I've decided to keep ongoing updates just so people can follow along and see what's happening with me and my blog. This is the first of those updates, so I hope it isn't too boring.
Today at midnight our very first Facebook contest ended. I have yet to go through 44 posts to see who won, but I've been keeping a rough count and I think I know the top five winners. When I started the contest, I had just under 300 likes. Ending the contest, I have 6 and a half thousand. The past two weeks have seen incredible growth in my blog and in the support for it, and I only hope I can continue to offer somewhat interesting articles for you to read.
Moving on, lately I have been trying to improve the usability of my website. I'm getting anywhere from 50 to 200 hits on it a day, so I want to make sure it's as user friendly as possible. One of the big issues I've encountered are the large images. Some people love them, some hate them. I tried implementing a button on my site to hide and show said images, but nobody really understood it and it was confusing so I took it out. I have noticed my site isn't doing very good on mobile because of the heavy bandwidth due to the images, so I may scale them back, or I may find some new solution. I'm still thinking on that.
I've also decided to move into my own place next month, which does mean saving up for trips around the world becomes a little more difficult. I decided to try and counter this by adding advertisements on the bottom of my blog articles. I don't like advertisements, but I like traveling. I only hope they don't take anything away from my site and aren't too distracting. They are for you, in a sense, after all. So far, I have made a total of 46 cents off them, which was because of myself testing to see if they actually worked (but don't tell Google that, or they'll lynch me).
I've also added a feature to my site to track how much of an articles are actually being read. I understand the 26 minute long article about Paris probably won't be read in detail over your lunch break, but I just want to know exactly how much of my articles are being read. Two days into tracking, I've learned only 20 - 60% of the articles are being read. This is disappointing, but I understand my posts are very long. I am thinking of a way of making the articles shorter. Maybe I'll paginate them, or maybe I'll split them into smaller articles. I'm not sure yet. (But only reading 60% of my blog post means they're 40% away from seeing any ads, which isn't good for making money!)
On the media side of things, I have asked a local radio and television company in the city, Global Regina, if they would have me on TV. So far, they have not replied. I also asked the local newspaper company, the Leader Post, if they wanted to do an article about me. Zip from them. I emailed Contiki Travels and asked if they would help sponsor me, but again nothing. I will keep trying, and hopefully get into the media somehow. I really feel once I can break into the old media, my blog will really start to grow.
I have been in discussions with several other bloggers around the world, and while some are very busy and can only do an interview, some of the talks are coming together quiet well. I realize the taste for foreign lands is unquenchable and unfortunately I've covered all the distant places I've gone to, so I hope I can find some way to satisfy my readers.
But, really the biggest news update is how great this blog is coming together. I put in countless hours each week working on it, making tweaks, preparing scheduled posts, doing research, finding, cropping and editing pictures, and I really do feel you guys appreciate it. I used to be very frequent on Instagram about my travels and that's kind of fallen to the wayside. I've had several Instagram followers "track me down" to ask what's going on. This is really special. It really means a lot to me that you guys enjoy my posts enough to miss me when I'm away.
That's all for this update. All I can say is thank you, and I'm excited to see what's next for Kenton de Jong Travel.
Goodbye for now.
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
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The Island of the Dolls is in Xochimilco, a borough south of Mexico City. While it would be faster to take a car from Mexico City to Xochimilco, the traffic is dense and the roads are very congested. Instead, if you're going there, I'd recommend taking metro, which is easy and the cheapest in the world. What you gain in comfort, however, you lose in speed, as the train ride takes about 2 hours.
Mexico City and Xochimilco both sit in the Valley of Mexico. Until about a millennium ago, the whole region around Mexico City was surrounded by a massive body of water. Over the centuries due to both climate change and interference by humans, most of this water has dried up, for the exception of Xochimilco. With networks of canals crisscrossing the borough, car transportation is difficult and water transportation is essential. I'm sure there were motorized boats somewhere in the waters of Xochimilco, but I never saw any. Instead, canoes and rafts are common on the water. However, the most popular vessel is a trajinera – a colourful gonadal-like boat that is pushed along the water with a wooden pole.
Xochimilco is known worldwide for their Floating Gardens market, which are essentially canoes floating down the canals, selling wares to tourists on trajineras. These include things like food, drinks, silver rings, trinkets, ponchos and sombreros. Occasionally other trajineras full of Mariachi bands will approach tourists and offer to play beside them on the water.
Canada's 150th birthday cannot be complete without visiting the country's capital city... but which one should you visit? While Ottawa is the current capital of Canada, there have been four other capital cities, and it has changed seven times. It started in Kingston (1841 – 1844) and then moved to Montréal (1844 – 1849), believing it to be safer from the Americans. After the citizens of Montréal burnt it down, it rotated between Toronto (1849 – 1852 and 1856 – 1858) and Québec City (1852 – 1856 and 1859 – 1866). Finally, it was placed right on the border between the two provinces in Ottawa (1866 to present day). This tour ventures into each of these five cities and explores what makes them so unique.
Since the capital flip-flopped location seven times, it would be much more convenient to go through the cities geographically then historically. If we started in the West, we would start in Toronto, Ontario, Canada's biggest city. While G Adventures only mentions the CN Tower and Kensington Market, there is much more to see in this city. You could visit the 18th century Casa Loma Castle, stroll through the artistic Graffiti Alley, visit Ripley's Aquatic Aquarium, or go drink and dine in the Distillery District. Looking for more outdoorsy stuff? Check out the Toronto Islands, the famous High Park or the Toronto Zoo. You can even take a boat out onto Lake Ontario and see the city's iconic skyline!
Part 12 of my cross Canada series takes us to the smallest province in Canada, Prince Edward Island. However, don't let the name confuse you: PEI is actually 232 islands!
PEI also happens to have smallest population of any province in Canada, with only 146,300 people as of 2014. This means this province has less people than my hometown Regina!
Being so small, however, it was difficult to find images on Instagram. That isn't to say there's nothing there worth seeing! Quiet the quandary, actually. PEI has a few very unique locations that drive their tourism. One of them is the gorgeous themed village of Avonlea, named after the village in the hit novel "Anne of Green Gables" published in 1908. This story, and the subsequent stories, follows Anne, a red-haired "fiery" orphan who grows up on PEI. The story is an international bestseller, and is strangely very popular in Japan (or so I've been told)!