really like the new design – much easier to read and navigate! As for negativity in posts, I say absolutely. I’ve lived in Spain for five years and occassionally post about the pitfalls of being in a Latin country barely afloat during an economic crisis. Many think my life is just a series of sangria pitcher after gin tonic after siesta. My goal has always been to be honest and to portray life in Spain as an American for what it is – sometimes extreeeemely awesome and other times, lonely and confusing. You’re one of the top experts in budget travel, and you should warn about bedbugs, about being lonely on the road, etc. I don’t think long-term travel is for everyone, but do feel that reading up before deciding to go is mega important.

  10. Congratulations, Kay! Such a cute video. She was a good choice, Matt.

    I also love your new design. When I would go to your old one, I always had to search for the newest posts. But they are easy to find now.

  11. Hi Matt. First of all, congratulations for your new book. I think your survey really worked out ans very helpful. This makes your website more appealing and accessible. I hope you post something about family travel because I am a mom who plans to travel abroad with my kids.

  12. Hey Matt & congrats Kay!!

    I never had any problems with the old design but I’m liking the new one as well.
    Good luck with the new book can’t wait to give it a read.

  13. Hey Matt – Loving the new site design. Congrats to Kay for winning the trip! At first I wondered (with a sad face) how it was possible that the awesomeness of my blog entry didn’t end the competition early until I saw that video. Absolutely epic! Now if only I was good looking, could rap, dance and edit video I would have nailed it. Looking forward to the next installment from Kay in Budapest.

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