Please allow us to reintroduce ourselves… When we started TravelCaffeine several years ago, it was mostly a photography showcase, much like our other blog (Disney Tourist Blog) at the time, except for travel photos. As we started to post more of substance on DTB, this blog sort of got left behind. We weren’t really sure how best to approach our non-Disney travels, and posts became less frequent.
Since the start of this year, we’ve increased the regularity of substantive posts here. We’ve also narrowed the focus. Instead of random photos from places we’d just visited without any helpful info, we began targeting destinations with which we had a greater comfort level–places we love, want to share with others, and encourage others to visit.
This has meant a lot of posts about California, Japan, France, and the U.S. National Parks. While we still don’t have the breadth of knowledge about any of those places as we do about Walt Disney World–even the 43 square miles of that sprawling resort pales in comparison to the 500+ square miles of Los Angeles or the 5,000+ square miles of Death Valley National Park–we are comfortable offering planning advice for these places.
With regard to California, specifically, this seems completely logical. We started writing about the Disney Parks because we loved them, and wanted to share our experiences, and in so doing, help others plan their vacations.
It’s pretty much the same situation with other destinations we’re focusing on here. Readers of Disney Tourist Blog know I’m a huge cheerleader of the Tokyo parks, but that extends well beyond the parks to all of Japan (but mostly Kyoto). Same goes for California.
People often assume that we moved to California to be closer to Disneyland, which is not the case. If our aim were to be closer to a Disney park, Orlando would be the obvious choice for relocation. We moved to California because we fell in love with the state, and found ourselves itching to return at every possible opportunity while living in the Midwest. That you could ski in the morning and surf in the afternoon really appealed to us.
Granted, we neither ski nor surf, but the notion that it was possible held a lot of allure. (For what it’s worth, I have photographed the sunrise in snow-covered Yosemite and sunset at the ocean in Malibu in the same day.) The geographic diversity meant that mountains, desert, forest, ocean, and urban landscapes were all within a 2 hour drive. California has more National Parks (nine!) than any other state, and a ton of other things to do outdoors.
Upon arriving in California, we immediately began exploring and photographing the state. Between day trips to Los Angeles to explore the city to long weekend road trips I’d take (shoutout to William McIntosh, who does the majority of driving on those crazy adventures), we were dead-set on seeing and photographing the entire state. Friends joked that we saw more of California in a year than they had in their entire lives.
Nobody knew it, but it turns out California is a pretty big state and seeing and photographing everything could be complicated. 😉 From a photography perspective, I’m also a bit of a perfectionist. There are many places we’ve visited–and revisited–because the photo conditions were not right the first time. Heck, I long ago lost count of the number of times we went to the beach and I didn’t take a single photo because the sky clouded over. (May Grey and June Gloom are cursed things, and they are not always confined to those months!)
Realizing that seeing all of California was going to take…forever, we shifted our immediate emphasis to Southern California, primarily the greater Los Angeles area. We started making regular trips into the city, leaving first thing in the morning and staying late to avoid traffic. You’ve already seen some of the fruits of these visits to L.A. in the form of blog posts about various points of interest.
Today, we’re introducing a couple more. First up is our Ultimate Guide to Los Angeles. While this is still a work in progress, we feel it offers a lot of helpful planning info for visiting. Getting that guide posted was a top priority for me, and I’ve been working on it for a while.
The big reason I’ve focused on this is because so much of the Los Angeles planning info online is atrocious. The best material and blogs are aimed at locals (and thankfully, there are some great ones for that), but most tourist-oriented info is severely lacking.
I guess that summarizes the ‘new vision’ for TravelCaffeine in a nutshell. Focus on non-Disney travel destinations we enjoy and are knowledgeable about, showcase some of my photos from those destinations, and offer tips for visiting from our perspective. Basically, it’s exactly what we’re doing with Disney Tourist Blog, except for non-Disney.
Simple enough idea…not sure why it took so long to think of it.
Free Southern California eBook!
As part of this relaunch, we are giving away a new (FREE!) eBook, 101 Things to Do in Southern California. This has been a work in progress since the beginning of the year when I put together two lists in the “Notes” app on my phone: one of things we really liked that we’d already done, and another of things we needed to do.
I’ve put off the release of this eBook a few times already, wanting to take “just one more” visit to Los Angeles to hit X or Y point of interest, which I suspected might belong on the list. Unfortunately, that list of things we need to do has not gotten any shorter since I’ve created it. Every time I cross one thing off, it seems I learn about two new things and add those.
However, I’m pretty pleased with the finished eBook, even if I have to add the caveat that it’s not completely comprehensive. I’m not sure that something like that ever could be comprehensive, though. We could probably spend the rest of our lives exploring L.A. and not do it all. (We “only” have 11 years until the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, so we better get to work!)
The eBook is 51 pages long, featuring 75 photos, and (obviously) 101 things to do in Southern California. These things are broken down into regions, with the largest chapter (and sections) devoted to Los Angeles, and subsequent chapters covering the Beach Cities, the Valley, San Diego, and beyond. There are plenty of places near-ish to Disneyland, for those of you who are emphasizing those parks on your SoCal vacation.
If you want a copy of this totally free 101 Things to Do in Southern California eBook, all you need to do is subscribe to our newsletter and you will receive a link to download the eBook. You probably already saw the signup form on the top left sidebar, but if not, you can subscribe via the form below:
If you enjoy the eBook or our posts here on TravelCaffeine, we are hoping you’ll help spread the word, and share this site with your friends. We’ve put a ton of time into this all, and really appreciate your support. It would mean the world to us.
Likewise, we’d love it if you’d follow TravelCaffeine on Twitter or Like the TravelCaffeine Facebook page. We mostly just post landscape photos I’ve taken from our non-Disney travels. Even if you’re not planning a trip, beautiful landscapes are probably better than the political hot takes and other spam your ‘friends’ post on social media! 😉
We still have some pretty big ambitions for what the future holds in our California adventure. I’m not quite ready to share those right now…not because I’m superstitious and don’t want to jinx them…but because I have the attention span of a gnat. I’m not sure if today’s plans will end up coming to fruition, or if some shiny object will distract me and I’ll focus on something different.
As for the here and now, we’re going to focus on providing more practical planning advice and recaps of our experiences for the places we love, with our thinly-veiled goal being to convince you to visit…while also providing objective critique, so you know what’s worth your time and money, and what is not. We hope that’s something that interests you, and that you’ll follow our travels here on the blog!
One of the things we’ve been working on (well, technically our web-designer Adam Hansen has been working on while we’ve been providing marginally-helpful feedback) is a complete site redesign. This has been ongoing for the last couple months, as we try to find a mix of an aesthetic style that fits with the new direction of the site as well as something functional for visitors on mobile. We think Adam has done a great job with this.
If you’re used to the old layout, and like the familiar most-recent-post-first look, click the “Latest Post” tab on the top menu bar. The idea with the new layout is to highlight our best and most helpful posts on the main page. Another new addition is the “Destinations” tab on the top menu bar. This page is still a bit of a work in progress, but it’ll make navigating to posts about top destinations easier.
One thing I did do is cobbled together the logo. Our old one–a coffee bean as a suitcase–was literal to the name of the site, but we felt that a more vibrant color scheme along with an energetic logo would better capture the spirit of our posts. With a lot of content on TravelCaffeine about California and Japan, and a surplus of sunrise and sunset photos, I felt a retro-inspired sun logo made sense.
Californians will likely recognize the font in the logo…and perhaps will curse it as a sight frequently seen when sitting in traffic. It was actually one of two California license plate fonts I tested, with this look narrowly being my favorite. I have zero graphic design experience, and those who do might cringe, but I like it.
The current layout and design of the blog is mostly final, but there are still some tweaks that we’ll be rolling out over the coming weeks to spice up its character. As the ones who will (hopefully!) be staring at this site for hours each week, we’re also hoping you can offer some feedback as to what you like about the design, and potential tweaks you might like to see. We can’t promise we’ll implement all of them, but we would love to hear your feedback!