Welcome to our new site! Plus, a life update

Hello! After weeks of radio silence, we’re finally back with a new site design. What do you think? It’s been a much longer, scarier process than we imagined and there’s still lots more work to do behind the scenes, but we’re pretty happy with the results. While the re-design has been dominating our free time for the last month, I thought I’d also give you an update about what’s been happening here in the Algarve. So, here goes.

Us at a viewpoint overlooking Lisbon in Portugal

Conquering our site design fears

This re-design has been a really long, overdue project. For years, I’ve hated the look of our site. It felt dated, clunky and the back-end was (and still partly is) a technical mess. Our navigation sucked and it was impossible to find anything in the mass of over 400 blog posts. We knew we needed to update the design, fix the back-end issues and go painstakingly through each post, updating, SEO-ing and monetising.

View over Albuferia, Algarve

It was such an overwhelming task and one that we never had the time, technical skills or motivation to tackle. With a full travel and work schedule for most of this year, I half-heartedly thought I’d wait till we were settled in Portugal to sort it out.  When we got here, Andrew started work and we had one guaranteed pay cheque every month so I didn’t have to work crazily hard freelancing to keep us afloat. Now was the time to focus on the blog, but one thing was stopping me: fear.

Ponta de Piedade, Algarve, from above

I didn’t know where to start or who to talk to about re-designing, but I kept waking up in the night worrying about it all. Here’s the thing: I’ve poured so much of my heart and soul into this blog over the years, but that’s about all I’ve poured. We haven’t invested any money in it, aside from hosting fees and tech help when the shit really hits the fan, like it did last autumn when we switched hosts twice in one month. So, now that we have a solid income and an empty travel schedule, I knew it was time to hire someone qualified to help re-design our site.

Wooden walkway over the sand on an island in the Ria do Formosa, Algarve

It’s been a steep learning curve for us, one that involved trusting what is effectively an online journal chronicling six years of our life with a complete stranger (who was amazing by the way, let me know if you need a developer and I’ll pass on his details), working out exactly how we want our site to function and how to make that happen. With limited funds for design work, we had to learn to use a range of new tools to complete a lot of the design ourselves. The upside is that we’ve learnt so much and feel more confident about our web skills.

Clifftop view over Vale do Lobo Beach

Unfortunately, our web developer also uncovered some problems with our site that have likely been slowing it down for years. For one, the images are, I quote: ‘a mess of Amazonian proportions’. We had a plug-in that we thought was optimising our photos, but turned out, it wasn’t. Fixing the problem will take a few months as I have to painstakingly go through every photo on our site.

Lagos Old Town

Although we still have some things to tweak, with the design finally looking better, I also feel motivated to try and boost traffic by improving the SEO of our existing content (something I usually try to ignore). Oh, I also have a shed load of new content to write from our travels earlier this year. In short, the work has only just begun.

Life update from the Algarve

In the midst of all this, I’ve been continuing my freelance writing work, but I have cut back on the volume to tackle this project. I hadn’t realised how much mental pressure I felt earlier this year when my freelance work was pretty much our sole income stream while we travelled through the Americas. Psychologically, I feel so much better now that I’m not the main breadwinner and Andrew is teaching again. Still, now the most pressing work on the blog has been completed, I’ll re-focus on building my freelance work again after Christmas.

Meanwhile, Andrew has really settled into a working routine at his international school here in the Algarve. He’s been enjoying small class sizes, school trips, an enterprise week making Christmas decorations and teaching some one-on-one French and Spanish GCSE classes. Honestly, after nearly six years of travelling and working at home together (minus teaching in Vietnam) it has been a weird experience for me. At first, when Andrew would leave for work in the morning and I faced a whole day at home alone, even though I’d be working for most of that time, I felt incredibly lonely.

My feet in the sand down at the beach, contemplating our new site design

It hasn’t been easy adjusting to this new, stationary lifestyle in general, especially since I haven’t fallen in head-over-heels in love with the Algarve. Part of the reason for this is where we live. Our apartment may be beautiful, situated close to a pristine red-cliff beach, but it’s also in a very fancy resort area in the middle of nowhere. With just one car, I’m stranded here when Andrew is at work and as soon as the weather started to change in November, the place became a ghost town. The apartment is built for heat, so now the weather’s cold it can get pretty nippy in here too and if there’s one thing I hate, it’s being cold.

Stormy clifftops in Faro, Algarve

Although it’ll be great again when the weather warms up, we’ve come to the conclusion that the Algarve lifestyle really doesn’t suit us. I miss being in a city full of culture where I can get around on public transport and feel independent. That’s partly what I loved about living in Thailand and Vietnam, along with the tropical climate and connecting with likeminded people. The main demographic in the Algarve seems to be much older, richer, British ex-pats, particularly here where we’re surrounded by golf courses and luxury villas. We don’t fit in and it’s not exactly the Portuguese experience we’d imagined when we initially set our sights on moving to Porto.

The Douro River in Porto and Dom Luis I Bridge at night
That all sounds really negative, but I’m really looking at this next six months as a stepping stone. Already, this experience has helped us figure out where we’d like to be next year and Andrew has gained some great experience at an international school, which was our main reason for coming here. Wow, I hadn’t realised how much I needed to spill my brains until I started typing this. That’s what you get for neglecting to blog for so long!

The upsides of life in the Algarve

That’s not to say that we’re hating our time here. In fact, when the sun is shining the Algarve is a beautiful place to be. My parents and our friend Heather have been over to visit and we’ve spent as much of our free time as possible exploring the area. I’m planning a post about our top places to visit in the Algarve, but so far, we’ve loved strolling around the old towns in Lagos and Faro with their tiled buildings and whitewashed churches.

We took a boat trip with my parents along the jagged coastline out west, the Ponta de Piedade, ducking into grottos and checking out impressive rock formations. With Heather, I also went on a boat trip in Faro’s Ria do Formosa, a protected park where we saw tons of rare and exotic birds. We stopped at cute sandy islands filled with lighthouses, white-sand beaches and pretty Portuguese cottages.

Up in Silves, we explored an old hillside fort, then checked out Albufeira and some pottery villages. Our favourite place in the Algarve so far is probably the town of Loule, which on reflection, would have been a better place to live. There’s a huge market on a Saturday where you can buy all kinds of fresh produce and the town is actually filled with Portuguese people, rather than just ex-pats and holidaymakers. We also found our favourite vegan restaurant in the Algarve to date there: Vegan Joe’s.

Although we’ve been pretty stationary, we did take a drive up to Lisbon earlier this month when Andrew was off work for a public holiday. It felt amazing to soak up the bustle of daily life in a capital city again. We didn’t do much besides wander around and visit the castle, but we also got to meet up with our friends Patti and Abi of One Road at a Time. We last saw them in autumn 2017, when we were all temporarily living in Porto, which is our ideal Portuguese location. It was great to catch up with them and see how much has changed for all of us in just one year.

Anyway, I think I’ve rambled on long enough for one post but I promise to update the blog more often now the design work has finished. December will also see us heading back to the UK for the Christmas holidays (loving those cheap Ryanair flights!) which we’re super excited about, especially since it means meeting our new nephew! As always, thanks for reading and let us know what you think of the new site in the comments below.

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10 Comments
  • Rhonda
    Posted at 15:59h, 06 December Reply

    Good job! We really need to update our blog as well but wow, so much work and so intimidating. We would love the name of the designer you worked with if we ever get around to working on ours as well. I’m sorry that your particular spot isn’t ideal, but you never know until you try it and maybe next year you can move to a different location. Good luck with jumping back into writing (me too!!) Cheers and happy holidays to you both. XX

    • Amy
      Posted at 22:15h, 06 December Reply

      Hi Rhonda, yes, it was pretty intimidating but the guy we worked with, Kevin, was great. I’ll email you his details. True, I’m glad we have tried the Algarve and I think it’ll be lovely in spring/summer. Itching to get back in/near a city after that though! Happy holidays to you guys too 🙂

  • Patti
    Posted at 17:10h, 06 December Reply

    The new site is brilliant! Well-done! Having gone through the same process earlier this year, I totally understand the stress and excitement of a redesign.

    We loved, loved, loved spending the evening with you in Lisbon, albeit wasn’t it crazy busy with people?! Hopefully, we’ll connect again sooner than later.

    As always I’m looking forward to following your journey.
    Patti recently posted..One Road at a Time, Six Years & CountingMy Profile

    • Amy
      Posted at 22:16h, 06 December Reply

      Thanks so much Patti! It was great to see you guys in Lisbon and yes, it was crazy-busy! A shock after the sleepy Algarve 🙂 Hope you guys have a great festive family xmas, hope to see you next year!

  • Janet Dobson
    Posted at 22:11h, 06 December Reply

    Love reading your blogs Amy. Hope things get less lonely for you while Andrew is at work and enjoy catching up with your family. Love to you both xx

    • Amy
      Posted at 22:18h, 06 December Reply

      Hi Janet, thanks for your lovely feedback and for following our journey for so long, I can’t believe how long it has been since we saw you guys in Australia! We have to get back to that side of the world at some point 🙂 Love to you guys too and happy holidays x

  • Gilda Baxter
    Posted at 10:06h, 08 December Reply

    Amy, I love the new design. You have so much great content from all the years of traveling and all the experience you have accumulated. The new design makes it a lot easier to find everything. I am glad you now will have more time to focus on the blog and also start building up your freelance work. We loved Lagos, in the Algarve when we visited a little while ago, but don’t know much about the rest of the Algarve. Like you I am a city person, so although I love a beach destination, it is not enough to keep me interested. Perhaps Porto or another larger city will be a better fit for you? Brian and I have just bought a motorhome to travel Europe. We might be visiting the Algarve sometime in February, will let you know since it would be great to see you. I hope you have a lovely Christmas 😄

    • Amy
      Posted at 11:08h, 08 December Reply

      Hi Gilda, thanks so much for the lovely feedback. Amazing news about the motorhome!! It was be so great if you guys could swing by the Algarve in February – how exciting! Yes, I think Porto would be perfect for us, we’re hoping to make the move next autumn if things go to plan, we’ll see!

  • Melanie Miles
    Posted at 05:41h, 09 December Reply

    I like the new site! A little touch of the old one, which I quite liked, but so refreshed and rejuvenated. I can only imagine how much work it was – I’m so lucky to have a technical husband who can do all of that stuff. The only thing holding me back from my how-to-travel website is my own procrastination!
    It certainly sounds like you were meant to have this little soujourn to get settled and get the site sorted – no doubt you’ll appreciate where ever you move to next that much more after this time spent in the Algarve.
    Have a cosy Christmas and try and stay warm – I’ll try and send over some warm Aussie sunshine!
    Mel

    • Amy
      Posted at 12:08h, 09 December Reply

      Hi Mel, thanks so much for the nice feedback. Don’t let procrastination hold you back, especially since you have that technical husband 🙂 I’d love to read your travel stories. Yes, being settled here has allowed us to finally focus on this re-design, which was what we needed before tackling any new projects. Have a great Christmas too!

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