9 simple steps to SEO success

No jargon, minimum technobabble – find below an easy to follow guide to SEO for nomads, small businesses and the terminally busy.

Reading time: 9 minutes

All of the below is completely manageable on your own and it should only take a few weeks of steady progress to get the groundwork done. That said, if you’re time poor, have major ambitions or would just prefer to focus on another area of your business then it might make sense to hire a Freelancer. (Like me!)

Contents:

  1. The Fundamentals: What is SEO & how does google work
  2. Check off the on-site basics
  3. Create a keyword list and strategy
  4. Make a content plan
  5. Write content/hire content writers
  6. Optimise that content
  7. Monitor performance
  8. Local SEO
  9. Trends

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimisation is the art of tweaking an entity so that it reaches the top of the results within a given search engine. This can refer to the ‘classic’ search engines such as Google/Bing/Yahoo but it can also refer to Youtube, Apple’s app store and anywhere else you can manipulate a listing to rank higher.

Google is the world’s biggest search engine and therefore the obvious starting point and what i’ll be using for all the examples. That said you should also be considering how to reach the top of the rankings in Bing, Youtube and any other search engine which is relevant to YOUR business.

How does Google work?

  1. Google has a piece of software which is constantly scouring the web for new pages and grabbing basic info on their status/performance
  2. Once discovered these pages are then added to their database
  3. Google then shows the ‘best’ results to its users in a descending order based on the words or ‘keywords’ users type into the search bar

How does Google decide what the ‘best’ results are and what do i do with it?

Google’s ranking criteria is regularly updated but according to various studies the below are some of the key factors:

  1. User intent behind the search  – for example: Do people want to make a purchase (Transactional intent) e.g ‘buy watch’, or are they researching a product purchase ‘Best gold watches’ (investigational), asking a question  ‘How do i..’ (informational), a local search ‘ … near me’, or hunting down a particular website. (Navigational)
  2. The volume and quality of links to your website, within it and away from it.
  3. The experience a visitor has once they land on your site (How many people click through to your site from Google once they see your listing? (CTR) Do lots of people leave your site shortly after landing on the page? (Bounce rate)  How long do people stay on the page etc? (Dwell time)
  4. Optimised content – Content length and quality are both ranking factors – the correct placement of keywords on the page is also vital.
  5. Domain Age (65% of top 10 results in Google are at least 3 years old, and URL (Site address and the links within the site and how relevant they are to the keywords)
  6. Technical SEO – Keyword placement in: Header tags <h1> etc in your blogs/articles, titles, meta description (the long description of a link underneath the main link in the search results) the site load speed, does the site look good / work on mobile?
  7. Social signals – Google says social links do not count towards a website’s rank but Cognitive SEO did a study of over 23 million shares and found a clear positive correlation. This is potentially because more people sharing a link simply means more visibility and others are more likely to share that link off social media. Additionally, social media platforms seem to rank quicker which means more visibility for your company on google. Either way, you should be considering your social strategy.

These are some of the bigger areas to think about, but for a much more exhaustive list of over 200 ranking factors check out this link: https://backlinko.com/google-ranking-factors. Not today though guys, no fear!

How long does it take to rank

Search engine optimisation is simply not an area where you can expect a big overnight impact. As a rough rule of thumb: An Ahrefs study showed it takes between 2-6 months to rank in the top 10 search results on google once a given page had been optimised.

But… Once you do rank, you can enjoy all that tasty ‘free’ traffic. Mmmmmmm. Just remember your competitors are chasing those same yummy keywords so don’t settle and keep going after new keywords and occasionally refreshing your content.

Okay, I knew all of that, get to the juice…

Start with your website

  1. Security – is your site secure? (HTTPS) If not, it’s easy to set up. Here’s a guide: http://www.howto-expert.com/how-to-get-https-setting-up-ssl-on-your-website/ – remember you might get a free year cert depending on the agreement with whoever is currently hosting your site.
  2. Technical basics:
    1. Make sure you’re set up on Google Analytics (you can track performance by page/product/marketing channel etc – guide: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXcQ7rVn3ro),
    2. Make sure you’ve set up Googles search console (guide: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aozclsavSu4)
    3. Make sure you’ve submitted your sitemap to google. (guide: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/183668?hl=en).
    4. Make sure you audit your technical SEO efforts and tidy off other hygiene factors like checking for broken links etc on the site. You can use Screaming Frogs crawler to review both your own and competitors websites for common SEO issues. There’s a free version. Here: https://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/seo-spider/
  3. Make sure your site looks good/works on mobile devices. You can check how it looks in your browser if you use chrome by clicking the triple dot menu button, hovering over more tools and clicking developer tools. Then press the little device button on the top left hand corner. (Big ipad, little phone) + refresh the page. Or just use this Google tool, lol: https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly
  4. Make sure your site loads quickly ( Check in Google analytics or use another tool, here’s a good one: https://gtmetrix.com/ ) If it doesn’t, reduce the size of images, remove any unnecessary plugins, scripts etc. The tool will give you a list of areas to focus on.
  5. Make sure your website shows signs of providing a good user experience – Look at heatmaps (crazy egg have a free month trial here: https://app.crazyegg.com/email-signup) so you can see visually how people are interacting with the site, check your google analytics account for pages where you see high bounce rates, low dwell times, high exit rates etc. http://www.google.com/analytics

Keyword strategy

Keywords are the words/phrases people type into search engines and it’s really important you get this bit right. In fact, it’s a key part of the process. *wince* If you chase keywords where there isn’t enough demand for example, or target too many keywords at once, then you can end up ranking for none of them or succesfully ranking for keywords which don’t deliver enough traffic to get you return on investment.

You want to be targeting keywords (more specifically, creating content for those keywords) which have a decent amount of monthly searches but low enough competition that you can get into the top 10, and ideally no.1 spot. The longer tail (more words) a keyword has, the more specific it becomes and naturally the search volume declines but the word becomes more niche/targeted. (Which can mean better conversion rates)

How do i find keywords?

  1. Get a free trial of SEMrush (if you’re on a budget, you can cancel before the end of your free trial) and steal the keywords your competitors are using. It’s easy to use but there are guides on how to use the tool. Google it! You can also use  spyfu and get access to your competitors top 10 kw’s for free.
  2. Based on this, expand out and make a big list of all the keywords you can think of that are relevant. (This is every word or set of words you think people would type in to google to find your website) and remember all the modifiers: Best, cheapest, discount etc
  3. Take your keyword list and expand it by using these free tools:
    1. Keywords everywhere chrome extension (See keywords literally everywhere in google, it’s free)
    2. Keyword shitter (Terrible name, good free tool – enter a keyword and it spits out 1000’s of variations on the theme. Use it with the keywords everywhere extension to get search volumes, competition and cost per click also included in results.)
    3. Google Keyword planner (the ugly, clunky classic, still works though!)
  4. Dump all these keywords into a spreadsheet with 4 columns initially ‘Keyword, monthly search volume, CPC (cost per click) and competition score’
  5. Filter these by search volume and competition score. You want high volume, low competition keywords relevent to your business. Once you have a short list, start checking what already ranks for those keywords. Do you think you can create better content than what is currently ranking? (Better content could mean a more comprehensive blog, it could mean a custom tool, it could mean an infographic, it depends on the keyword and the user intent, don’t reinvent the wheel check what’s already working and ranking)

Don’t overwhelm yourself and give up, start with whittling down to just 5 keywords. (You’ll get way more than 5 anyway because google sees the same words in different orders and with seperate ‘stop words’ individually. So ‘relationship advice’ will also likely rank for ‘advice for relationships’ ‘advice relationship’ ‘advice on relationships’ etc.

Awesome. Next step.

3) Make a content plan

  1. Use the keyword list you’ve built yourself and put a content type and topic next to each keyword. Then input a rough guide on what you need to deliver to rank for that keyword based on who is at the top. (Again, check what’s already working for those keywords and improve upon it if possible – with your own flair, of course!
  2. For content ideas you can also use tools like Buzzsumo, google alerts and social media platforms to see what is trending.
  3. For bonus points you can stick all the other important pages on your site in this same list and plan target keywords for those also
  4. For double bonus points can also make a note here of where you’re going to promote the content once it’s done. One piece of content can be reused many times in many different forms. Be smart about it. (Social channels etc)

4) Right – time to get that content written. Couple of options here:

  1. Free – Write it yourself, here’s an awesome guide: https://neilpatel.com/blog/the-ultimate-guide-to-writing-blog-posts-that-rank-in-googles-top-10/
  2. Cheap – Hire a VA (Virtual assistant) based abroad and then edit the content yourself to bring it up to standard, good sites include fiverr.com and upwork.com.
  3. Fair – Hire an experienced freelancer off a site such as upwork, freelancer.com, or *cough* WordPress. :’)
  4. Expensive – Hire an agency.

Bonus tip 1: Whoever writes for you, make sure you check the work you’ve been given is unique: http://copyscape.com/
Bonus tip 2: Picking the right headline for your content is VITAL. Some notable studies even suggest that 50% of contents success is directly attributable to the headline. Yeah, 50%. Read more: https://neilpatel.com/blog/the-step-by-step-guide-to-writing-powerful-headlines/

5) Content written? Fantastic. Time to optimise.

  1. Make sure the keyword you are targeting with each bit of content appears in: The H1 tag, (H2 + H3 tags also weak ranking signals), the title, the URL, the meta description, related images (and ‘alt text’ this is text for those who are visually disabled and IS a ranking criteria) and naturally within the body copy.
  2. Make sure you’ve got your internal linking down: Link to other relevant posts and pages on your site that you’re particularly keen benefit from some extra search engine juice. When in doubt, stick these links at the bottom of each piece of content. (Also link off site to other authoritative domains where relevant)
  3. Once you’ve done this, use a tool to audit yourself: If you have wordpress, Yoast is good. Other includes ‘All in one SEO’. For completeness sake i’ve included a big list of every SEO tool in the monitoring section below.

6) Content optimised? Groovy – time to get some links

You want to gain links naturally from high authority (trustworthy websites) – you can check the authority of other websites for free by downloading the MOZ toolbar here: https://moz.com/products/pro/seo-toolbar

Some quick tips:

  1. Don’t buy links or persue ‘Black hat SEO’ techniques – google could penalise you and delist your site. Yeah. Not worth it.
  2. Get yourself listed on relevant business directories, ensure info is consistent  
  3. Create quality content (You should already have done/ be doing this) which people will naturally want to link to.
  4. Put your content in front of influencers with a big following who can help you get heard. (Bloggers, IG influencers etc)
  5. Get links from friends and relevant business partners
  6. Share your content on social media (Remember different platforms favour different content flavours so don’t just copy + paste – tweak)
  7. Use Moz, SEMrush or other tools to look at competitor backlinks as these people may also represent an audience for your content

Bonus tip: To get some high quality links right from launch how about sending out a press kit to the major news sites …

7) Page 1, don’t mind if we do! Now to monitor performance…

There is a metric ton of different tools available. Here are some of the good ones:

  • On Page – Yoast, All in one SEO, Screaming frog, Moz on page tool… If you’ve really got a budget i’ve heard amazing things about Cora but it’s £250 p/ month. https://seotoollab.com/cora.php
  • Keyword research – Moz, Ahrefs, SEMrush, Spyfu, Keywords everywhere (chrome extension), Keyword shitter, google keyword planner.
  • Backlinks – Moz, Ahrefs, SEMrush
  • Competitor analysis – SEMrush, Moz, Ahrefs, Spyfu, Screamingfrog
  • Content – Buzzsumo, Google Alerts
  • Analytics: Google Analytics
  • Trends: Google trends, Social media trending pages, trending pages for amazon/ebay etc

Here’s a more complete list of all the SEO tools available: https://backlinko.com/seo-tools

8) A word on local SEO

Right i haven’t really touched on local SEO yet which is a whole topic in and of itself. But, here are some quick golden wins:

  1. Set up & optimise your google my business profile immediately. This appears at the top of search engine results and saves you a lot of time and effort ranking.
  2. Business reviews also appear in GMB – ask happy customers for a review. Reviews are a ranking criteria, and they just plain look good.
  3. Make sure your business information is available and up to date across all the key directories as this is one of the most crucial local SEO ranking factors. This means including your name, address, phone number and website address. This info should be the same on all platforms. Inconsistencies can impact rank. For a quick audit try Moz local, here: https://moz.com/products/local
  4. Have a good think about local and industry specific keywords people will be using: ‘ X near me..’
  5. Embed google maps into your site

A comprehensive guide for local SEO which also talks through setting up google my business, google search console and other key bits for you here: https://www.improvemysearchranking.com/comprehensive-local-seo-guide/

9) Thanks mate – what trends in SEO should i be aware of?

  1. Voice search (https://www.searchenginejournal.com/voice-search-optimization-changes/259975/)
  2. Video (Cisco reckon c80% of all web traffic will be video by 2021)
  3. Ability to answer informational searches ‘How do i..? and get rank 0 (Answer boxes appear ahead of normal natural search similar to how local searches feature a GMB listing before organic results)

And that’s a wrap. Hope you found this helpful.

If you have any questions – I’m always happy to chat. If you need some help with your own SEO then do please get in touch via the contact form.

Be well!

Banger of the week:

A

Back home in time for tea and Brexit

brexit breakfast

Oioi Saveloys!!

I’m alive. Alive in the UK that is (gah) and since i’ll be staying a bit longer than originally planned I’m going to get cracking again. Don’t want to leave you guys all high and dry. 😉

I’ve put off the flight to NZ and the next stage of the adventure for two reasons, 1) it’s bloody expensive, 2) it’s bloody expensive.

It turns out that boot-strapping an ecom store, launching a freelance business, writing a doomed album, battering my head against a doomed blog and planning an equally doomed trip across the world simultaneously amounts to a complex, emotionally conflicting and undoubtedly costly affair.

Also, despite vivid daydreams to the contrary, nobody seems forthcoming with a massive wad of cash. Boo, hiss. Thus poor ol’ Seb must toil along with the unwashed masses until freedom beckons forth once more.

Blackadder:
Oh God! Bills, bills, bills. One is born, one runs up bills, one dies! And what have I got to show for it? Nothing! A butler’s uniform and a slightly effeminate hairdo! Honestly, Baldrick, I sometimes feel like a pelican: whichever way I turn, I’ve still got an enormous bill in front of me!

I’m kidding about the unwashed masses, but not the work, unfortunately. I do enjoy it though. Mostly because I choose how and when i do it, which was the whole point. Freedom is within reach, my friends! (Almost) I’m still not earning anywhere near where i was as a full-time sales manager in London but am so much happier, dictate my own schedule and business is picking up.

Anyway, v brief update out the way – I’ve been contemplating some lessons learned from my first few steps into location independence (ew) and the realities of (wait for it) Digital Nomadacy. *Throws up*

What i wanted to focus this brief post on is a bit of an ego boost for YOU (ya bloody legend) and the importance of ongoing education.

The whole show is about you – start to finish

Let me make this super clear. You should be investing in yourself. You’re worth it. You can do it. £11.99 on a course from udemy.com is a bazillion times more valuable to you than that extra 10-bag of herb or those 3 pints during the week. Nobody will get your knowledge/success/money for you. (And it does come in that order)

And for the more aspirational readers: If you seriously want to change up your lifestyle and successfully work remotely or set up your own web-based business then you’re going to need a whole host of different skills whichever route you choose. This will take time, so get started now.

Besides, ask any recruiter – you get some serious brownie points for showing off your efforts to continually improve yourself.

Platforms & resources

I’ll be setting up a page which breaks down my favourite learning platforms which i’ll put here. Use it. Bookmark it + come back to it. If you’ve got no money – that’s fine. There are loads of fantastic free resources which i’ll be adding over the coming weeks. To take one example: A great way to get set up as a DN is through freelance coding. Harvard (yes, Harvard) have their famous CS50 computer science course + web dev course available online for free.

Here: https://www.edx.org/cs50

No coding? No problem. How about writing, teaching, sales, design, analysis, entrepreneurship… The list goes on. Don’t feel like you have to get it right first time either, most of these areas give you transferable skills so it’s not time completely lost. Just get started with an hour a day.

Get certified

Prove to future clients/employers that you’re the guy/girl for the job by getting certified. Certs can vary a lot in weight so make sure you do your due diligence first. Following on from the point about RE: computer science just as an example – EdX work with the insituations they promote to offer certification. Basically you can get a qualification from Harvard for under £100 and have a fantastic CV / LI / Upwork bullet point. You’re welcome.

This is especially vital if you’re moving into an entirely new industry/role with no prior experience of course…

Social media communities

Make sure you involve yourself in communities related to what you want to do. There are awesome for passive learning: FB groups, Discord chats, Sub-reddits and blogs galore exist for each and every topic. Don’t be overwhelmed or expect to become an expert over-night. Lurk and read, then start asking relevant questions. If you’re already an expert then these boards are still great for networking and finding work.

Mix up the media

People have different learning styles, you can find out yours here: https://www.how-to-study.com/learning-style-assessment/

Also, it pays dividends to switch up the media you use to consume content. Mostly because it keeps things fresh. Try out videos (youtube, it’s free), podcasts (soundcloud, it’s free), books (kindle, pretty cheap) etc and always remember that the practical application of this knowledge is the best way to quickly cement it within yourself.

Give yourself structure

Structuring your learning is key for the best possible results. As a rough guide, try 1 hour each weekday with a quick review each Sunday. This is what i do and find it works well for me but the important bit is to plan your education around your life in a way that minimizes barriers. (For me as much as i hate it, it’s first thing in the morning)

To keep yourself organised use:

  • Calendar (Such as ical for mac)
  • To do lists (Wunderlist, as an app and browser so you keep your to-do’s across every device)
  • Notes (Evernote or Onenote) – Use these tools for storing articles, different bits of media and related info all in one place.

And that’s a wrap

Hope you enjoyed this and found it helpful. If you did then show your love and give me a follow! Settling into this project for the long haul now. 🙂

Banger of the week:

Barcelona, Spain

Should i go to Barcelona?

Definitely. I had planned to stay for a week and ended up there for almost 3. Barcelona is the first city i’ve visited on this trip so far that i could really imagine myself living in. It’s got all the standard amenities you’d expect in a modern metropolis but comes with the added bonus of a fantastic climate (i was camping on a beach in December) and a super laid back culture – all set against a backdrop of beautiful vistas and some bloody tasty munch. (Tapas / paellas etc)

Also, you can’t turn a corner without stumbling on some Gaudi masterpiece or gothic wonder. As usual though for me Barcelona was all about the folks as i met some really beautiful souls.

What were the best bits for you?

 People, weather, laid back culture, remote working setup

Can i see more pictures?

Of course: http://www.instagram.com/how_not_to_travel

Where should i stay?

I stayed in quite a few different hostels during my time. Itaca hostel (9/10 Hostelworld) was good for the community vibes, St Christopher’s (8.9/10 HW) was essentially rooms built over a bar so good for socialising but it felt a tad touristy and if I’m honest, rather smelly.

My favourite place to stay without a shadow of a doubt was Born Barcelona. (9.6/10 HW) Walking into this gem you felt like you were the newest member in an incredibly eccentric family all bouncing around one giant apartment. The staff were fantastic, the location was central and the facilities were one step up vs the usual fair. We’d eat/drink together on the balcony each night and usually end up exploring some part of the City together.

In retrospect the team at Born really did go above and beyond for pretty much every aspect of hostel life from joining us on excursions around the city which i’m sure they’d seen a million times before, to helping us out when we were lost or stuck (daily) and introducing us to the groups favourite (low key/budget) bar in central Barcelona. Go to Mariachis for good vibes: lots of people making music, laughing and smoking weed in the street, plenty of tourist-friendly Spanish peeps and competitively priced alcohol. They even sell mead!! (Fermented honey)

Where can i work? 

If you’re not feeling particularly social then working within the hostel itself is always an option as there are usually quiet places you can settle down and get on with things.  One of the advantages of Barcelona, however, is the plethora of Co-working spaces available to nomads. There a good breakdown of spots here: https://www.shbarcelona.com/blog/en/live-barcelona-digital-nomad/ and i agree that the  Sant Martí district is the place to go. There are loads of beaches, parks and various co-working spots including the trendy Valkiria Hub.

Is Barcelona good for remote workers?

 Very – I completed a few different pieces of client work, managed to get a good volume of teaching done and spent a happy few days kicking off my latest ecom project. I’ll start sharing more info on how i’m marketing / scaling these projects as they grow.

What should i do when i visit Barcelona? 

Go check out the view of the city from bunker hill (It’s here: Carrer de Marià Labèrnia, s/n, 08032 Barcelona, Spain) you look down on the city from some bunkers built in in the 1930s and it’s the best view you’ll get of Barcelona. You’re welcome. 😀

Also while you’re here obviously you need to check off all the basics: Watch some flamenco dancing (they start dancing at a very young age and the performance is incredible) and check out all the Gaudi stuff especially Park Guel and Sagrada Família (a cathedral),

Oh, if you’re into working out check out the calisthenic park on the coast. It’s awesome getting a pump in the great outdoors surrounded by waves and like-minded people pumping hench portable speakers. (Here: Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta, 17, 08003 Barcelona, Spain)

Right, booze – Go drinking in the gothic quarter as there are quite a few trendy bars scattered through the meandering streets, definitely hit up Mariachis… Oh and you’re in Barcelona so obviously do go clubbing, there are quite a few good ones right next to each other on the coast by the marina. (DO NOT TURN UP LATE, THE QUEUES ARE HORRENDOUS)

Barcelona Cock up count: 2

Deleted my Instagram in a drunken moment of madness so there go 1k followers, gah. Also, my wallet was stolen which meant going almost a week with NO money and NO cards in a foreign country. Eep. (I was saved by the kindness of a gentleman called Juan who also happened to be a complete legend)

Learn from me

  • There really are LOADS of pickpockets in Barcelona, watch yourself, i had my wallet and some cash go missing on separate occasions.
  • Book Born Barcelona hostel
  • Escape the city
  • Don’t delete your Instagram account? … *Facepalm*
  • Scooters are to be avoided at all costs (Context below)

Barcelona story

The best bit of my stay in Spain was actually the moment i ventured just outside Barcelona. The plan was to escape the rush and camp out on a beach we’d discovered a few days before at this place called Garraf.

But… This wouldn’t be how not to travel if things went smoothly…

Juan and i heard a rumour on the grapevine that there was a man with a tent we could use. After a suitable period of procrastination and several drinks, I set off to pick up this up without closely checking the route on my phone. (Obviously)

What had seemed ‘close’ in a moment of madness was actually a brisk 2-hour walk. I didn’t realise this until 25 mins in and because i had no cards or cash and only 15% battery i had no option but to run.

I arrived just in time, overheated and disgruntled with a dead battery. After some kerfuffle asking random people in broken Spanish to borrow a phone and message the gentlemen in question i finally got hold of him on facebook.

Unfortunately he’d lost the bloody tent.

We rustled around his basement for an hour and I had to do most of the searching because the poor lad was hobbling around on crutches having clearly had some sort of recent accident. After an hour it was decided that the fabled tent of destiny was clearly contemplating a warmer climate at his parent’s place ‘around the corner’.

Thus began a completely unnecessary but undeniable exhilarating break-neck race through the mean streets of Barcelona on the back of ‘tent man’s’ scooter. Suddenly it became all too clear why my man was on crutches.

We tore it the whole way there nipping through every minuscule gap in traffic. Bear in mind that throughout this entire ordeal my arse was hanging off the back of the bloody thing – i’m too lanky to own a scooter let alone ride shotgun. Terrifying.

After 3 near misses, several excited ‘wooooooops!’ and more than a few drops of wee, we made our way unscathed into the mountains at the back of the city and safely arrived at our destination. I peeled my shaking hands off the scooters flimsy handles (the only thing preventing Britain’s finest export from flying off a ‘road legal machine’ the size of his left bollock) and crossed my fingers.

SUCCESS! Unfortunately, tent guy needed to go, so i was left with a 3 hour walk across Barcelona to get back to my hostel and rendezvous with Juan. You wouldn’t believe how dark the internal monologue got at this point – BUT WE HAD A TENT!


The week we spent on the beach was fantastic, it was a real break from hectic city life and a dose of what freedom could really taste like. Every day we’d rise with the sun and every night we’d stumble home in the dark to build a fire, then play guitar, sing and talk until the alcohol hit us and we passed out to the sound of the waves.

We climbed a couple sketchy mountains without serious incident, slept on a boat thanks to a lovely local woman we met in a bar, slept in the back of a van one particularly freezing night (thanks to another new acquaintance) and spent 5 serene/hilarious days messing around on the beach. Beauty from the chaos!

A particularly memorable moment was hiking through the hills to a Buddhist temple to meditate. Before this little break from the madness I’d never had much time for the concept but I’ve kept the habit since and find myself indulging more and more. I know it sounds a little hippy and ethereal but i can’t recommend enough taking a little time every day to stretch, meditate and just .. Be.

One final note on the fine people of Garaff: they were without exception incredibly friendly and helpful. When it became clear over the days that we were on a shoestring budget we were given gifts of food, tobacco, accommodation and beer at various points. Even without this kindness though it was clear the locals were a good sort. Approachable, intelligent and very eccentric. Case and point the nutters annually welcome the near year by holding hands and running into the freezing waves together. I’ll add the vid below in the next few days..

Suffice to say i was sad to leave and i will definitely be back.


So there we are – more cock-ups, more memories and more ‘learnings’ . Fellow and aspiring nomads, you could do a lot worse than Spain for a home from home!

That week in Garraff was particularly poignant for me because it was during this time i knew i’d made the right decision, that i was going to be travelling for a while and that things just might be okay after all.

The blog is on temporary pause as I’m kicking my heels in the UK for a few weeks before heading off to NZ, Australia then working my way through Asia.

Thanks for reading! See you soon. :D>


Berlin, Germany

berlinatnight

 | A snap of the view wondering home from the station one crisp night |

How not to travel Berlin

Summary:  Berlin was intense in many ways. The city is steeped in history and the capital certainly doesn’t shy away from its chequered past, embracing the painful lessons of the previous generation and evidencing this through a distinctly liberal approach to life.

I got quite a bit of teaching done in Berlin but progress on my other projects was stunted somewhat by a desire to make the most of a short stay. Nevertheless, i did manage to hunt down a very decent work spot and have a few strong tips on the nightlife corroborated by my new local friends.

Nomad list: The Nomadlist.com score for Berlin is 4.1 (The city scores well across the piece especially when it comes to acceptance of foreigners and clubbing)

Best bits: The liberal stance, the historical tours, and the nightlife.

More pictures: http://www.instagram.com/how_not_to_travel

Good for work?: Yup.

Where to work: There are loads of cafes and bars with Wi-Fi. I did most of my work in the Hostel as there were a few quiet corners to plot and get on with things. I can, however, recommend Oslo Kaffebar for a more upmarket and super chilled spot to get your grind on.

What to do: Loads, top two for me being the nightlife and walking tour.

Cock up count: (4) Cash flow issues due to delay in payment from a client, a padlock too small for my locker which meant almost losing everything, my phone battery dying almost leaving me lost abroad and another case of overspend. (Thank god it gets cheaper as I move south through Europe)

Learn from me

Finance – Anticipate delays in receiving payment/communication from clients, I’ve been waiting on an update from one party in particular for a few weeks now which has played havoc with my cash flow. Establish clear end dates and regular catch ups for all projects to avoid sinking the ship.

Security – Lots of the lockers in Berlin require a ‘medium’ sized padlock to correctly secure your belongings. (By which i mean the mini locks that come in 2 packs are NOT secure.)

Social –  I now spend my first day in each Hostel introducing myself to anyone in sight (without being too pushy) and either forming or joining a group early doors. If you’re stuck just rally together a few new or lost looking people at the hostel. This is a great way to instantly gain a wolfpack for exploration and make some friends – the people really are the best bit of traveling,

General – Charge your powerbank each night and keep it in your day bag.


berlin bus

| Snap of le bus whilst on the road to Germany |

Things got off to a good start in Germany as i actually managed to catch the bus from Amsterdam to Berlin on time. I’d booked an overnight stint reasoning i’d be able to sleep en route and save some hostel money. Although this is true, in practice sleeping on a night bus can be a difficult proposition, especially if you’re a 6 ft 4 fidgeter. I’d also forgotten to charge my powerbank which meant by the time i arrived at my hostel my phone was dead. (This could have been a nightmare)

There are quite a few must do’s in Berlin. The two key ones for me being hitting up the nightlife and taking in the cities rich history.

berlinwall

| Snap of the wall during my visit |

I love the way in which the people of Berlin have owned the mistakes of the past and immortalized those lessons for others to see and learn from. There are loads of fantastic quotes which turn pain into positivity and the Holocaust memorial within the city was also beautiful in its own haunting way.

berlinwallquote.jpg

| Snap 2 of the wall during my visit (imaginative captions, right?)|

A quick aside on the cultural piece: I didn’t get any great pictures unfortunately but one of the most authentic Berlin moments that i had was sitting with a few friends in a park watching people play frisbee (at a ridiculously advanced level), drinking coffee and chatting to locals as the sun went down. Highly recommend checking out one of Berlin’s many parks and following suit. The picture below is to illustrate the point but was taken long after the park had started to empty.

berlinpark

| An admittedly terrible snap o’ one of Berlin’s many parks |

Anyway – in terms of acom, i was staying at the ‘Heart of gold’ hostel (https://www.heartofgold-hostel.de/) which was a good laugh. It had a pool table, a guitar, a bar which opened late and friendly (very relaxed) staff. It was also within easy spit of central so i feel comfortable recommending it to you fine folk.

I stayed in a ‘mega dorm’ which had around 40 beds in it. These were split into 3 vague sections so it’s not as daunting as it sounds but obviously due to the number of people in one space it’s possible you’ll be disturbed during the night. One criticism of the hostel is the lack of any real structured social calendar – there was a pub crawl and a free walking tour which were both great but i think more could have be done to introduce people to their fellow travelers.

I found it very easy to make some fast friends here. A few hours into day one a few of us gravitated together and formed a rag-tag band of explorers which meant familiar faces and a squad for excursions. Two of the beauties below.

| Selfie time |

Moving on to partying – there are plenty of opportunities to get your groove on. I’m going to be upfront and say i missed the bus on this one, (shock) I went to plenty of different venues but was tipsy enough not to remember place names and managed to miss most of the famous clubs entirely.

One i do recall was Suicide Circus. The sound system was pretty good, the smoke machine was turned up to 11 and the lighting was above average for what i’ve come to expect in London but certainly nothing mind-blowing. The place was also surrounded by street dealers. As per usual – don’t buy anything off people in the street.

Berlin story

To give you a taste of how crazy the night scene can be in Berlin, these places were touted again and again by locals and hostel workers as the top spots to plot:

  1. Sisyphos (Club) – Massive space within a former factory with large open spaces, a monster sound system and festival vibes.
  2. Kit kat (Sex club) – For those who feel like really diving into the deep end this is a club where people are openly searching for a certain breed of hedonistic opportunity. The sound quality is meant to be insane, there’s a pupil check on entry (to make sure you ARE high/drunk not the reverse) and your phone is also taken away at the door. Once inside there are some pretty intense opportunities to watch/indulge in group or solo sex.
  3. Berghain (Gay nightclub) – The infamous Berghain is often touted as Berlins most exclusive club. Allegedly inside you can expect to find a ridiculous sound system (the best money can buy), open drug use and gratuitous sex scenes in many of the clubs dark rooms and cubby holes.  Many people go to Berghain for periods of over 24 hours and sometimes actually sleep within the club. It’s notoriously difficult to get in but i have it on good word that Sunday during the day is the time locals go and the best way to avoid queues in excess of 4 hours.

If you want a laugh – read this class one-star review of Berghain.  https://www.onlytechno.net/1-star-review-berghain-something-must-read

berlinspaceneedle

When it came to the working portion of nomad life i found that Berlin wasn’t really the place for me but this was mostly a conscious decision. I wanted to make the most of a short stay and had some issues with delayed payment from one of my clients which led to a pretty sticky cashflow situation. Bit of an obvious one really but i suppose the take away is set a specific regular meeting slot to touch base on progress and mutually agree a hard stop for the completion of any project.

So yeah. Not so hot on the work front but I had a great time in Berlin. There is an incredible amount of history to take in and the nightlife is crazy but it was the people that made a good place magical.


Soundtracks for the stay:

Armin van Buurin – Our origin (EDM stuff – no idea the subgenre but it’s tasty AF) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iaMkI1z3q4Y

Neverland – 7 skies (EDM stuff – no idea the subgenre but it’s tasty AF) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3Cm69gtd4E

Creep on me – DJ Snake / French Montana / GASHI (EDM stuff – no idea the sub genre but it’s tasty AF) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1YHv1wHAxo

Ghent, Belgium

How not to travel Ghent

Summary: I had a great time in Belgium and Ghent was so much better than i had expected. The week was pretty light on the work but I did manage to get the project well and truly started. This was my first week actually working on the road so it was a big test!

It’s a classic start for the blog because i managed to miss Brussels and Bruges entirely.

Nomad list: Nomad list rates Ghent 3.5/5. Why bad? No serious adult night scene and tepid weather. (Similar to that in the UK) Why good? Ghent had high scores for Safety, Happiness, Healthcare and internet speed. 

Best bits: The people, the beer & the architecture.

More pictures: http://www.instagram.com/how_not_to_travel

Where to work: Plenty of coffee shops and bars with Wi-Fi along the main high street. I liked: Take five espresso (http://www.take-five-espressobar.be/) – very cozy upstairs to sit and work. Also the coffee is awesome + it’s close to the town center.

What to do: Get on with some work in Take five, kayak through the city waterways, give Be Virtuals virtual reality experience a go and eat the sushi at Sushi Plaza.

Cock up count: (3) One interview fail and Two missed buses, (currently tipped as flixbus customer of the year)

Learn from me:

  • Arrive at long-haul bus stops at least 15 minutes early (Duh)
  • Make sure your phone is set to the correct time (time zone shifts) + set appropriate reminders for work commitments that take this into account
  • Work a little bit every day – momentum people, momentum!
  • Don’t overbook: The nomad life has constant opportunities to go out – I can already tell saying ‘no’ is going to be vital in order to make this lifestyle sustainable.

The trip has started suspiciously well. Free stay at a friends place meant an incredible host and a place to stay 10 mins walk from the city center.

| Dom introducing me to Belgian fast food |

Everyone is really nice here, I was constantly having conversations with people on the street without any awkwardness and was never alone for long before someone asked me where I was from and we got talking.

A classic example was when i was on my way out of Belgium having just missed my second bus of the trip. I was sat at a bar ringing sweat out of my t-shirt (i’d ran to arrive 5 minutes late, obviously) when a bloke sat down next to me and offered to buy me a beer.

An hour of increasingly loud conversation later and bus no.3 almost left without me because by this point half the bar was wrapped up in a debate about the best places in Amserdam to visit.

| I’ve been obsessed with Duvel for the last week |

Whilst we’re on the topic: The beer was soooooo goood. Honestly. Peng. Most of it is 8% ABV though so be careful chucking them back. For my English friends – the large ‘head’ is for taste. Just trust the Belgians and drink – quality over quantity is the name of the game here.

If you like a tipple then there’s loads of good bars (even a comic book / gaming bar: https://comic-sans.business.site/) and Ghent even has a few small clubs which were fun in a group.

The scenary is fantastic. I’m a terrible photographer but you can get a taste for the architecture and waterways below. It’s one of those cities you can really let yourself get lost in. It’s extremely safe, small enough to have personality and big enough to offer variety. Watch out for the trams and bicycles though.

Also – If you like to run like me then there’s a long canal route you can head down.

| Ghent riverscape |

There’s plenty of stuff to do in Ghent. Kayaking in the sunset through the city waterways was particularly awesome.

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| Credit: Dominic Crossland | Insta: @dcrossland | http://www.instagram.com/dcrossland |

I also really enjoyed the 4 player co-op virtual reality experience at Be Virtual here: https://www.bevirtual.be/ – The picture below doesn’t do it justice, you’re attached by your headset to the ceiling but once the goggles are on the immersion is crazy. The blue mat’s you see in the picture below are as far as you can walk within the environment and then, to get further you need to ‘teleport’ which starts to feel natural and become reflex within 20 minutes of play time.

Virtualreality.jpg

| Taken in Be Virtual, Ghent |

If you’re in Ghent go get some Sushi from Sushi Plaza (http://sushiplaza.be/) – Fantastic service and fresh fish delivered every day. The sashimi was some of the best I’ve ever tasted.

IMG-1994

| Taken in Sushi Plaza – Ghent |

Ankara was also a very good place. A  Turkish / Mediterranean restaurant they served up perfectly cooked medium-rare meat and way more food than we could eat. Definitely, recommend the shared platter. The 4 person platter had lots of food left over though, you could definitely get away with splitting a 3 person between 4.

sumitfood.jpg

| Taken in Ankara – Ghent |

Progress with work was good overall, it was easy enough to find different cafes to sit in and the calm nature of Ghent makes it relatively free of distraction. As mentioned above i recommend Take five here: http://www.take-five-espressobar.be/ and it’s also worth checking out Koffeiene: https://m.facebook.com/koffeinegent/.

This part of the journey was a soft start really as staying with a friend i had the luxury of privacy and a workplace free of distractions. Even still I got less done than i had intended this week. But progress is being made.

The writing has started, Instagram is ticking over and the adventure has begun.  Join me Next Monday for stop #3 – Amsterdam.

Soundtracks for the stay:

Paolo Nutini – Better man (Soul / Pop) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5y4_Mi0fCz0

Eminem – Fall (American Hip-Hop) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfTbHITdhEI

Keith Ape – It G Ma (Japanese Gangster Rap) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPC9erC5WqU