We share some big changes around here and, most importantly, how they will affect you, our loyal readers.
For a while, AwayGoWe.com has been tackling an identity crisis.
I’m proud of the tremendous growth in visitors that AwayGoWe has experienced over the past few years. I’ve found myself both excited and daunted by the site’s success, and until very recently also conflicted over how to grow AwayGoWe moving forward (or not to grow it at all).
Over 90% of our monthly readership comes from first-timers accessing mostly travel-related tips, stories, and travelogues from eight years of writing about independent travel, whereas around a tenth of our traffic is made up of regular readers (You!) who mainly follow our current journey as a family in Laos and beyond.
As we’ve always prioritized the month-to-month journal aspect for ourselves and our close friends and family (and now Noe!), most of the efforts that go into AwayGoWe are focused on writing for us and that 10% (You!) rather than the much larger pool of visitors.
Since launching this site in March of 2010, over 100,000 unique readers have arrived here via search engines alone. In comparison, we currently have a stable of about 500 return readers (followers). I’ve often toyed with the idea of targeting more of my efforts toward that other 90% of readers—turning more of those newcomers into followers and reaching even more of the global community of travelers. But in the end, I’ve found such efforts take more away from the soul and essence of AwayGoWe than they add.
Deep down, I’d be happy if our family dispatches were unsearchable by Google, etc., and largely unmonetized. But for the longest time I’ve struggled with the decision to make our travel archives completely inaccessible to the general public, as they’ve been providing useful information to thousands of travelers for nearly a decade on places that often aren’t covered a lot elsewhere. Still, there’s a huge part of me that would love to capitalize on the site’s moderate success with travelers and make it into something truly great (and even profitable, perhaps?).
With Noe growing up fast, family and friends demanding more life chronicles and fewer travelogues, our desire as parents not to have Noe’s life searchable on Google, and my own growing desire to write more content geared to the travel community, we’ve gradually come to the realization that something would have to change.
The plan for me here in Laos was always to eventually transition to part-time work when Noe was old enough and in a good place at a reliable daycare a few times a week. We’ve had a number of wrenches thrown into that plan over the past year, most notably a handful of respiratory illnesses that required hospital stays and months at home. In September, Noe started at a new daycare and, save for a few runny noses, has done great. The planets were aligned for me to transition to other things. Then, another wrench:
For the first year here, my visa had the same employment status as Lori. However, in October our visas were up for renewal and my yellow card came back with a big red addendum. In the months leading up to our renewal, we had heard stories of the same thing happening to other foreign spouses and thought our situation was different. But, alas.
Unfortunately, it’s evident that the work situation here in Vientiane is becoming less conducive to people like me by the month. The government has essentially banned non-ASEAN citizens from local employment except in exceptional circumstances, and are in the process of banning non-Laotian volunteers and placing tighter restrictions on NGOs. As you might expect, the recent changes have made independent consulting and freelancing gigs much more competitive. You’ve essentially got a large pool of middle-aged spouses of foreign development workers or diplomats with decades of experience who are prohibited from engaging in the formal economy, thus vying for the few part-time contracting opportunities here.
After a week of grumbling and a few more BeerLao than I’d like to publicly admit, I saw an opportunity to focus my efforts elsewhere and immediately began laying the foundations for a new venture.
You may already have noticed some changes around here. The homepage has reverted back to the blog page, and a lot of the travel and tips content has seemingly vanished. AwayGoWe.com will remain focused on our current life as a family in Laos or wherever the journey takes us. In the coming months, AwayGoWe will become more streamlined for our family and friends who follow our adventures, and eventually not exist on web search engines any longer. Those of you who get our updates via email, Facebook, or access AwayGoWe directly won’t notice any change.
As always, thanks for reading!
Lots more to come, so stay tuned…