2012 year in review for Vagobond.com

2012 in Review on Vagobond.com

2012 in review on Vagobond.com: Looking Back

2012 year in review for Vagobond.comIt’s been such an incredible year for the world and for travel that the question that comes to mind first when writing a year end review like this is where should I begin when I’m looking at 2012 in review on Vagobond.com?

I’ve already detailed my own travels in my column What am I doing here? Looking at my travels in 2012.

I’ve also shown you the 12 most popular articles on Vagobond in 2012 and the 12 articles that I think were our best for the year.

Our last Vagobond Travel Museum of 2012 looked at all the Vagobond Travel Museums of 2012.

So, where does that leave me? I suppose a good place to end the year is where we began it.  Last year on January 2nd I announced where I wanted Vagobond to go during the coming year.  I had several big goals. One of them was to differentiate Vagobond from all the many ‘travel blogs’ out there.  I started the year wanting to make a clear distinction that Vagobond isn’t a travel blog – then- I got all excited when I was invited to Blogville in Italy and thought, well…maybe it should be a travel blog after all. After meeting the real travel bloggers and seeing what a travel blog really is, I came back to my original decision.

Vagobond is most certainly NOT a travel blog and I’m most certainly not a travel blogger.  It was nice to meet that moment of doubt and come away with certainty.

Vagobond is an online travel magazine and resource for those interested in quirky luxury, offbeat adventures, and food, glorious food travel. 

Blogville was great for many reasons, chief among them for clearing up this little bit of confusion. One of the first things I did was shut down the commenting system on Vagobond.  I wanted our focus to be more personal and so I’ve encouraged our readers to interact directly with us on social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

2012 in review on Vagobond.com – Contributors

You may notice that I’m using ‘us’ and ‘we’ and that was another great step in the right direction. I brought some incredible writers and travelers on board in 2012.  Let’s look at our contributors:

Thumbnail imageAnthony Mathenia has continually amused and entertained us with his magnificent column Syncopated Familty Travel.  See all of Anthony’s 2012 stories here.


Thumbnail imageAward winning travel writer and photographer Dave Stamboulis has shared some of his most beautiful adventures with photos and words and will continue to do so in 2013 with Through the Photographers Lens. Check out all of Dave’s 2012 contributions here.


Thumbnail imageWine diva, Linda Kissam brought us plenty of soft adventures and breezy destination stories as she explored the world looking for a perfect pair of shoes and a great bottle of wine.  See all of Linda’s contributions here.


Sarah SpigelmanSpeaking of food, New York Foodie Sarah Spigelman brought us a ton of great foodie stories from the city that never sleeps and other destinations.  A contributor to the Today Show and a well known food blogger in her own right, it was a pleasure to get her insights into one of our favorite cities. See all of Sarah’s 2012 contributions here.


All of these writers wrote regular features in 2012 but there were also some great regular contributors who shared amazing stories of travel, food, and quirky destinations. Among them were K. Pearson Brown, Melissa Ruttanai, Brian Leibold, Susan McKee, Kathering Rodeghier, and Melissa Rae Cohen.


2012 in review on Vagobond.com: The Failures

Let’s start with the bad.

Failure #1. In the odd but sort of funny events for us was the short lived column of James Isherwood. While I was in London for the World Travel Market in November a celebrity chef scandal unfolded.  James had gone to a little restaurant run by a celebrity chef and when the chef asked if everything was okay, he said yes. Then he went home and wrote that the meal was a bit of a disappointment on Twitter. The chef responded by calling him a cunt and then a whole slew of celebrity chefs jumped on the hater bandwagon.  I offered James a column on Vagobond to give him a bit of a voice to defend himself with. I sent him guidelines and offered to help him improve his writing (he already had a small food blog that he shared with friends.) James accepted and sent me his first column with no editing, bad grammar, bad punctuation, and even a lack of capitalization at the beginning of sentences. I fixed it, added photos (which the guidelines called for but he hadn’t sent) and published it.  This scenario repeated a few times and then I was in a position of pulling teeth to get him to send me a very simple column that was actually more work for me than it was worth to publish. At that point, I looked at his blog and realized he was just sending me his blog posts after he published them. I re-explained the guidelines and then – he quit with a tweet and unfollowed me on Twitter so I couldn’t respond to his quitting tweet.  I’m not so sure that chef was off the mark. Anyway, that was the end of our London Foodie column…and good riddance.

Failure #2 Speaking of good riddance, there were a few things I wanted to try in 2012 that just didn’t work. One of them was to have a Sunday feature that listed the best travel deals of the week. It had a remarkably low number of visits and no social shares so I ditched it in mid-March. No one complained.

Failure #3. Completely my fault for not checking submitted guest writers for plagiarism. This only happened one time, but that was enough. A guest story about India turned out to have been stolen from a travel writer who contacted me and was rather irate about our publishing her work without permission. Thankfully she was very graceful when I explained and allowed us to replace the plagiarists attribution with her own. It was a good lesson to learn…check every guest contribution.

Failure #4 Working with Virtual Assistants in America, the Philippines, and India.  While I did find some of their contributions worthwhile, for the most part, it was too difficult to oversee their work from afar and make sure that it was done in a way that met my standards. I often had to repeat what I had already paid to have done. Better to just do it right myself the first time instead of paying for it and then doing it.

Failure #5  Another goal I didn’t reach in 2012 was to provide a lot more travel videos for our readers. There were some, but I want more for you.This will be an ongoing project in 2013.

2012 in review on Vagobond.com: The Successes

Now for the really good stuff. The truth is there were so many successes for Vagobond in 2012 that I’m only listing the truly noteworthy goals here.

Success #1 One of my big goals in 2012 was to separate Vagobond from my own personality – that is, I didn’t want Vagobond to be about Vago Damitio. To do that, I had to launch separate social media accounts. If you click on the bunnies on the top of the page, you will find Vagobond social media accounts that are independent of my own (you can find mine at http://www.vagodamitio.com by the way). The reason for this is that I’m a fairly outspoken and you might even say controversial person – I want Vagobond to focus more on travel, luxury, and food than my own politics or dirty jokes. In fact, one of my virtual assistants quit after reading my personal Facebook page because I was sharing some dirty jokes!

Success #2  The relaunch of Go Vagobond, our monthly newsletter.  I started it up again in December, but it’s there and we can count it as a success. To subscribe just click here or use the form in the sidebar.

vagobond.com in early 2012Success #3  The complete redesign of the site. You can see what the site looked like in early 2012 by the screenshot above. I gave the entire site a chic new feel shamelessly based on Pinterest in the middle of the year. I also created new social media icons, revamped the entire menu and navigation scheme and changed our publishing schedule and author archiving. A lot of that work is hidden behind the scenes, but I’m proud of it. What you can see is, I think, a very remarkable improvement. I liked Vagobond’s look and feel at the beginning of 2012 – I like it much better at the end of 2012. I hope you do too.

Success #4  I managed to incorporate Vagobond Travel Media, LLC which was a major victory for me, although I failed at actually filing my taxes for the entire year which means that I’m probably still going to file everything as a self-employed worker this year. Yikes.

Success #5 The biggest  success of the year was publishing at least one new travel story every day (and sometimes two or three). We’ve brought you amazing travel stories,  fantastic destination guides, world class reviews and travel tips, and some of the best travel and food writing on the web. In addition, we met our goal of providing you with more interesting and beautiful travel photo essays, great travel resources, and unique travel experiences.

Success #6  Our Extraordinary Vagabonds feature introduced you to some of the most famous and remarkable travelers to ever grace the earth. The Vagobond Travel Museum, while finding it’s way, also brought some great stories and travel inspiration. And, I’d like to think that my weekly column “What am I doing here?” gave you insight into my world and the world we all live in.

Success #7  Our stories in 2012 covered six continents and a wide range of countries from Australia to Zimbabwe. We covered family travel, adventure travel, luxury travel,  offbeat travel, and foodie travel. Plus. a whole lot more.

All in all, 2012 was a great year for Vagobond and for me personally. I have you, our readers to thank for that and I hope it was wonderful for you too. I’m guessing that 2013 will be even bettter for all of us.

I’ll be publishing my wacky predictions for 2013 a little later today and  resolutions and things to look forward to in 2013 will come tomorrow with the new year. In the meantime, I hope you all have a safe and wonderful and very very Happy New Year.

Vago Damitio

Vago C. Damitio

Editor-in-Chief of Vagobond.com

The Best Travel Stories of 2012

12 Stories You Should Have Read on Vagobond in 2012

The Best Travel Stories of 2012Yesterday I shared the 12 most visited stories on Vagobond.com in 2012. Today, I’d rather share with you our best travel stories of 2012. These are what I think are  the 12 best stories we published over the past year.  I list them in no particular order.

Syncopated Family Travel – Going Home on Route 66 by Anthony Mathenia

While I love all of Anthony’s columns, this one simply sings. The writing comes through and paints a picture that you can feel in your soul.

Yodeling Vagabonds Biking through Yellowstone by Brian Leibold

When I think of Brian Leibold, the word that comes to mind is clean-souled and healthy.  His tips for travel are innocent and yet you can find so much wisdom in them and when you read his articles, you can sense that he is really writing about the way he feels. His trip through Yellowstone shows that perfectly.

Truckhenge by Linda Kissam

Linda Kissam’s adventures tend towards wine and food but in this particular piece you can feel the genuine attraction she feels for Ron and the lifestyle he has created.

Sri Lanka: The Sweetest Teardrop by Dave Stamboulis

Dave Stamboulis’s pictures speak loudly enough but when he writes there is a fifth dimension that comes into play. I’ve always wanted to go to Sri Lanka but never so badly as when I read this article.

50 Special Vespas and Learning to Make Pasta in Italy by Vago Damitio

This was one of the highlights of my year. The food was divine but what made it truly special was the Chef herself.

Fritz, Glitz, and Spritz in Pottsdam, Germany by Katherine Rodeghier

Katheine Rodeghier’s trips are always informative, but for some reason I felt like her trip to Pottsdam was even better than usual. Maybe it was because before reading it, I couldn’t have told you where Potttsdam was.

Sophia Loren and the Eels of Commachio by Vago Damitio

What goes together better than Sophia Loren and Eels?

The Best Places for Jazz in Paris by Raphael Daverio

This was a guest post by a talented writer who I can’t wait to visit in Paris. Great wine and jazz awaits.

4 Great Musical Acts who Found Inspiration through Travel  by Julie Herd

Another guest post that spoke to me. Who knew I had so much in common with Snoop Dogg?

7 Architectural Wonders of Florence by Vago Damitio

I spent a few days wandering around Florence and saw hundreds of architectural jewels, but these were my favorite seven amongst them all.

Black Robed Kaffir: Adventures in the other Pakistan by Dave Stamboulis

Once again the combination of words and pictures from Dave Stamboulis brought me to a place I’d never been and created a desire to go where there had been none before.

Emergency Dinners in New York City by Sarah Spigelman

Sarah has been a fun addition to our regular contributors in 2012. I hope that we can keep hearing from her in 2013. This article on what to do for emergency dinners in New York City is a great example of why.

And as a bonus…here’s a 13th Story that you can use in 2013

The Vagobond Guide to Istanbul by Vago Damitio

Turkey is up and coming and if you don’t go to Istanbul now, you’ll wish that you had in five years. Make Istanbul your top destination in 2013 and you won’t regret it. This guide should help you see why.

Mama Knows Best Mama Shelter Marseille

Mama Knows Best at Mama Shelter in Marseille

Mama knows best at Mama Shelter in Marseille.

It’s possible that one of the reasons I enjoyed my stay in Marseille, France as much as I did was because it began and ended with a stay at one of the coolest hotels I’ve ever stayed at. Mama Shelter Marseille.

Welcome Home to Marseille

From the time I arrived at this funky and fun hotel, I was treated like a valued guest, a long lost friend, and a respected client. It’s a mix that many places try for, but few get right.

Even though I had made my reservation for the wrong month (talking about screwing up bad!) they sorted things out for me and since they had the space, they actually gave me an upgrade!

bog fluffy white pillows at Mama Shelter

The rooms were big, well lit, artsy, and with giant iMac TV’s that could allow you to take pictures of yourselves on the bed – certainly designed for more than just single old me.  Just in case you wanted to take a picture of yourself and remain anonymous (because the pics might get shown in the bar or are visible to other guests who stay in your room later) – there were looney tunes masks hanging on the wall which was partially fun and partially a little teeny bit creepy.

mama shelter marseilleWith a fantastic location and a magnificent yet casual restaurant and bar downstairs, one couldn’t be blamed for coming to Marseille just to stay at Mama Shelter. But, just in case you do want to explore, they’ve created their own map of offbeat and fun things to see and do in Marseille. Not your usual tourist map, this included clubs, bistros, sex shops, toy stores (kids toys), and plenty more that you may want to see. The map alone is worth the price of a room, which by the way, you can get for unbelievably low rates at any time of the year. An example would be the current special  – a deluxe double for two nights with breakfast included AND a bottle of champagne for 179 Euro. Breakfast by the way, was stellar with crepes, omelets, bacon, cheeses, meats, and much more.

Steak Tartare in MarseilleOne of the things you’ll notice about Mama Shelter is the cool outsider vibe. Often if feels more like a hotel designed around a cool restaurant rather a cool restaurant tucked in a hotel lobby. In fact, that is exactly what it is. Mama Shelter began in Paris as a funky restaurant club and then completed with a hotel. Check out this blurb about Mama Shelter if you want to check out the credentials….

Created by the Trigano family, the founders of the famous Club Med, along with Cyril Aouizerate and designed with the collaboration of Philippe Starck, Mama Shelter is poised to become the vanguard for a new type of boutique hotel.

Yeah, it was created by the people who made Club Med and I can tell you that Cyril Denoix,  the manager of Mama Shelter Marseille is one cool dude. During my time there I had the chance to chat with him over pastis and pizza in Mama’s pizza garden. Great pizza and more types of pastis than I thought could possibly exist.

Mama Knows Best Mama Shelter Marseille
Mama Knows Best.

Mama Shelter is more than a hotel, more than a restaurant, more than a very cool nightclub – it is already a landmark. It is a point of change in a city that is becoming more worldly just by the presence of Mama Shelter Marseille.  With architecture by Roland Castro and design by Phillippe  Starck – this place pops. Visually, emotionally, and temporally.

Every room has a kitchenette. Every room has a mini bar. Every room has deluxe toiletries. Every room has incredible lighting, super soft beds and comfy white duvets and fluffy white pillows in plenty. Mama Shelter is a sensual refuge for the masses.  Priced so that it can be afforded by anyone, but designed in such a way that is seems like it should be five times as much.

Enormous tables in the restaurant encourage dining with strangers and the food – I was fortunate to eat the best beef tartar I’ve ever tasted while I was there. I wish I could have eaten everything else I saw coming out of the kitchen.  A terrace, a yoga room, a ton of movies (regular or XXX) for free on the iMacs in the room and a staff that obviously was at least partially chosen for being beautiful.

Personally…I can’t wait to go back. Of course, I can also go to Mama Shelter in Paris or perhaps to their latest project in New York City. Any way about it…I know it will be great.

%d bloggers like this: