At least for us, blogging is more about relationships and not just the numbers

At least for us, blogging is more about relationships and not just the numbers

This week marks the fourth year of our travel blog, Postcard Jar, and we can’t thank you enough for following along on our journeys. Since we wrote that very first blog post from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, we’ve been collecting all kids of data and analytics to gauge the success of our blog. We’ve kept track of page views, Facebook followers, bounce rates, comments, shares, and retweets.

But at the end of the day, we’ve come to realize that at least for us, the most important number of all is how many wonderful relationships we gained.

Chamber of Commerce staff with Postcard Jar, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Two of our favorite new friends, Reba Bueno and Joni Nash from the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

When we look back over the past year, what makes us the happiest are the trips we took with family, the new and interesting people we’ve met along the way, the readers we’ve inspired to go places, and the incredible opportunities we’ve had to partner with businesses, community groups, and destinations.

Cocina Economica Los Chilangos, Cozumel, Mexico

We had a wonderful meal at a restaurant in Cozumel, Mexico. The Cocina Economica Los Chilangos is actually in the living room of some local residents. The truly authentic Mexican food is amazing and we really enjoyed the company of others at our table.

Instead of giving you a detailed summary of our year of blogging by the numbers, we thought we’d share a few of our favorite travel experiences and a some of the relationships that have impacted us the most.

After Steve quit his job as middle school principal last summer, we took a wonderful vacation with our daughter, Meghan, through Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, eventually arriving at the port in Galveston where we boarded the Carnival Valor for a five night cruise to Mexico. It was wonderful for just the three of us to spend time together, reconnect, and relax after a grueling school year.

Carnival Cruises Valor

Carnival Cruises Valor

Then, just one day after returning to our home in Crete and doing six loads of laundry, we loaded up a 12-passenger van and took four young college men from our college ministry on a vacation to The Ozarks. We have really grown to love these young men (and many others from our college ministry) over the past few years and we counted it a real privilege and blessing to be able to take them on a family vacation, since their real families are far away.

We took Meghan and four of the young men from our college ministry on a family vacation to The Ozarks. They loved the Ride the Duck tour and all of them got their licenses to drive the duck.

We took Meghan and four of the young men from our college ministry on a family vacation to The Ozarks. They loved the Ride the Ducks tour and all of them got their licenses to drive the duck.

We also took an end-of-summer trip with Steve’s mom and dad across the Nebraska Sandhills. We enjoyed the relaxing time we spent with them, exploring new towns and places while admiring the incredible scenery that a drive off the beaten path of Interstate 80 provides. Because of busy work schedules in the past, our time with Steve’s folks has been somewhat limited and it was great to have these experiences with them and the memories that will last a lifetime.

Smith Falls, Valentine, Nebraska

We had a wonderful trip around Nebraska with Steve’s mom and dad this summer. Here we are at Smith Falls near Valentine, Nebraska.

After our Nebraska adventure, we returned to Crete just in time to prepare for our hometown’s celebration of the total solar eclipse. We sold t-shirts and postcards that weekend and invited friends and family over to share the experience with us at our house, which was right in the path of totality. Fellow travel bloggers Sara Broers of Travel with Sara and Tim and Lisa Trudell of The Walking Tourists also joined us, which was so much fun!

Lisa Trudell (and her husband, Tim of The Walking Tourists) and Sara Broers of Travel with Sara have become good friends. We were thrilled that they traveled to our home in Crete, Nebraska, to watch the total solar eclipse with us.

Lisa Trudell (and her husband, Tim of The Walking Tourists) and Sara Broers of Travel with Sara have become good friends. We were thrilled that they traveled to our home in Crete, Nebraska, to watch the total solar eclipse with us.

Along with our parents, college ministry students, and long-time friends, we also had a few new friends we met that weekend who joined us on our front lawn to view the moon crossing over the face of the sun. I’ll never forget introducing our new Canadian friends to Nebraska sweet corn (served from a cooler full of hot water with a thin layer of butter at the top) and sharing the experience with others from far away places like Sri Lanka and St. Kitts.

We had such a good time with Ann's mom, Carol, on a trip to Oregon to see the coast and watch the Nebraska Cornhusker football team play the Oregon Ducks.

We had such a good time with Ann’s mom, Carol, on a trip to Oregon to see the coast and watch the Nebraska Cornhusker football team play the Oregon Ducks.

In the fall, we took my mom on a trip to Oregon for a Nebraska football game and a little Pinot Noir tasting before heading back to Pawhuska, Oklahoma, to judge the National Indian Taco Championships there.

Indian Taco fry bread being cooked in oil at the National Indian Taco Championships in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Indian Taco fry bread being cooked in oil at the National Indian Taco Championships in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

That trip back to The Pioneer Woman’s hometown was the start of many wonderful relationships with so many new friends there. The Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce had invited us to be “celebrity” judges for the contest.  When we called them back to say we weren’t really celebrities, they responded, “Well, you’re celebrities to us!” and they welcomed us with open arms. We enjoyed our time in Pawhuska and were made to feel a part of the community by everyone we met.

We loved Pawhuska so much, we took our moms back a few weeks later to visit The Pioneer Woman Mercantile and explore the town a little more. Needless to say, they loved it and we will always cherish that special time with our moms.

Pioneer Woman Mercantile morning coffee, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Our moms enjoy an expertly crafted cup of morning coffee at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile.

Over the course of this last year, we’ve met fascinating people wherever we’ve gone and we’ve gotten to know so many of you through your comments. Your encouragement means the world to us and we’re so thankful you enjoy reading our blog.

What you’ve said

[well]

From Mary Hughes:

“I really enjoy the road trips you take, and the food pictures you take and share. You pretty much cover everything I like. Just keep up the great work! Lol”

From Anonymous:

“Thanks so much for sharing all your stories and pictures! I truly enjoy all of them.”

From Alicia:

“I stumbled across your blog thanks to Twitter and I am glad I did…Love this blog!”

From Neodyssey:

“You all write such a great blog. Thanks for continuing to share about your travels!”

From Anonymous:

“Love reading your blog! Keep up the good work.”

From Jana Fulton:

“Really enjoyed this tory! What fun u two have! Can’t wait to read more.”

From Natasha:

“OH MY GOODNESS! What a GREAT combination of personalities in the writing. I loved walking through Magnolia with you Ann as I live in Canada and it will be a LONG time before I am able to cross that off MY bucket list…and Steve..wow..I could hear so many men’s sentiments in your quips.

Just want to say that I will definitely subscribe to your blog. I don’t subscribe to many but I certainly don’t want to miss out on your dual adventures. Thank you for sharing…

Bless you both!”

From Dee Williams:

LOVED this! What a fun way to blog. In between all the great descriptions, Steve kept me laughing.”

From Anonymous:

“Love your story! My husband did too. I think he’s ready! [to go]”

From Donna Rutherford:

“Love your blog! Keep it coming!”

From Dorothy Pavel”

“Awesome pictures!”

From Lois Lilleholm:

“Great picture! You two have so much fun!”

[/well]

What’s next for us:

We’re off to a very busy start this year, having just returned from a month-long trip to Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Mexico, and the Florida Keys. We’re at home catching up this week and then it’s back to Pawhuska for the Chamber of Commerce Gala and quick trip over to Tulsa to check out an apartment for our daughter, Meghan.

She’ll be moving there this summer for nursing school and we’re so excited to this next step in her journey (plus, we just love visiting Tulsa).

Despite being raised a Nebraska Cornhusker, Meghan will be attending nursing school at OU.

Despite being raised a Nebraska Cornhusker, Meghan will be attending nursing school at OU.

We have several speaking engagements planned for this spring, including a talk on Social Media in Tourism at the Plains Safaris Conference in Kearney, and we’ll be making another trip to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota for some tests and follow-ups.

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota

We’ll visit the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, this spring where Ann will have some more tests and meet with her doctors.

May will be a busy month with graduations and getting Meghan moved and we’ve got a wonderful trip to Italy and Greece that we’re finalizing plans for this summer.

It’s exciting for us to think about these plans, but more importantly, we look forward to the time with family, the people we’re going to meet, the stories we’re going to tell, and the many ways our words and pictures will hopefully inspire extraordinary travel for everyday people like us, and like you.

Thank you again for coming along. And let us know what you’d like to see more (or less) of in our fifth year of blogging. We’d love to hear from you.

Blogiversary 3: What a year!

Blogiversary 3: What a year!

Who’d a thunk it? Three years into this crazy adventure we call travel blogging, we’re having the time of our lives and we can’t thank you enough! Readers like you have inspired us every day with your comments and suggestions, notes about your travel experiences, and of course, your postcards.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for sending us postcards from your vacations!

We are so thankful for your interest in our little Postcard Jar and hope you know how grateful we are to be able to write about extraordinary travel for everyday people. This week, as we celebrate our third blogiversary, we thought we’d take a look back at the past year and give you some sneak peeks at where this journey is taking us next.

It was three years ago today when we penned typed out our first blog post from a hotel in Rochester, Minnesota, while visiting the Mayo Clinic. [You can read that first post HERE] We started a blog as a way to take our minds off of the health issues I was facing and share with others one of the things we enjoy most in life — traveling. Shortly after our 2nd Blogiversary last year, we decided to get a little more serious about this whole travel blogging hobby and we attended TBEX North America in Minneapolis, Minn.  TBEX is a conference for travel bloggers and representatives of the travel industry and me just say, all the cool kids were there and they made us feel oh, so welcomed.

The Radisson Blu rolled out the red carpet and this incredible ice bar for TBEX North America.

Not only did we get to experience a fantastic pre-conference tour of Stillwater, we met some of the most interesting people and successful travel bloggers like Maven on the Move,  Lou Mongello, Backpacker Brock, and Vicki Winters.

We also met with lots of destination reps, took in a photography lecture, and learned so much more about all of the social media platforms. And (perhaps most importantly) we got to visit the Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America after hours, with free rides and complimentary Dip-n-Dots and all.

Steve was so excited to be able to play all of the carnival games at Nickelodeon Universe after hours for FREE!

The whole experience just got us more fired up about blogging and we put in as much time on our blog as our schedules and my health allowed this year. We documented our visit to England, our road trip across Nebraska, and all of the great ports from our cruise in the Caribbean, including our favorite island of St. Kitts.

A highlight for us this year was traveling to both Stonehenge (in England) and Carhenge (in Alliance, Neb.) within the span of a month.

Since this time last year, we’ve added 40 new posts and worked hard on beefing up our social media presence. We started hosting a few Facebook live events and it was great to connect with our followers online.

By mid-year, our efforts were really staring to pay off. While on vacation in the Baltic Sea, our daughter Meghan noticed a message on our Twitter account [you can follow us @postcardjar] and quickly emailed us about it. A young, social media savvy reporter from our local CBS affiliate had messaged us to ask if we’d be her guests on the 10/11 morning show called First News Nebraska. Natalie Micale had read about our travel blog in Buy Local Buy Nebraska magazine and wanted to have us on to talk about our travels and our blog!

It was so cool to be on our local CBS station with our actual postcard jar!

We agreed and just after completing a weeklong trip across our home state, we found ourselves waking up at 3 a.m. to get to the TV station by 4:30.

Natalie Micale was just great to us!

We ended up doing four segments on the morning show that day and Natalie posted the videos on her Facebook page so were able to share them with our followers who weren’t quite out of bed with the roosters that morning. We had a blast on the show and that only sparked more conversation about Postcard Jar and got us even more excited to share our love for travel.

Seeing the interest in our segment on Nebraska travel, we decided to focus a little more on local and area destinations throughout the summer. We joined the Crete Chamber of Commerce where we live and signed up to sponsor a photo booth at our town’s annual Great Pumpkin Festival in October.

We grateful for help at our photo booth from friends and family like De’Andre and Meghan (and the Pipers).

A month later, we found ourselves hosting a Chamber Tech Tuesday event where we shared our new-found knowledge of social media marketing with other small business owners. And, to top off our business ventures, we got a Nebraska tax ID and we’re now selling customized postcards!

We were humbled that two of our readers drove down to the Pumpkin Festival to meet us and check out our Crete postcards!

Also last fall, I traveled to the western part of the state for the Nebraska Travel and Tourism Conference where I learned so much more about the wide variety of travel and tourism destinations here. Steve wasn’t able to go because of his school schedule (he’s a middle school principal — God bless him), so I took our daughter Meghan with me. We made lots of good contacts there and I was even interviewed by the Omaha World-Herald for a story they were doing about the conference.

Scottsbluff National Monument in western Nebraska,

Upon our return, we were contacted by a nearby community college and asked to teach a class on Nebraska travel. A little hesitant at first, we eventually agreed and were delighted to see “Postcards from Nebraska” offered in the winter non-credit class schedule.

Our very first Postcards from Nebraska class at Southeast Community College in Lincoln, Neb.

Steve and I taught our first class to 18 enthusiastic Nebraska travelers in January and it was a blast! We’re hopeful that we’ll teach more classes in the near future and have even talked with the college about leading some day trip tours. We’ll keep you posted.

It has just been incredible to see how our travel blog has grown in the past year and we couldn’t be more grateful for all of the love and support we’ve received from readers like you. You guys are AMAZING and we can’t thank you enough for coming along on this journey with us.

As always, THANKS for sharing!

Celebrating our 2nd blogiversary!

Celebrating our 2nd blogiversary!

Two years ago today, we sat in a Doubletree hotel in Rochester, Minnesota, where we had returned for a third time since that January for appointments at the Mayo Clinic. The next day, I was to have an electrophysiology study and a heart biopsy in hopes of helping doctors diagnose the illness from which I’d been suffering for several months. That day, as we waited to hear if I had a minor, treatable illness or an serious, incurable condition, we decided that regardless, there was no time like the present to get going on an idea we’d had for a long time.

The Mayo clinic in Rochester, MN.

The Mayo clinic in Rochester, MN.

We sat down in the executive lounge at the hotel, downloaded a picture we’d taken earlier that day of the Mayo Clinic, and wrote our first blog post for Postcard Jar. After several hours of maneuvering our way through a new WordPress website template, we nervously hit the “Publish” button and our first travel blog post was on-line.

No one read it. No one even knew we had a blog. But that was OK. It was more for us at that time. A few days later, I would be diagnosed with a rare inflammatory disease called cardiac sarcoidosis and the travel blog quickly became something to keep our minds off the serious health issues we were facing just two years into our marriage. It was also a way for us to share with others one of the things we enjoy most in life — traveling to someplace new.

Since we began Postcard Jar two years ago, we’ve shared 76 posts, including 7 tips for travelers, an overview of Nebraska’s Nicest Nine places and attractions, postcards from readers like you, and highlights our trip to Europe last summer. We’ve loved taking pictures of the places we’ve visited, the foods and drinks we’ve tried, and the people who have made our travels so special. We’ve learned a lot about other cultures and traditions. We’ve seen amazing cathedrals abroad and found unique museums close to home. Travel may not always be easy for me, but we’ve made adjustments to our expectations and done what we could, when we can. As my my cardiologist tells me often, life is short — go the places you want to go and see the things you’ve always wanted to see.

So we have.

A postcard from Jerusalem

A postcard from Jerusalem (via Italy).

And we couldn’t be more grateful for those like you who have come along on this journey with us. In just 24 months, we’ve figured out (mostly) how this blog works and through social media connections, we’ve been able to attract more readers like you every month. And YOU GUYS ROCK! You’ve liked, shared, commented, and even sent us more than 50 postcards for our jar!

 

Here’s a little breakdown, by the numbers.

Facebook

As of yesterday, we had 857 page likes on Facebook and our followers spanned 18 states in the U.S. and 17 countries across five continents. While most of our followers are from the United States, we do have a handful of readers from countries like Italy, Tanzania, Brazil, and even Saint Kitts! Not surprisingly, our hometown of Crete, Nebraska, has attracted the highest number of domestic followers (139), although we also have readers from places like New York City, Greenville, Mississippi, and San Diego, California.

 

 

Admittedly, we still struggle with some of the mechanics of integrating Facebook with our WordPress site and hope we can learn more about that this year. [If you happen to be an expert in this area, please message us immediately!]

 

Twitter

Steve typically keeps tracks of our Twitter account and has learned a lot about promoting our site through tweeting from other travel enthusiasts like @travelwithsara and @thewalkingtourists. A group of Midwest travel bloggers has also hosted several Twitter chats that have also helped us learn this medium a little better and share ideas. We’ve gained 146 Twitter followers in two years and recorded 407 tweets.

 

Pinterest

While Steve does a great job with our Twitter account, he won’t touch Pinterest. And that’s just fine with me! I thrive on ideas, so when I found Pinterest, it was a match made in heaven. I’ve created 34 boards for everything from business travel tips and gifts for travelers to travel quotes and decorating with travel (who knew?). It has taken little effort to collect 639 pins while gaining 119 followers.

 

Instagram

Instragram is probably my favorite social media outlet. It’s quick and easy and I just love all the filters (Amaro and Sierra are my favs) that make our pictures look great! In our first 24 months, we’ve posted 222 photos and videos and have 130 followers. We appreciate all of the love we get when post new photos, and are especially grateful for our niece, Emma, who is almost always the first one to click on the heart for every single photo we’ve posted. Love you, Em!

As we celebrate our 2nd blogiversary today, please know that we are so thankful for all of our followers and we want to get to know you even better. We love getting your postcards and seeing where you’ve been and here’s your chance to tell us even a little more about YOU! We hope you’ll take the time to comment (look for the speech bubble at the top of this post) or “leave a reply.”

1. Who are you? What’s your name? How old are you? Where do you live? What do you do?

2. What do you like most here? Travel tips? Places we’ve been? Postcards from readers? Pictures of pretty views? Review of museums and attractions?

3. Random question — what’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever packed in your suitcase?

4. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and why?

5. If you could ask us any question, here’s your chance! Ask away …

We would be remiss without thanking Ciana Cloud for helping us get started, and other bloggers like Sara Broers of Travel with Sara, Tim and Lisa Trudell from The Walking Tourists for showing us how to navigate the travel blog world. We’re also grateful for Roger Yant and Patty Kreifels at Shop Nebraska who include an excerpt from Postcard Jar in each issue of their magazine. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

[well]When you’re traveling next, be sure to send us a postcard at Postcard Jar, P.O. Box 334, Crete, NE 68333. We’d love to hear from you![/well]