Today’s post is 1475 words, 15 photos, a 7 minute read. Enjoy!
On Friday November 13, 2015, I published my very first blog post with trepidation. I feared that my writing wasn’t good enough and my photos wouldn’t do much to tell the story. Even with 362 posts written and published, there are times I still feel that way. Self-reflection and feedback from friends, family, and readers has helped me do better with each blog post.
I know I’ve said this many times before, but it bears repeating, I’m amazed that I’ve kept this blog going for seven years. Usually, I start something, have some fun with it, then get bored and move on to something else. Traveling With Tom is the exception. Even though there are some weeks that I would rather do something else or had little inspiration to write, I’ve persisted. One of my college advisors who shall remain nameless, upon completion of my degree, commented that I was stubborn and didn’t listen very well but that I was persistent. She had a point, I’ll go with persistence!
When I published my first blog, I didn’t know what I was doing. The WordPress software was unfamiliar and I had no clue how to insert photos into a post. After that first article came out, a couple of friends offered some advice on improvements. At first I was embarrassed by their comments and suggestions. But I quickly realized they were right and I took their constructive criticism to heart. They wanted me to succeed. My many thanks to readers who have provided feedback over the years. I’m better for it.
For readers who are curious or bored, click here to link to that first post. Be gentle but honest!
In that article I pledged to post an article every week and I’ve done that with one exception.
Within twenty-four hours of post my first post, on Saturday November 14, 2015 I wrote and posted my second article, setting aside the pledge I made the day before. That morning, we woke to the horrifying news that 130 people were killed and over 400 wounded in a series of terrorist attacks in Paris. I felt the need to reach out in support of the French people.
Just two years before, I’d made my first trip to France with The Youngest. We had a grand time in the Arles and Marseilles area. The French people, contrary to stereotypes, were warm, friendly, and welcoming to a couple of bumbling Americans trying to find their way around, knowing little of the French language. My thoughts and sympathy go out to the French people who continue to morn this sad day in their history.
If you’d like to read that blog and see a few photos of France, click here.
The Next 360 Posts
It took a couple of months of blog writing to get into the swing of things. I finally learned how to insert photos and later on videos. A vast improvement. My most recent improvement is the addition of the number of words, photos, and estimated minutes it will take to read the article. This was not my original idea. I stole it from Axios, a news outlet that I read daily. A couple of friends have commented on that move. One liked it because it provided her with how long it would take to read the article. The other stated I under estimated the time it would take because he takes more time looking at the photos.
I don’t remember how it happened but I began posting my blogs on Sunday afternoon at 4:00 PM Central Time. The come out like clockwork. Then I began posting a link to my articles on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The links on this social media sites helped increased readership and generated more comments. While I appreciate my followers, readers, and their comments, I continue to write this blog for myself. Every year I pay a significant sum of money to WordPress to keep adds out of my posts. I don’t want you to bother with scrolling past advertisements especially during political campaigns!
The Last Year
Now for a few favorites posts and photos from my seventh year of writing.
In November 2021, my Traveling Partner and I were making our way from our home in Madison, Wisconsin through Utah and on to Death Valley National Park. In fact, on November 13, 2021, we checked out of our AirBnb near Zion National Park in Utah and drove to Beatty, Nevada near the entrance to Death Valley. The next day, we took the twenty-seven mile bone-jarring Titus Canyon Road into Death Valley. I loved it, my Traveling Partner not so much! I guess it was looking out the passenger window at the steep drop-off should I accidentally drive off the road. Or the narrow canyon with walls on either side of the Red Rover. Here’s a link to that article: https://travelingwithtom.com/into-the-valley-of-death/.
“The last mile and half of the Titus Canyon Road takes visitors through a narrow, winding canyon with bluish-gray rock walls on either side. I’ll admit it’s a little spooky but beautiful and exhilarating at the same time.”
Photographing Death Valley
The reason I was in Death Valley National Park was to attend a four-day photo workshop with photographers I met at the Madeline Island School of the Arts in 2015. We’d kept in touch and had reunions at locations around the US where we’d share our common love of photography.
Here are a few select photos from this adventure and the links to the two blogs I wrote about the workshop: https://travelingwithtom.com/adventures-in-death-valley-national-park-part-1/ and https://travelingwithtom.com/adventures-in-death-valley-national-park-part-2/.
The Invasion of Ukraine
Shortly after the invasion of Ukraine by the Russians, I wrote more about and shared more photos from our 2019 trip to Ukraine, one of the most memorable travel experiences we’ve made over the years. Here’s my opening paragraph:
SLAVA UKRAINI! GLORY TO UKRAINE!
These words are the symbol of Ukrainian sovereignty and resistance. In addition, they are the official salute of the Armed Forces of Ukraine usually followed by the words: Heroiam Slava! Glory to the Heroes! In the past few weeks these words have been heard around the world as we watch from afar the horrific devastation of human and cultural life in Ukraine.
My Traveling Partner and I have strong family ties to Ukraine. She as a descendant of emigrants from Ukraine and me through the travels my ancestral family made from their homeland in Germany to the Black Sea area between Odesa, Ukraine and Moldova to the Georgian Caucuses to the United States. Here are a few photos from our trip.
“On the corner near our AirBnb, two elderly ladies were selling flowers. They were there everyday. Apparently, the old age pension system in Ukraine isn’t enough to live on so seniors have a side hustle to earn extra money. The photo below is one of my favorites that I took in Ukraine. The past and the present watching the protest in Rynok Square. Then there is the woman walking away on the far left.”
“On our long journey to and from Borshchiv, we stopped along the road so Alex, our driver, could take a phone call. I jumped out of the van and shot this photo of the canola field in full bloom. What a beautiful sight! Ukraine has some of the richest and deepest top soil in the world.”
“Within the St. Michael’s compound is The Wall of Remembrance for the fallen heroes of the Russian-Ukraine War. It is quite sobering to see the photos of the fallen. It reminded me of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC. I can only imagine how many more photos will be added to this wall from the ongoing conflict.”
“Below is a view of Kyiv taken from high points. The river you see in the photos is the Dnipro River that flows south through Ukraine and empties into the Black Sea. There are several dams on this river that provide hydroelectric power, drinking water, transportation, and recreation. “
One more photo regarding Ukraine. After the war in Ukraine broke out, the Door County Candle Company here in Wisconsin began making and selling candles with the colors of the Ukrainian flag, blue and yellow. The profits from the sale of the candles were donated to benefit the people of Ukraine by the company to Razom for Ukraine. To date Door County Candle has donated $800,000 to help Ukraine with a goal of $1 million. We are proud to have contributed to this cause.
I’ve kept you long enough. Join me next week for a continuation of a look back on my seventh year of blogging.
Until then, happy travels!