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Unveiling my new blog design!

Okay, perhaps “unveiling” isn’t the right word, seeing as it’s been up and visible in slightly different form for the last week. But I’m so excited about my new blog design that I feel like I need to proclaim its existence to the world!

This is the first time I’ve paid for work on my website; before this revamp I just used a free template from WordPress. As my blog has shifted focus and I’ve been looking into monetizing it, I realized the blog design I had wasn’t flexible enough, and to me it didn’t reflect my personality and tastes well enough.

Amanda of The Suitcase Designs set this up for me. I gave her the vaguest of instructions: simple, stark, not too “girly,” i.e. no pastels or scrolly letters. I wanted to be able to add affiliate links and use the drawing of an elephant that you can see at the top of the page.

She listened, she asked questions, and she responded to my requests and ideas in a friendly, business-like way. After the site was up, I still had questions and concerns, and she was able to answer them clearly. If you need a blog redesign, I would certainly recommend her!

About the drawing

The drawing started as a photo, taken by my daughter, Anne, when we were traveling in Malawi in 2012. In a rented SUV, we were bumping quickly along a dirt road leading to Nyika Plateau, a place my husband and I love. My husband was driving, our kids were in the back seat, and I was scanning the horizon for a suitable place to stop for a pee. We expected to arrive at our lodgings in about an hour, but I didn’t think I could wait that long.

As we rounded a bend, my husband stomped on the brake and we came to an abrupt halt in a cloud of dust. Ahead of us, perhaps 100 meters away, stood an elephant. It had only one tusk, and faced us in the middle of the road: a physical “You shall not pass.”

Nyika Plateau in northern Malawi (photo copyright Anne Hellersmith)

Nyika Plateau in northern Malawi (photo copyright Anne Hellersmith)

Elephants are very rare in Nyika, but occasionally cross the border from Zambia. We were many miles from the nearest turnoff, and there was no other route to the only town on the plateau.

So we waited. Initially my husband turned off the engine, but I insisted he start the car again in case we had to back away in a hurry.

The elephant, meanwhile, seemed to be having trouble making a decision. It took a couple of steps toward us, then wheeled around and took a few steps away from us. It stepped into the shrubbery on one side with its front legs, then backed off and considered the shrubbery on the other side.

This went on for a while. As far as we could see, it was alone. My daughter leaned out the car window and took lots of pictures. So did my husband and I.

Eventually, the elephant chose a side and ambled into the bush to the left of the road. We couldn’t see it anymore, but we waited a couple of minutes to see if it would change its mind. When it didn’t, we drove slowly down the incline toward where it had been standing.

As we passed the spot, I looked to the left and could see the elephant: it was not more than about ten meters away! Its ears were extended, something elephants do to appear more threatening. It works. I shouted at my husband “Go! Go! Go! It’s right there!” 

We sped off down the road. My husband asked me a short time later whether I still wanted to stop for a pee. I stuttered, “No way … because … elephants!”

The photo above is one of many taken that day by my daughter and, for me, it’s become more than a memory of our visit to Nyika. It’s become a representation of the journey I am taking: this year’s mid-life crisis, but also my journey of writing, and, extending it further, my journey in life.

Last year, a girl named Emma came to live with us temporarily while her parents searched for a house nearby. Emma is a talented artist. When I decided to pursue travel blogging more seriously, I asked her to convert the photo to a black and white drawing for me to use on my business cards and, as you can see, on my blog. That drawing is the result. It still represents my journey(s).

my business card

my business card

Affiliates

In the right margin, I can now easily add links to affiliates. What that means is that if there’s a product or service that I believe in, I can add a link to it, like the one there now for Vizeat. If you click on it, you go to that site as normal, but if you spend anything there (or, in Vizeat’s case, if you have a meal with one of their hosts, or if you become a host), I get a percentage. I’m hoping to raise a little money to help support this blogging lifestyle. I’ll choose these affiliates carefully, so you can trust them.

I can also add links to efforts I believe in, like the PRI #womenslives link that you can see now in the right margin. I’m taking part in that campaign—“a social publishing news incubator”—as you might have noticed if you follow me on Twitter. I’ll post about that in more detail soon.

Notice that there are other buttons in the right margin for sharing my posts (please do!) or to follow me on various social media (please do!).

So I’m pleased with the result: a clean, no-nonsense, easy-to-read look that’s flexible for me to use. What do you think of my new blog design?

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