Welcome – I’m glad you’re here!

Last week I celebrated my 12-year anniversary of blogging. Today, I’m excited to roll out the new look here on Traveling with MJ. It’s been a long time since I’ve changed the theme and narrowed in on the focus of the site, and it was long past due.

Here are some of the changes, new features you’ll find here, along with some tips to help navigate the site:

I deleted close to 1,200 old posts that date back to 2006. It was tough letting go of those old archives, but the reality was that they weren’t serving anyone. My writing style and focus have evolved over the years and many of those posts don’t represent my focus any longer; they don’t represent my best work and don’t serve you – so they’re gone. Some posts were geared to a particular event that has long passed, they’re gone. Some posts were about deals, special promotions, contests, etc., that also have long passed, they’re gone, too. Some posts need to be updated and spruced up. I’ll be getting through those as time permits because once that’s done they will have updated valuable information and recommendations. My goal is to delete the fat and keep the good stuff that can serve my readers well.

The comments section has been removed. It’s not because I don’t like a good conversation because I do. What I found was that it was mostly my blogger friends leaving comments (I love you guys!) and everyone else was either emailing me or messaging me on Facebook. So let’s just move the conversation to where it’s convenient for YOU. I share all my new blogs posts on both my personal profile (it’s public, you’re welcome to follow me) as well as my Traveling with MJ business page. Leave a comment or ask a question there. Additionally, I have started a travel community group page as well. It’s currently for ladies only and we’re trying to create a safe space to talk about travel issues that we face. Give us a try – join the group here. Alternatively, there’s a popout “contact” button on the left side of every page (it will show up in different locations if you’re on mobile) or just email me.

While I’ve long focused on value luxury travel – which I define as luxury for real people, not celebrities – I haven’t done a great job of explaining it to you. You can look for more solid information and recommendations on what’s worth a splurge and what’s not. Regardless of what your personal travel style is, I think you’ll find this information helpful and hope you’ll make this site one of the places you check when you are looking for value luxury destinations, experiences, and products.

You’ll find the current edition of my 2018 special monthly feature front and center on the homepage. Titled “You’ll Never Want to Leave,” this feature combines a monthly theme and destination that we think you’ll want to recreate for yourself. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway, a family vacation, a girls’ getaway, or a solo trip, you’ll find everything you need to make a trip that’s right for you. And once you’re there – you’re never going to want to need. (Note: While this feature was designed to be monthly, delays in getting the new theme launched this month means that I am going to skip March and publish April’s feature early in the month. I’ll get a 12th feature in later in the year.)

The next section on the home page leads you to sections focused on my key content – the monthly feature, getaway guides, cruising, and podcasting. These are the areas which I’ll be focusing on, based in large part on feedback I’ve received from you. You’ve repeatedly told both by visiting the site and by personal contact that this is the type of content that you find most useful.  I’ll still have other content, of course, but my main emphasis will be on those topics.

And speaking of my podcast. . . . it’s been awhile since I’ve recorded anything. I could make all sorts of excuses – sort of like the dog at my homework – but I’m committed to getting things back on track. I’ll be recording some episodes this week, will get them edited (I only do light editing), and scheduled for release. You can find them on the Where Else to Go podcast site, they’re available on Apple Podcast and Google Play, and I’ll also be posting them here. You can find past episodes there right now. Additionally, I hope to integrate some audio content into this site.

I have already planned for some additional content to focus on (you’ll notice space a couple more topics) and will be adding them in the spot. Stay tuned for that.

The last section on the homepage is a round-up of my most recent content titled value luxury destinations and experiences. Hover over the photos and you’ll see the titles of the blog posts. This will be the latest – and hopefully greatest – with the most recent being at the top.

Whew, that’s a lot of changes, huh?!

Now here are some tips to help you find exactly what you’re looking for when you arrive at Traveling with MJ. These navigational aids are available from every page that you’re on, so if you slide down a rabbit hole of content, you can always find your way back to where you want to be.

At the top of each page are links to get you to the homepage, my about me page (sorely in need of an updating; it’s on my to-do list), my blog (which will have all my blog posts in a chronological order with the most recent appearing first), destinations (to get you to the exact part of the world that you’re interested in, plus there are some cool maps that I’ve been filling out), contact (in case you want to get in touch), and work with me (this is mostly for tourism and brand representatives who want to get in touch about a collaboration or project).

At the bottom of each page, in the footer, you’ll find links to my social media accounts – feel free to follow me – along with a search bar. Use the search bar if you already know what you’re looking for and have a very specific destination or topic in mind. While the other features of the site are designed for exploration and dreaming, the search bar will cut through all that inspiration (or distraction depending on your mindset) and get you directly to the information you need.

If you like what you’re reading and want to share it with others, or just save it to read later, there are ways to do that. On every page on the site, with the exception of the home page, there is a block of social sharing sites that are a pop out on the left side of the page (again different locations if you’re on mobile). Choose the action that you want to take, it ranges from sharing on Facebook or other social media sites to saving to your favorite offline reader to emailing to yourself or a friend, by clicking on the relevant icon. Simple as that.

All of these changes also mean that there are bound to be things that aren’t quite working right. As in any “new construction,” we’ve got a punch list going of things that need to be changed, tweaked, or perhaps are completely broken. We’ll be working on them. If you run into a problem, please let me know, I am committed to making this site user-friendly, mobile responsive (we’re currently having a problem with that), and helpful. You’ll see some minor evolutions over time, but we 90% of the way there.

Of course, I need to acknowledge the help of the people who helped with the redesign. My managed WordPress hosting is with eHermits. Brian and I go back to my early days of blogging and I love being able to patronize a small business that provides personalized service. He made the transition a simple process. If you’re looking for hosting, give him a shot to earn your business. The developing, coding, and layout was done by Mitch Canter. Mitch and I go back to the early days of blogging as well and more than one time he had to talk me back off the ledge when I was ready to throw in the towel. Mitch has a full-time tech position with Vanderbilt University but also accepts some freelance projects. My logo design and graphics were created by Mary Chong, who I’ve known for a couple years now. She is a travel blogger and editor at Calculated Traveller and is also a graphic designer. Mary is a gem to work with because she gets me and my preferred style. She makes suggestions but doesn’t push when it’s something that I don’t like. You can see her portfolio of work here.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour. Now I’ll get back to traveling and creating content and let you get back to traveling and reading it. Cheers!