Editorial: September 2015

This month, I feel like I’m really beginning to benefit significantly from this Patreon thing.

At first, it was great – the odd $5 here and there meant my coffee was paid for while I worked on a new post. Now though, with $126 coming in for each post I share, that’s suddenly a significant boost to what I’m able to do. The website is no longer running at a loss, and I find I’m able to prioritise writing quality content for the site… rather than always worrying about picking up basic copywriting work to keep paying the bills. The balance is just beginning to shift, and it feels amazing.

You people are to thank for that, and I really am so very grateful.

Anyway, here’s a full update on where various projects are at, and what you can expect (or choose) to see on here in the near future.

 

TECHNICAL PROBLEMS

As I’ve mentioned recently, I was having a few ongoing issues with the site. The main cause, it turned out, was my image sizes.

These photographs are my babies, and I really want readers to be able to enjoy them in high definition. However, this has quickly clogged up my server space and so I’ve been forced to radically downsize them. I don’t like doing that… and while some posts don’t seem to have been affected too much, I worry that others have suffered a little from the lower image quality.

Here are a couple that I’m concerned aren’t looking quite as sharp as they could. I’d love a second opinion, if anyone has time.

Nuclear Tourism: Exploring the Chernobyl Reactors
Tropic Blunder: Three Tales of Exotic Non-Adventure
(Although best to note, some of these images came from my old camera and were already a little grainy.)
Inside Objekt 221: An Abandoned Soviet Stronghold in the Crimea

 

CONTENT

I hope you all enjoyed the latest post. It was more of a regular travel piece, rather than a specific location report – but these have proved to be some of my most popular articles in the past, so I try to include them every now and again. I was hoping to get four new posts up this month, but the last one just isn’t going to be ready in time for that. It’s a post about the history of urban exploration in Moscow – quite a serious subject, and so I really didn’t want to rush it. You’ll be able to read it in the next week or so, though.

Still, this month has added four new countries to the map – Serbia, the Dominican Republic, Singapore and the Bahamas. Or five if you include Hong Kong, which I recently decided to liberate from China (at least as far as the blog is concerned.)

My next two posts are going to continue the recent Cold War theme. There’ll be a tour of revolutionary sites in Cuba, and then the US response to the missile crisis: an abandoned launching facility in the Florida Everglades. That last one will also include the fun times I had trying to explain the stamps in my passport to US border guards.

After that though, perhaps it’s time for a vote.

 

VOTING

What do you want to see? Is there any image gallery on The Exclusion Zone that you’d particularly like to know more about? I’ve already had interest in the Buddhist Temples and Czech Communism titles. I feel quite excited about writing that Prague piece… but do feel free to make a suggestion.

Here are a few ideas that I think we could have a lot of fun with:

Czech Communism Tour
Nuclear Tourism in Chernobyl
Welsh Alchemy
Haiti’s Post-Industrial Vodou Art Scene

Feel free to share your choice in the comments below, or over on Patreon if you prefer. Either way, I’ll get it.

I would rather not tackle any of the Bulgarian posts yet though, as I’ve written so much about Bulgaria for the book that I feel I’m reaching saturation point; I’d like to finish what I’ve already started first.

But while on the subject of the book…

 

THE EXCLUSION ZONE

Things have been a little slower in terms of bonus articles this month, and I apologise for that. The reason for this is simply because the book has taken up so much of my time. However, I’ve made a decision – I’m going to upload the entire manuscript to The Exclusion Zone. This will take a few weeks, just as I finish things off and sort my images; but I’ve already created a contents page, from where I’ll link to all the different chapters.

If you’d rather read it offline, then I can accommodate that too – send me a message once I’ve got the book done, and I’ll be glad to email you an image-free Kindle version or PDF file.

Over the weekend I was looking through my hard drive, and I seem to have material for about 45 interesting new posts – in addition to the albums already uploaded onto The Exclusion Zone. My plan is to keep on adding these, until eventually I’ve got about 50-60 photo albums on here. We’re already at 20.

I’m talking to my developers right now, as what I’d really like to do is create some sort of automated voting system. For example, maybe you could click on the albums you want to see written up, and votes are recorded to rank these albums in order of interest. It might take a little while to set this up, but watch this space. The Exclusion Zone is expanding, and I think it’ll soon outgrow its current, basic format.

As these reports are all going to be doubling back on countries I’ve already written about though, sooner or later I’m going to need to spread out into new territory! Which brings me onto…

 

FUTURE TRIPS

In 2012, 2013 and 2014, I visited roughly 20 countries per year. In terms of travel, 2015 has been incredibly slow so far. I’ve spent a huge amount of time hidden away and working on the book, but now I’m coming to the end of that and starting to plan some more research trips.

First up will be a trip to the Baltics in October. I’ll spend a week driving around Latvia and Lithuania, looking for abandoned Soviet military bases, sea forts, ancient fortresses and nuclear cities. Hopefully that should generate a few interesting posts!

In November I’m thinking of heading somewhere a little more exotic. Iran is high on my list, though it’s a little complicated for me at the moment as British passports don’t open many doors there. I’m tempted to wait a little, in fact – British-Iranian relations are improving, the embassy is currently being reestablished, so I might find that by next year I’m able to travel far more freely there.

Another option for November is Morocco. I’ve already written a lot about Europe and Asia here, while the Caribbean is quickly filling up with content. I feel like North Africa and the Middle East would be very interesting directions to explore in future.

Before all that I’m off to Turkey again. Tomorrow, in fact. I’ll be laying low somewhere on the Prince Islands, eating kebabs and finishing off the last edits of the book… although I’m sure there’ll be time for an adventure or two while I’m there. After that, it’s straight back to Sofia to begin my first official tour! (Wish me luck.)

Well, that’s probably all for now. I’ll keep you updated, and I’ll start adding some more book chapters to The Exclusion Zone over the coming weeks.

Thank you, again, for your continued support!

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