28 Feb

Twitter Travel Tips: Building Community

When we left for our trip in June2009 Twitter had been around for a little while but it hadn’t really taken off…or at least I didn’t realize the value of it at the time. Since returning I’ve learned much more about how Twitter works and how it can be used as a traveler. I’m no expert by any means but I do think that knowing how Twitter worked would have changed how we traveled. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll share what I’ve learned so that you can put it to use in your own travels!!

Twitter is all about community; the interaction and connection of all those tweeters. It’s the community that makes that cocktail party worth dressing up for! Once you’re in the door, and have yourself a drink, you’ll start meeting new people, having conversations and connecting up all over the place!

Here are a few hints and tips to help you find your Twitter community.

Following. Following someone means that you are subscribed to that persons tweets. Everything that person tweets will show up in your Twitter timeline. It also means that person can send you Direct Messages.

Followers. These are the people that have chosen to follow you. Your tweets will show up in their Twitter timeline. You can send that person Direct Messages.

It is okay to follow people (and have them follow you) even if you don’t know them or have never met. It’s part of what Twitter is about; connecting with a broader community.

Lists. Lists are a great way to manage the people you follow. Instead of just seeing an endless stream of tweets from all of the people you follow, you can organize them into groups or ‘lists’ and then filter the tweets you see based on the grouping.

For example I have a list that contains all the travel bloggers I follow and another one for travel related companies I follow. I also have a list for lifestyle redesign tweeters and a special list I just made of new tweeters that contact me due to this series (then I can keep in close contact with them and help them along).

Finding People To Follow. You want to find people to follow so that you can see what they’re talking about and be part of the discussion; but how to find people that you might be interested in? You’ll want to look for people with common interests; or not. People who are experts in their field; or just like to talk about it a lot. Folks that share what they know; or are connected to those that do. Big conglomerates; and individuals. In short, you want to follow a wide variety of people to get the best conversation you can.

Here are some ways to do that:

  • Twitter | Who To Follow When you’re logged into Twitter, there is a Who To Follow link at the top of  the screen. Here, you can enter in a subject area and Twitter will recommend people for you to follow based on that subject.
  • WeFollow.com and JustTweetIt.com Both of these sites organize Twitter users into categories to help you find interesting people to follow.
  • Follow Who Others Follow If you’re interested in following someone; you like what they have to say and what they share; then look at who they follow and follow along!
  • Follow Other Peoples Lists If you look at another users profile, you can see what lists they have, what lists they are part of, and what lists they follow…all great sources of people to follow. You can either find individuals in the lists to follow or you can follow the whole list (just click the ‘Follow This List’ icon)
  • Follow #hashtags You can search for #hashtags (eg #rtw, #rtwsoon, #travel) and follow the list or find individuals within the search to follow (more on this next time where, in third party applications, you can set a column to monitor #hashtag conversations)

Conversation Remember that Twitter is all about connection and conversations. Talk to those that you follow and who are following you. The great thing about this cocktail party is that it’s not rude to interrupt; jump into a conversation, offer an opinion, ask a question…you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to meet people and how friendly people are.

Next time we’ll discuss third party applications and how they can make managing Twitter so much easier.


How are you doing in starting to use Twitter? Have you logged on and given it a shot yet? If not, there’s still time…get yourself an account, start finding some people to follow, and join in the conversation.

You can find me at @OneGiantStep…send me a tweet and let me show you around!

You can catch up from the beginning of the Twitter Travel Tips series with these posts:

Twitter Travel Tips: What The Heck Is Twitter?

Twitter Travel Tips: Setting Up Your Twitter Account

Twitter Travel Tips: Simple Syntax

25 Feb

#FollowFriday 25Feb2011

This weeks #FollowFriday follows the trajectory of a traveler with one backpacker just about to head out on an RTW trip, one couple at the 6 month mark of their travels, and another couple who takes long term travel to a whole other level!

Jaime www.BreakawayBackpacker.com @babackpacker

Jaime is just about beside himself as he prepares to leave on his RTW on 01Mar2011…that’s in just 4 days! I love Jaime’s writing as he is just so full of enthusiasm and excitement; it comes through in every post he writes. He has a compelling backstory that includes him screwing up pretty badly but then taking full responsibility for it and even using it as a lesson and a driving force to move him forward. I can’t wait to hear his stories from the road as I’m sure they will be adventure filled and honest. Congratulations Jaime!!

Poi And Kirsty www.NoPlaceToBe.com @noplacetobe

Poi and Kirsty just posted their 6 month on the road post…already. These kids are having a romping good time as they wander through China and South East Asia. They got hung up in Chiang Mai for two months…as many travelers do…but are back on the road now hitting Laos, Cambodia, and then back to Thailand. I love them; they are fun and light and such a cute couple too!

Dave And Deb   www.ThePlanetD.com @theplanetd

Canada’s Adventure Couple more than live up to their name and show us what long term travel can really look like.  They have been traveling all over the world for 13 years as they chase down adventure and fun at every turn. They are dedicated to seeing the world, giving back as they go and reporting their story truthfully. Their next big adventure is to take part in the Mongol Rally in July; driving from London, England to Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia while raising money for the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation. You can follow this adventure, and meet other memebers of the team, at TheSocialMediaSyndicate. Good luck guys…I’ll be following along for sure!

What about you? Who are you following this week?

Have you ‘Liked’ the OneGiantStep FaceBook page yet ?

23 Feb

Twitter Travel Tips: Simple Syntax

When we left for our trip in June2009 Twitter had been around for a little while but it hadn’t really taken off…or at least I didn’t realize the value of it at the time. Since returning I’ve learned much more about how Twitter works and how it can be used as a traveler. I’m no expert by any means but I do think that knowing how Twitter worked would have changed how we traveled. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll share what I’ve learned so that you can put it to use in your own travels!!

Today we’ll talk about Simple Twitter Syntax; the pieces of Twitter that will help you speak in the Twitter ‘language’. There’s not much to it and it’s not that hard but, like anything, you should practice and play to get a better understanding.

Public The first, and most important, thing to remember about Twitter is that it is public. Tweets, retweets, mentions, replies…they are all absolutely, 100% available to be seen by other Twitter users. This isn’t like email where you control who sees what you write, or like Facebook where only your friends can see; everyone can see everything.

Tweet The 140 character message that you send. You can simply write, you can reference other users (see below), you can add links to websites/blogs (simply drop the url into the message; use a url shortener to save precious characters), you can add pictures (more on that later)…but, at it’s heart, a tweet is a simple 140 character message.

@name This is your Twitter user-name; mine is @OneGiantStep. Using a persons @name in tweets is a great way to be part of the community.

  • @reply When you are reading a tweet there is an option to reply. Clicking on reply will start a new tweet with that username at the start of the tweet. You can then add your 2¢ to the conversation and tweet it back.
  • @mention Placing a persons @name into any tweet will make that tweet show up in their @mention tab; they will clearly see that you mentioned them in a tweet.

Retweet Retweeting is sharing what others have tweeted. You read a tweet that is funny, insightful, interesting or informative and share it with your own followers. Having someone retweet your tweets means that you are reaching a much broader audience than your own set of followers. It’s a great way to acknowledge that you appreciate what someone wrote or shared.

You can retweet by clicking on the Retweet button or by prepending a reply tweet with RT. Depending on the interface you are using (we’ll talk more later about 3rd party applications) you may or may not be able to edit a retweet. Placing an RT in front of a reply will give you the option of editing the retweet; you can add comments before the RT or at the end of the message…but you still can’t go over 14o characters! Be creative.

Direct Message The only way to send a private message to another user is to DM (direct message) them. DMs are like Twitter email and can only be viewed by you and the person you sent it to. You can send a private message (only to someone who is following you) by clicking on the Message option or by prefacing your tweet with DM.

#Hashtags Hashtags came about through Twitter users and the desire to be able to tag tweets that are related to a particular subject. If you include a hashtag in your tweet, that tweet will be included in the list of tweets when that hashtag is searched. Make sense?

For example you can use the search function to search for all tweets that are tagged with #rtwsoon. This hashtag is used to identify tweets that might be of interest to those that are going on an RTW trip soon. You can include the #rtwsoon hashtag in any of your tweets that might be of interest to this group too.

Other #hashtags that I use regularly are:

  • #rtw
  • #travel
  • #lp (indicates Lonely Planet)
  • #rtwnow
  • #citycode (for example if I want to know about happenings in Victoria I search #yyj, the airport code for that city. I could also use #victoria)
  • #country (same as citycode; I could use #thailand, or #canada)
  • #company name (for example #rei, or #jetblue, or #gapadventures)

Next time we’ll talk about following, followers and using lists to manage it all.


You can catch up from the beginning of the Twitter Travel Tips series with these posts:

Twitter Travel Tips: What The Heck Is Twitter?

Twitter Travel Tips: Setting Up Your Twitter Account

21 Feb

Remember That Time: We Realized We Would Never Make It As Drug Mules?

Now that we’ve returned home and have settled back into our routine lives again we find it funny how our travel stories keep coming up. Invariably one of us will look at the other and say ‘Remember That Time…’ I thought it would make a good series; a way to tell these small stories that take us back in the blink of an eye.

We got our Vietnamese visa from an agent in Bangkok, Thailand about 6 weeks before we planned on being in Vietnam. We didn’t know where else we might be able to get it and so pretty much guessed at how long we would take through northern Thailand and Laos to get there.

Vietnamese visas are strict. You must declare your entry date, may not arrive early, and must leave 30 days after entry. It cost 1350 Baht or about $44 each.

At the time that we received the visa we had not yet booked flights. Jason was pretty good at the whole booking flights over the internet thing by now so he had his eye on a number of possible flights and, when one came up that looked good, he booked it lickety split.

It was about a month later, while we were in Laos, that he checked the tickets and realized that we were booked to leave Vietnam 31 days after entry…a day later than allowed.

Yep, checked, double checked, counted out the days…one day late. Shit.

We briefly looked into changing the ticket; the non refundable, non changeable ticket and then thought ‘meh…how bad could it be?’.

We arrived at the airport super early, dressed in the best clothes we had; not wanting to leave anything to chance and wanting to appear like the ‘good travellers’ we were. Our plan was to play it cool; don’t point out the visa error; and maybe even act surprised if they noticed.

Right away, at the check in counter, the attentive agent noticed that our visa had expired the day before. We looked at her and immediately confessed that, yes, we had accidentally booked flights a day late…so much for our acting careers; over before it’s begun!

She pantomimed/explained that we couldn’t have a boarding pass and instructed us to leave our bags and go to speak with the immigration officer. In retrospect that’s exactly what you should do; leave your bags unattended in a foreign country with a strict drug policy while you go to discuss your invalid visa. Not. So. Smart.

We found the agent and presented ourselves. What a sorry heap of nerves, anxiety, and fear we were. So much for playing it cool. I was sweaty, shaky and red as a beetroot as we pantomimed/explained our situation and how sorry we were to have made such a stupid, rookie mistake.

He was gruff, if not slightly amused, as he called over another agent and began talking on the phone to someone I assumed was his supervisor. There was a lot of tsk-tsking and stern looks before he explained how lucky we were and how kind he was being as he waived all fines and signed the all-important document that would allow us to retrieve our bags and a boarding pass.

I tell the story light-heartedly but let me be clear; I don’t think it’s a good idea to screw around with visitation or immigration policy in any country. The rules are clear and it’s not hard to follow them. You can be sure that, from that day forward, we double and triple checked absolutely every entry/exit plan we had. It’s just not worth the risk.

18 Feb

#FollowFriday 18Feb2011

It’s #FollowFriday again!!

Wow, it’s all about Twitter this week isn’t it? The Twitter Travel Tips series debuted this week; I can show you how Twitter would have changed the way we traveled. You don’t have to listen but, I tell you, I will be taking advantage in my future travels! Sign up now and join the conversation. You can find me at @OneGiantStep. Say hello!

Theresa www.LivesOfWander.com @livesofwander

I have been following Theresa and Jeff since before they departed on their RTW in Oct2008. We were still scheming and planning but already knew we would start in S.America which is where they started also. We followed intensely; watching to see how they would do; and, of course, they did just fine as we did also. They continued on through Africa, SE Asia and India providing great stories that are worth reading if you’re about to head out yourself.

Upon return Theresa started teaching ESL to refugees that have been forced to come here from their own countries. She writes about it this week in Language As Hope: Teaching English to Refugees. It is an eloquent piece that touches on the struggles of these people but, more importantly, of their grace and kindness under such pressure. I have always thought that refugees and immigrants are such brave people; I may have set out to travel the world and be uncomfortable, but they have been forced into it and do it with such courage.

Matt Kepnes www.NomadicMatt.com @nomadicmatt

Matt’s a heavy hitter. To me, at least, he represents what many of us travel bloggers aspire to be; he makes a living from his travel websites and travels around the world as he does it. What I love is that, along with doling out really practical information, he also keeps it very real and talks about his difficulties with the whole set up. His lastest post, Learning To Go With The Flow, is a testament to that in that it could be written by a travel newbie (as it was by me more than a year ago) but, in fact, is about him rediscovering how going with the flow is important at all the travel crossroads.

Todd Wassel   www.ToddsWanderings.com @toddwassel

Todd’s Wanderings is an excellent website featuring stories from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East; including his two time Shikoku Pilgrimage in Japan. The stories are fascinating and the writing is compelling, but the reason I include Todd is the Travel Blog Challenge where he has made a name connecting travel bloggers and compelling us to try harder, dig deeper and share with each other. The articles he writes, or arranges, along with the homework and connection he promotes ensures that, those of us involved, will surely be successful.

If you love travel stories, then check out ToddWanderings.com…if you’re a travel blogger and you haven’t joined the Travel Blog Challenge yet…why not?

What about you? Who are you following this week?

Have you ‘Liked’ the OneGiantStep FaceBook page yet ?

16 Feb

Twitter Travel Tips: Setting Up Your Twitter Account

When we left for our trip in June2009 Twitter had been around for a little while but it hadn’t really taken off…or at least I didn’t realize the value of it at the time. Since returning I’ve learned much more about how Twitter works and how it can be used as a traveler. I’m no expert by any means but I do think that knowing how Twitter worked would have changed how we traveled. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll share what I’ve learned so that you can put it to use in your own travels!!

Some of you may already have a Twitter account. Some of you created one since the What The Heck Is Twitter post; I did notice a few new names in my follower list yesterday…hello to @nomadseen and @jayner72…good work on setting yourselves up and finding me!

But some of you out there reading may be unsure of how to even set up a Twitter account.

So, let’s start at the beginning. In this video I’ll go through a quick Twitter account set up and point out the pieces that will make a difference as you move forward connecting with people.

To those of you that already have an account; send a tweet my way to @OneGiantStep…I’ll respond to your tweet and we can get connected!

Twitter Travel Tips: Setting Up Your Twitter Account from Gillian Duffy on Vimeo.

14 Feb

Twitter Travel Tips: What The Heck Is Twitter?

When we left for our trip in June2009 Twitter had been around for a little while but it hadn’t really taken off…or at least I didn’t realize the value of it at the time. Since returning I’ve learned much more about how Twitter works and how it can be used as a traveler. I’m no expert by any means but I do think that knowing how Twitter worked would have changed how we traveled. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll share what I’ve learned so that you can put it to use in your own travels!!

What The Heck Is Twitter?

Twitter is a ‘micro-blogging’ site where you can post 140 character bites; that’s about 25 words. Short and sweet…that’s the point. It’s not about long diatribes or novel writing but more about information updates and community building.

It runs on a continual timeline meaning that, unlike a blog, items aren’t organized into categories or pages and, if you aren’t ‘on’ Twitter at a particular time you will miss all that is happening at that particular time. But don’t worry, that’s okay; one of the first things you have to get over is that you might be missing out. Just enjoy what is happening at the time.

It’s confusing…and overwhelming.

The classic Twitter analogy is to compare it to a cocktail party…and I think that’s what scares most people. Who wants to go to a party where you don’t know anyone?  You walk in the room and it seems as though everyone knows everyone else and they are all having a fabulous time.

Well, it’s really more like a party you went to in college; you know, after a couple of beers when you felt a little more social and maybe you did have a friend or two that you could drag along with you.

You might wander around a little at the party; see what’s happening in the other rooms, find the bar and the snack table; you’ll likely stumble upon a group or two that are interesting to you and that will open their circle a bit and let you in on the conversation.

Before long you’re laughing, and chatting, and sharing; making new friends and reconnecting with old ones and you really can’t remember why you were so hesitant to come in the first place!

It’s fun…and interesting.

Just like any party though, it’s better if you do a little prep ahead of time. You know…figure out what to wear; how your going to get there and home; what to drink; should you bring a gift?

It’s not that complicated and, really, you’ll have a good time! So, come along for a bit and let me show you around. I’ll introduce you to some terms and how-to’s; we’ll get some tools to make it easier and find the ‘party within the party’. At the end you’ll realize just how Twitter can make your travels easier too.

So, how about you get yourself a Twitter account so we can start putting the tips to use asap? You can find me at @OneGiantStep…and don’t worry if you don’t even know what that is yet…we’ll cover that next time!

10 Feb

#Follow Friday 11Feb2011

Happy #FollowFriday everyone!!

The theme this week seems to be food and couples with two Tweeps writing about food as they travel, and two two-stepping it together as two-some travellers. Really, I kill myself sometimes!!No?!

Have you signed up to Twitter yet to join the conversation? You can find me at @OneGiantStep. Say hello!

Ayngelina www.BaconIsMagic.com @ayngelina

It’s pretty self explanatory…the girl writes about pork products!!! She’s had Jason drooling since she started! She writes about much more than bacon and ham though, telling stories about her travels through Latin America. It’s interesting watching her evolve in the process as she struggled with leaving Central/South America to continue her RTW plans and, ultimately, decided to stay in Latin America for the duration and then revealing that, secretly, she intends to stay on the road indefinitely. She is one to watch as she transitions into a location independant life!

Kim and Clark  www.ToUncertaintyAndBeyond.com @2unb

Kim is a fellow SpunkyGirl who has had a whirlwind last couple of months. She and her husband, Clark, recently returned from an around-the-world trip and she is currently in Guatemala (sans hubby) brushing up on her Spanish and wandering the country. I’m interested to see what Clark gets up to!!

Akila and Patrick  www.TheRoadForks.com @theroadforks

Akila and Patrick have also completed their 13 months of traveling around the world. They write about their travels with a foodie focus that will keep you coming back for more. This week they started a series called The RTW Planning In Retrospect Project whereby they look at the planning they put into their trip before they left and re-evaluate how important that planning was once they were on the road. Not only are they telling of their own planning hits and misses, but they are also including a Travelers Talk Back piece asking other travelers what their hits and misses were. Brilliant help for those of you planning your escapes now! You can look for my voice in the Talk Back Tuesdays.

What about you? Who are you following this week?

Oh, and don’t forget to ‘Like’ my new OneGiantStep FaceBook Page!!

07 Feb


It comes up, and boils over, with no notice whatsoever.

It feels so raw, so powerful, so…overwhelming.

Its a draw that feels undeniable. Un-fightable.

Sometimes I can’t even stand the thought of travel. I can’t read any blogs, hear any stories, or even look at my own pictures because it fills me with that hot lust and powerful longing that leaves me teary eyed and breathless.

This is it. A sense of magic. A sense of discovery.


wanderlust from Thinklab on Vimeo.

Update: some of the commenters are assuming the video is mine; it is not. I gratefully share it from ThinkLab; and, yes, it is amazing isn’t it?

04 Feb

#FollowFriday 04Feb2011


It’s #FollowFriday again…thank goodness! It’s always a day to look forward to catching up with tweeps from the week and highlighting those that I found interesting.

Next week I’m going to start a small series on how I use Twitter and how it would have changed the way we traveled. So, if you’re not signed up for Twitter yet, do it and have a look around so you’ll be ready to take my tips and tricks and run with it! Look me up at @OneGiantStep and say hi!!

Sherry Ott  www.Ottsworld.com  @ottsworld

I include Sherry this week because of her recent stories of Jordan and Petra, a place that I loved; but it is her sense of adventure and story telling that keeps me coming back. I first discovered her as she made her way teaching English in Vietnam (a place I had not yet visited but fell in love with once I had) and followed her Tiger Balm Tales chronicling her trip with her father to Nepal. This year, she is teaming up with people she barely knows to drive, over land, from England to Mongolia in the Mongol Rally. A serious adventurer!

Brendan van Son  www.BrendansAdventures.com @brendanvanson

Brendan has been traveling in South America recently; I can relate to his stories from Chile and Argentina but, even more interesting, he was able to go to Antarctica and see penguins!! And they look as cute as you imagine they would! Brendan also curates the very popular Top 100 Independant Travel Websites list. He puts a ton of work into this every week as he reads all the blogs, checks their Alexa ranking and does the math. I was super excited last week when I finally made it onto the list! And can proudly say that I move up 6 spots this week! Thanks Brendan for all the work you do on this and for introducing me to many more amazing travel blogs!

Karen Walrond  www.Chookooloonks.com @chookooloonks

I love Chookooloonks for its calming effect on my day. Karens’ photography is stunning and the words she writes to accompany her photos are always so calming and introspective. I love that her posts usually drop into my feed in the evening so that it’s often the last thing I read at night. A perfect way to finish the day. 

What about you? Who are you following this week?

Oh, and don’t forget to ‘Like’ my new OneGiantStep FaceBook Page!!

02 Feb

Empress In Training

 Empire Building Kit

I looked around as Chris Guillebeau asked how many people in the room were bloggers; and that’s when I realized why I was here.

We hadn’t traveled that far, but it had still been a journey to get to the Vancouver bookstore that was hosting the signing of Chris’ new book ‘The Art Of NonConformity’. We had driven the car to the ferry dock, sailed on the ferry across to the mainland, taken a bus to the Skytrain station, rode the train into town and then walked to the bookstore.

All the while I wondered why it was that I was willing to take such steps just to meet someone who had written a book that I had read. What was it that compelled me to meet someone whom I admire? What was I getting out of it that I was prepared to go through all the trouble? How was this going to change me in any way?

When I saw all those hands go up I realized that I was there to meet like minded people; fellow travelers, and bloggers, and writers, and dreamers who are trying to find their way in a conventional world.  The energy in the room was amazing as we all listened to Chris tell his story and encourage us all to find a way to live our own story.

His message of “You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to” may not be groundbreaking but his consistent delivery and leading by example is inspirational. He teaches that we all have the power to change; a philosophy that I believe in strongly.

One of the interesting things about the people I met that day (hi to Angie, and Trevor, and Sarah!) is that, during our conversations, no-one ever asked why? We shared our ideas and dreams and goals with each other with little prompting; listened to each other’s stories; and encouraged each other to keep stretching and reaching; but no-one ever asked why I was doing this or that…they only asked how. It’s a small difference, but it felt good to be around people who already understood the why and were just genuinely interested in the how.

I don’t remember when I first found Chris’ website and his writing, but I do know that he has definitely influenced me since we have come home. The power, and freedom, and confidence that I have felt since returning is magnified when I read his work.

His website is a quiet revolution of entrepreneurship, unconventional ideas, goal-setting and a general movement toward doing what you want without listening to that wave of doubt that stands in your way. You should read it…all of it. There is a ton of stuff there and I don’t think there is anyone that could read it and not get something out of it. Seriously.

There comes a time, though, when it’s time to invest in the future. A time when you have to put your money where your mouth is. We weren’t home long when I signed up for his Empire Building Kit.

I needed a push; some ideas; an example or two of how other people have built their own empires. And it delivers. Being frugal, I signed up for the least expensive option but still received 10 case studies, 5 video interviews and, for me, the most important; a daily email for 365 days showing me what to do, how to do it, what has worked and what probably won’t.

It is the daily email that has been the most valuable. Every day Chris emails me and, quite frankly, although the content of the email is always interesting and relevant, full of useful information, and keeps me on track; what it really does it keeps me focused on making changes, on being uncomfortable and in-the-moment. It keeps my ideas in the front of my mind and doesn’t let me ‘forget’ what it is that I said I wanted to do.

In the end I’m super happy that I made the trek to Vancouver that day. I plan on attending a couple of conferences this summer (TBEX’11 in Vancouver and The World Domination Summit in Portland) and this was a baby step to see what it might be like. The experience has left me more excited than ever about each of them and wondering where they might take me!

You can just call me Empress Gillian!

What are you doing to invest in your future? Are you planning on attending any conferences/meet-ups/gatherings in your niche this year?