Blogging and Followers

Concerning Blogs, Websites, Hosts, Search Engines, SEO, Subscribers & Email

A Message To Our Blogging Followers

INTRODUCTION

If you are a blogger, and I know a number of our followers are, this is information that you may find interesting. Our life is travel, it’s what we do and our hope was to share insights with friends and fellow travelers. From the very beginning of our blog we were very frustrated by search engine results. It never seemed right that a specific travel topic search on Google would return three or more pages of nothing but Trip Advisor results with maybe a Frommers, Travel and Leisure or Lonely Planet thrown in (lately things seem to be changing a bit for the better with Google). If we could find our site in the results it was way back after page thirty or more.

I know we are only drops of water in an ocean but I believe the ocean is growing exponentially lately.

OUR BLOGGING STORY

For the past few years we have been sharing our travel experiences and ideas on this website. In that time we have been fortunate to acquire a few followers and are encouraged by the support we’ve gotten. This site is first and foremost a hobby and we used WordPress.com as our hosting service starting out with a no cost plan. The one area that has caused us problems is their policy on information regarding “followers”. Currently we have hundreds of followers without access to their email addresses. We believe that this WordPress policy is to prevent customers from changing hosting services after using their free service and taking their followers list with them.

While we have now started using an email service (Mailchimp) to take charge of our subscribers and followers there is still a major problem. We cannot gain access to literally hundreds of followers email information from the past few years. Without that access we cannot consolidate followers and subscribers into a single directory and will not be able to switch to a new hosting service without leaving many behind.

A HISTORY OF FAILED ATTEMPTS

About a year ago we tried starting a web site with a paid service and completely duplicated our Wordpress.com site on this new hosting service (Bluehost). We did this with three goals in mind. First it offered us a large selection of tools (plugins) for creating web pages. Second, it promoted a suite of SEO tools that we thought would be useful in further growing our family of followers. Third it gave us significant room for growth (over 20 times more storage).

Over a few months we made a number of attempts to get our blogger followers on the original site to subscribe on our new site. A couple of months later we had only about a dozen out of a few hundred follow us. Additionally, the new site, with its SEO support, after almost a year, never exceeded traffic reached on this original site at only three months and this site continues to grow.

I had an independent service examine the two sites and they reported that this, our original site, had literally thousands of search terms registered with Google and Bing search engines while the new fully indexed and “search optimized” site had less than thirty after eleven months. This resulted in an average of only one or two search referrals in a week on the new site compared to the free site currently having hundreds of search results in the same period.

I had a number of discussions with experts and they all said that these results made no sense. I have my own theory but the bottom line is, in my opinion, the internet is still growing exponentially and it is becoming increasingly difficult to duplicate even last years results today.

Growth in visitors and page views gets more search results producing more visitors and page views and a growing feedback loop. How do you get the loop started. During those first two years of editing this site and posting we had no SEO options except reading articles and adding words to the tags box. A year with the Bluehost duplicate site with getting consistent high marks for SEO produced literally nothing?

I COULD USE YOUR HELP

I’m really interested in your experiences with traffic and if you have similar results? Please let me know by commenting or emailing us at Intend2Travel@gmx.com and if you could, we would greatly appreciate you following us below so we can rebuild our mailing list outside wordpress.com.

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The Intentional Traveler Newsletter

We are pleased to offer our first of many travel newsletters. Each one will be focused on a specific topic and is loaded with lots of good articles along with hyperlinks to good supplemental information from numerous sources including The Intentional Traveler. To receive these informative newsletters right in your inbox please sign up below.

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The Rise Of The Electric Scooters

Economical and Convient Transportation

Electric scooters waiting to be rented

They’re everywhere… zipping down busy streets, running on sidewalks and racing past bicycles in the bike lanes. They’re lime green electric scooters and you will find them in most large cities in France and probably most of Europe as well. You’ll see young men racing each other down streets and  couples sharing a scooter. On one day we saw two couples take a spill off their scooter, no injuries but it seems to require some coordination between the riders. You’ll see them leaning against buildings or dumped in alleys or standing in neat rows near major attractions. While long racks of rental bicycles have become common worldwide these scooters are a new phenomena.

They’re everywhere on the streets of Paris

We haven’t seen them much yet in major U.S. cities and oddly that’s where they hail from. Seattle to be precise and the company is called Lime (visit their website HERE). We spoke with one man in Lyon who said his son is making good money collecting them at the end of the day and charging them at his home. All of this seems to us a real accomplishment considering that two years ago we didn’t notice them at all.

When done – just leave them

While I am not sure that this senior couple is brave enough to take advantage of these scooters it does strike us as a really convenient and inexpensive way of getting around considering the cost of taxis and even Uber. We took a look at a scooter in Paris and learned that it costs €1 to start the scooter and €0.15 per minute to operate. That means that a one hour ride will cost €10 or less than $12. We’ve been told it’s really easy to set-up, you scan a code with your cellphone and set up an account. When you no longer need the scooter, you just log out of the rental and just leave the scooter where you are.

While we have read for years about auto clubs that intend to saturate a market with cars that would work like this, to our knowledge they have never materialized. This system seems to be really working and we expect to see these lime green scooters in every city worldwide.

Seeing Paris From The Seine

Cruising On The River Seine

Cruising through Paris on the river is one of the most enchanting ways to experience this incredible city with its historic architecture, famous monuments and remarkable beauty.Most visitors to Paris want to add a cruise on the River Seine to their plans. Seeing this city from the river there is a wide assortment of excursions to select from. Either day or night this is an experience not to be missed.

  • There are a number of options to consider:
  • One to two plus hour sightseeing cruises starting at about $15
  • Lunch cruises from $45 (with live music from $60)
  • Dinner cruise from $80 (see the city lights while gliding along the river)
  • A Champagne Tasting Seine River Cruise from $60.00
  • Paris Hop-On Hop-Off Combo: Bus and cruise from $55.00
  • Additional gourmet, dancing and luxury trips are also available with a wide range of pricing.

If you are on a budget our choice for value, is the Hop-On Hop-Off Batobus.  It features nine stops from Notre-Dame to the Eiffel Tower that also includes stops at the Louvre, Place de Concord, Champs-Elysees and more. A 24 hour pass (metered from the time of purchase) cost about $20 with 48 hours under $24. These boats run from morning to about 9:00 pm about every fifteen to twenty minutes and are a great way to jump from one destination to another throughout the day.

A short video from Batobus on the Seine

The Paris Metro – Getting Around The City

Seeing Paris On The Cheap

Seeing the sites in Paris can be a costly adventure. First, the city itself is very large. On our recent trip we went from Notre Dame to the Louvre, up to Sacre Coeur and back to Notre Dame and clocked fourteen miles. There are a couple of hop-on, hop-off bus services like Big Bus Tours but expect to pay between 40€ to 60€ per person. Add in a Seine boat excursion and it climbs to 75 to 85€.

While Paris boasts one of the worlds oldest and largest subway systems (Metro) that includes 14 city lines, 2 Tramways and 6 RER express lines it strikes most visitors as just overwhelming especially with the language barrier.

Above is the official system map and it does look imposing. The color coded, numbered lines are the city Metro routes. The lettered routes are the RER lines that are an express underground or subway trains in Paris city centre, outside Paris it becomes a ground level commuter train connecting outlying suburbs. In addition, on the map there are 27 transfer stations along with connections to airport shuttles spotted around Paris.

Our recommendation is to put your fears aside, focus on your goals and go underground.

Want a high resolution copy? See below.

We created the map above to simplify the system and focus on routes that have the highest value to a new visitor. They include Metro routes 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12. It includes orange asterisks that highlight tourist attractions that include:

  • E – Eiffel Tower
  • A – Arc de Triomphe
  • D – Notre Dame
  • B – Sacre Coeur
  • C – Louvre
  • F – Champs-Élysées
  • B – Montmarte

We have also removed the RAR express train routes as the Metro will get you to almost all major visitor destinations with less confusion.

By simplifying the system you can now focus on where you will be entering the system, where you want to go and what lines you need to use to get there. To make sure you are going in the right direction make a note of a lines end stations as they are usually used to identify a trains direction of travel. If you are staying on another line simply locate your station on the general map and find the transfer point to get you onto a destination line.

For example, if you get on the Yellow Line at the Louvre and want to go to the Arc de Triomphe at the Charle De Gaulle Etoile station, look for a train with the destination of La Defense Grand Arche to be sure you are going in the right direction.

Tickets And System Cost

There are visitor passes available for one to five days on the Metro in Paris center:

  • 1 day: 12€ (kids : 5.80€)
  • 2 days: 19.50€ (kids : 9.75€)
  • 3 days: 26.65€ (kids : 13.30€)
  • 5 days: 38.35€ (kids: 19.15€)

In addition there is a card fro travel outside of the city center called the Mobilis Card for unlimited travel for one day in Zone 1-5 for 7.00€.

For most visitors it is often cheaper to buy one-trip tickets. A single ticket costs €1.80. A single ticket is valid for 1½ hours within the metro system but if unvalidated, will last indefinitely. The best buy is a ‘CARNET’ which is a pack of 10 single tickets. You won’t have to mess around buying tickets each time you use the train and you can split the pack with your companion. It is also cheaper buying a carnet than a single ticket each time. A carnet of 10 single tickets costs €14.10. Therefore a saving of 3.90 euros. Paris is a city of attractions and each stop can take a few hours to see,so buying single tickets can be much cheaper than a full day or multi day pass depending on your plans for the day.

Each ticket allows travel from an entry station to any exit station regardless of distance. Insert your ticket into the slot, when it comes out pass thru the gate. Be sure and carry that ticket with you until you exit the Metro above ground as tickets are occasionally check inside the Metro to confirm validity (fines if you cannot produce the ticket).

Buying Tickets

You can buy a single ticket, a Carnet of tickets or recharge Navigo Decouverte passes at a green colored machine in the Metro or at ticket counters, but ticket counters are not always staffed and not all of the staff speak English.

You can use Euros, coins or debit/credit cards if they have a chip. Some machines are used only for re-charging Navigo cards and most newer machines offer instructions in several languages. Most machines have touch screens but some have a large silver cylinder shaped scroll device below the screen. Gliding your fingers on this will scroll up and down the screen.

 

Using The System

Once you have your ticket, go to the turnstiles. Slip the ticket in the slot, move forward but wait for the ticket to pop out at the top, than move through the turnstile and hang on to your ticket and don’t discard it until you have left the system. If a red light appears, the card isn’t being accepted. If you know it is a new card, go to a ticket counter.

Be prepared to do some walking in Métro stations, especially if you transfer. Transfers are free and can be made wherever lines cross, provided you do so within 1.5 hours. When you are looking for the right platform, follow the signs by the color of the line, the line number and the line end destination. When you transfer, follow the colored line number and end-of-the-line stop to find your next train, or look for signs that lead to your next line. At the destination look for the blue-and-white sortie signs pointing you to the exit. After you exit the system, dispose of the used ticket.

Train Differences

The Paris Metro is a blend of a number of lines with different ages.There are three types of trains with three types of door mechanisms. The newer trains have automatic opening and closing doors. Another type has a green button when pressed opens the doors. The third has a handle, which you pull up and the door will open.

Changing Trains

Upon leaving a train look for signs for your next line and the direction you need to go on the platform, looking for the line color, the line number and the end destination of the line. Also look for your exit and note if it has a number. As you walk through the station it helps to follow the number, rather than names.

Leaving The System

If the station has only one exit simply follow the SORTIE signs. Otherwise follow the SORTIE, exit signs to the right exit. On leaving you will find steel doors, there are two types; automatic and manual. You either push the doors open or you stand on a sensor pad and the doors will automatically open. In the larger and newly renovated stations there are turnstiles where you simply walk through.

There is also an APP for the Paris Transit System (the android app is HERE) for Apple and Android but thus far they reviews aren’t good.

NOTE ABOUT OUR MAP: We could not post a higher resolution map on this site and we do not have hosting that allows for downloads so, if you want a HiRes copy of our Paris Metro Map, email us at Intent2Travel@gmx.com and put ParisMap in the subject and we will email a copy back.

Up next, boat tours on the Seine.

Pickpockets and Purse Snatchers Oh My!

Getting pickpocketed is a terrible thing. If you travel often, the chances are that it’s going to happen. Even if you don’t travel it can happen. If you take precautions and stay alert the risk is greatly reduced but the fact is no one is immune.

Some steps you can take to make you less likely to be the victim:

Pickpockets

There are three proven ways to avoid being the victim of a pickpocket

  1. Keep your valuables secure in a money belt. There are a number of styles and sizes available but the common design is a pouch that secures to a belt and is tucked under your clothes. If you find it awkward to access the pouch, a pickpocket will find it near impossible. If you have to carry a passport, cash or credit cards they really should be in a money belt.
  2. If you won’t need something, don’t carry it. If you are staying in a hotel most now provide in-room safes where things are much more secure than carried with you.
  3. Stay aware. The best thing you can do is avoid getting into crowds. That is the favorite environment for pickpockets. If you do end up in tight quarters be aware that pickpockets are masters of disguise. Most choose to look just like other tourists or well-dressed professionals or a young mother carrying a baby so don’t let down your guard because of hoe someone looks.

Purse Snatchers

There are also some things you can do to foil a purse snatcher

  1. Always expect the worse and keep a firm grip on you purse. Don’t expect a strap hung over your shoulder to prevent a snatching. Often the thieves carry a knife to cut the strap. If you get into crowded areas keep an arm wrapped around the purse.
  2. Never walk around or sit in a public space with your purse wide open. It only takes a second to reach in and run.
  3. There are purses available with a wire inserted into the strap and there are also accessory straps from companies like Pacsafe that prevent cutting.
  4. You should also realize that backpacks have also become popular targets for thieves. Use those same precautions with backpacks and don’t walk with a backpack slung loosely over one shoulder. Wear it over both shoulders. Lately you will also see many people wearing their backpacks on their front. That is not a new fashion look but an additional way to protect a backpack especially on the crowded streets of an unfamiliar city.

If you are traveling internationally, normally you don’t need to carry a drivers license unless you are going to rent a car. Likewise you usually don’t need to carry your passport. Our recommendation is to leave those in your hotel along with credit and debit cards you won’t be needing. You should still have some forms of identification and a copy of your divers license will usually suffice. Another strong recommendation is to have and carry an emergency identification card that includes contact information and any medical needs (a great source of a downloadable card is HERE).

Keep any money and cards you’ll need in that money belt and carry a small card case for that license copy and emergency ID in your pocket along with important information like key phrases, hotel address, and local emergency numbers.

BEFORE YOU TRAVEL – Things To Do

A Checklist For International Travel

Travel Insurance

  1. ___ Check amounts and terms of international coverage on health insurance policy
  2. ___ Look into travel insurance. Health coverage, emergency transport and general travel insurance
  3. ___ Buy travel insurance on big risk areas and large cost items, such as flights and cruises.

Make a Contact List

  1. ___ Update your phones contact file
  2. ___ Include Embassy and consulate numbers where you will travel
  3. ___ Look up and add emergency numbers for countries you will visit
  4. ___ Make hard copies of those contacts to carry on you
  5. ___ Add copies to carry-on and suitcases

Make Copies of Important Documents

  1. ___ Take photos with your phone of all your cards, passport, itinerary and bookings and store them
  2. ___ Make multiple copies of documents like passport, insurance cards, drivers license, visas and keep copies in your carry on and suitcase
  3. ___ Give digital copies to trusted friends or family

Money Belts and Bag Security

  1. ___ Carry cash and cards in a money belt or pouch. If you don’t have one, get one. Without question they are the safest way of protecting money, cards and ID.
  2. ___ Have extra security for wallets, purses and backpacks. Pickpocket proof clothes, wire reinforcement for straps.
  3. ___ Distribute your cash: Separate your cash and have an emergency stock in a place unlikely to be searched. Inside suitcase liner, in old socks or with toiletries.

Make Sure You Have The Right Debit and Credit Cards

  1. ___ Check your credit card terms and have one that doesn’t charge international transaction fees
  2. ___ Check your debit card and carry one that has international ATM service with which you can withdraw cash for free to avoid fees.

Also a credit card gives you a higher chance of claiming money back in case an airline goes bankrupt or fraud against the card.

Foreign Currency

  1. ___ Convert some money to foreign currency before you leave. Important for tipping, taxis and small purchases.
  2. ___ Look into the ATM networks recommended by your bank. That can save a lot of hassle and money.
  3. ___ Make and carry a list of exchange rates. This helps you understand the cost of things and know if the vendors are being fair.

Know Basic Phrases For The Countries You’ll Visit

  1. ___ Prepare a small cheat sheet of basic questions: “How much?”, “Where are the bathrooms?” “Is a service charge included?” Knowing how to call for help, ask for the police etc can make or break your travel safety.
  2. ___ Write down the address of your hotels and other important locations and destinations to show to taxi drivers etc.

Research Local Customs And Laws

 

  1. ___ Read up on local culture and manners to help you travel safely. You don’t want to offend anybody. For instance in Thailand disrespecting the money is disrespecting the King because his picture is featured. Be careful of religious culture in strongly religious countries.
  2. ___ Look into local laws.Ask questions or refer to travel guides. You do not want to break any laws unintentionally and end up with a hefty fine or in jail. An example is in Barbados it is illegal to wear camouflage clothing (fine and/or jail).

Keep Your Electronic Gear Safe

  1. ___ Get and install a VPN (virtual private network) on all devices that will access wifi (laptops, pads and cellphones.
  2. ___ Get and install a reliable anti-virus software.
  3. ___ Buy and carry a large capacity travel hard drive. Do regular backups and keep a backup system on it. Also never plug in unknown USB sticks (thumb drives).

Be Prepared For Eventualities

  1. ___ Know the costs of using your cellphone internationally. Being in Europe is not the time to learn that you calls are $3.00 a minute.
  2. ___ Discuss communications options with family and friends. Let them know if you plan on using primarily text messages.
  3. ___ Have a plan for when your devices cannot access the internet. Too many devices and apps today operate on the premise that they always have access to the web. Understand the ones that won’t work in such a case and find out if there are there substitutes?

Download Maps To Your Device Before Your Trip

  1. ___ Install a map app on your cellphone or use Google Maps and download maps of cities you will visit. Google will allow you to store their maps for thirty days and there are several apps that let you download maps that display using only GPS.
  2. ___ Get in the habit of picking up local guide maps and carry one as a backup for your phone. Having paper maps and even a compass on you can come in handy.