If you’re an avid traveler frequenting countries like Taiwan, Korea, Japan, or somewhere else, you might want to find your own little corner of the Internet to call you home so that you can share your thoughts, adventures, and pic or vids with friends and family. Or maybe you even just want to keep an online memo of your adventure for yourself. Whatever the reason is, hopefully this this little primer will be of some help.
Below you will see two different approaches to setting up your own blog. If you already know what you are doing, this may not be much help, but if you are new to online publishing, these basic should get you going pretty quickly.
The Free and Easy Way
There are lots of free and easy to use blogging platforms nowadays. They come with their own unique pros and cons, but for someone who just wants a place to jot down their ideas and upload some photos, they are fine. If you want something a little more serious though, these options may not be your best choice.
Two of the most popular free options are Weebly and Yola. There are tons more, but these two are fairly well known and rather easy to use. You can literally be up and running in as little as 5 minutes on both of these choices. (WordPress.com is another big player in this industry.)
The good thing about this type of blog is pretty clear. They are free. The only investment you make is the time that you put into it. If you get bored or get sidetracked, you aren’t out of any money. They’re also really easy to set up and use. Weebly is especially simple as it uses a well designed and easy to understand drag and drop type of interface.
It’s not all puppy dogs and rainbows with these types of sites. The first is that they do have some requirements, though they are not too demanding. They will both usually want to verify that you are a real person via SMS.
Another problem with these free options is that if at some point you want to decide to try and make a little coin off of your adventures, you might have to jump through some hurdles. The free WordPress option won’t let you sell anyone else’s product, like something from Amazon.com or another similar site. Weebly seems to be a bit friendlier, but they could change their minds at any given time.
Another drawback is your website name. You will actually get a subdomain on their big domain. What this means is instead of having movetotaiwan.com you would end up with something like notatravelclub.yola.com or notatravelclub.weebly.com. Then if at some point you wish to move away from that, you get charged a higher than normal price for a domain name.
One more issue is that they tend to limit how many pages you can have. So, if you want to build out a big site, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan.
The biggest problem with the free blog approach in my opinion though is that it is not yours. If at anytime the platform that you picked has a policy change, they may deem your particular site inappropriate and delete it. It’s rare, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. There’s also not much you can do about it if it’s something that actually happens, as you are playing in their house.
The Big Boy and Big Girl Way
For those of you thinking about making a, should I say, real blog, you probably want to go the paid route where you actually have a lot more control over your blog.
The biggest two problems with this approach are that it is not free, and it takes a little tech savvy (very very little since I managed to do it and I am one step removed from a caveman) to set things up.
The Main 3 Things You’ll Need
The easiest way to explain this in my opinion is to think of your soon to be new website as a home. In order to have a fully functioning home where people can send you care packages and love letters, you’ll want to make sure that you indeed have somewhere to build, something to build, and a way for people to find you.
Your address is how people find you. Our’s is www.movetotaiwan.com. The technical name for this is your domain name. Unfortunately these are not free. You buy them, or actually rent them, from a domain registrar. A popular on that you have probably heard of before is GoDaddy. We actually prefer to use a cheaper and friendlier registrar named NameCheap.com. They also won’t try to up-sell you and flood you with email like GoDaddy.
You Plot of Land
Now that you have your address, you need your land. Yes, if this were really real estate and not a metaphor, we would need the land first, but just go with flow here. The land is where you will put everything: your posts, pictures, etc. The name for this is called hosting. With the free blogs, they act as your host (which is also why they can just delete your blog on a whim).
A host is basically a company that has a lot of computer servers that store information. You pay a small annual fee to use some of that space. There are lots of hosts of all sorts, down to super cheap discount budget hosts (that usually come with lots of problems) and some really high end hosts. For a starter website like what you’ll be building, a basic shared hosting plan should be suitable. We highly recommend SiteGround as they have great support and are very fairly priced.
Connecting Your Address to Your Land
This is probably the most complicated part. Basically, you need to go into the registrar (your Namecheap account if you followed my advice) and change a little info to make sure your domain and your host are working together. The piece of info you need to change is called the Name Server, or the DNS. Here is a quick step-by-step walkthrough to help you get to the correct place:
1. When you enter your Namecheap account, you’ll be at the top of you account page. Namecheap calls it “Member’s Home.” You should be able see a basic list of info labeled account information. The first line you should see is “Number of domains in your account.” Here is where you will want to click “view.”
After clicking there, you will go to a new page that lists your new domain and any other domains that you may have. I have a bit of a list, but you will probably only see the one that you just recently purchased. You will want to click on you domain name.
Now you should be at the “Modify Domain” page:
If you got this far, you are doing great. If you don’t see this at the top of your page, back track and see where you went wrong. Don’t worry, we are close to where we need to be.
On the left side of this Modify Domain page, you should see a General tab in the sidebar. Under that tab you have a few choices. The choice that you want to click on is: Domain Name Server Setup
After clicking there, you will be taken to a page that allows you to tell Namecheap where you want to build your site. This is the page where we can finally join the website name (your new domain name) to the SiteGround hosting account.
Directly in the center of the page you should see a box labeled: Change Existing Domain Name Server Information
Each host uses their own unique server info. You can find information about SiteGround’s DNS in your SiteGround dashboard. All you need to do is click the radio button Specify Custom DNS Servers and enter the DNS info. It will look something like:
Make sure you click “SAVE CHANGES” at the bottom, and you are all done with this part. You can actually go to your newly purchased domain name in a few minutes and you should see a SiteGround parking page. That’s a good sign. It means so far, so good.(*Note: This is how you would join a SiteGround hosting account to a domain registered with Namecheap. If you are using a different host, the DNS information might be different. If you are using a different registrar, the process will be a little different).
Building Your House
You now have an address (your domain or website name) and some land (your hosting account), but now you need a house. By building a house you will have a place to safely store and organize all of your thoughts and photos.
In the old days we had to mess around with computer coding called HTML to manually build out a website. There was some software that would help, but it still made for a giant headache. Luckily, you don’t need to mess with that if you don’t want to. About a decade ago a really amazing content management system (CMS) arose from the ether to make blogging and building website infinitely easier.
The name of this CMS is WordPress (They actually offer a very toned down version of their CMS on their free platform that we discussed earlier). You will want to install WordPress onto your hosting account at SiteGround. This is actually pretty simple because they have a built-in easy install feature, but I’ll do my best to walk you through it below as well.
To get started with this you need to log in to your SiteGround account.
After logging in, you should see a button labeled cPanel, which is your hosting control panel.
After clicking the cPanel button, you’ll be taken to a page with lots of different icons. Look for a section labeled Website Tools. The very first icon should say WordPress Installer.
That will launch an application called Softaculous. It will already be set to WordPress. All you have to due is click install and follow the on page prompts from there.
Once that is all done, and it should only take a few seconds, you should have a basic WordPress website ready for your customization.
You will want to make sure to research how to set up WordPress to suit your needs, like choosing an installing a theme, setting up plugins, etc. But, that is a different topic that wold be too much to cover here.
To go the free route, just head over to Yola, WordPress.com, or Weebly and sign up for an account.
To get a more professional looking site that you own, you need a few things. It looks like a lot of work from all the pics I posted, but it actually only takes a few minutes. I just wanted to be as detailed as possible. To get started you need to:
- Sign up for and buy your domain name from Namecheap by clicking here.
- Sign up for a hosting account from Siteground.
- Change the name server in your Namecheap account to Siteground.
- Install the WordPress content management system.
- Start posting your stories and pictures.
I hope you found this step-by-step guide useful. If you’re looking for more information you can also check out this post from Kinsta on how to start a travel blog.