I don’t write this post as any kind of expert on documenting. Instead, I write this post for the purposes of learning other ways and methods of documenting. Documenting is like a style and everyone has their own style. My hope is that through feedback I learn new ways of documenting my adventures as one of my favorite parts of an adventure is documenting it. That being said I can probably send a few good ideas your way regardless.
At the time of this post, I have been bike touring for 24 months across Canada, through the USA and recently made my way into southern Mexico. Documenting stats of interest would include:
- 24 months on the road
- 25,000 km’s pedalled
- 36,000+ photos taken, edited and posted to Flickr
- 265 blog posts written at an average of 1,000 words each = 265,000 words typed
- 85 YouTube videos
- Many many 1,000’s of Facebook posts
- Many 1,000’s of Facebook Group posts
- 800+ Instagram posts
Everyone documents in some way for different reasons. Some people document for themselves and/or family, some people document for an audience. The main reasons that I document my bike ride is enjoyment, to build an audience and to build a potential brand. I would say I document excessively. It would be difficult to know how many hours a week I spend documenting given that sometimes there are days or weeks between being able to sit down and get some work done and at times I have spent 5+ days in front of my computer without going anywhere except for meals many times. But if I had to guess I have spent at least 30+ hours a week documenting and keeping everything meticulously organized. I doubt very many people spend the kind of time I do documenting their bike ride.
For the purposes of this post, I am going to mostly stick to my strategic practices and not take the time to rhyme off obvious practices or practices that I don’t use. I suspect this post will be long enough as is. And in your research to document you will find many more ways to document your bike ride or adventure.
Rule Number One
I can not stress this enough. Make sure everything is backed up to the cloud at all times. You may visit a place a second or third time in your lifetime but you can never ever recreate the same adventure twice. Phones /cameras get lost and broken and laptops crash. Everyone knows someone who has lost treasured, once in a lifetime photos because they lost their phone. Don’t be that person!
I can not stress this enough. Make sure everything is backed up to the cloud at all times.
Back-up and The Cloud
I use Dropbox for my cloud storage. Do your research. Dropbox isn’t cheap but I have found them to be the best. I keep every file and photo on my computer in my Dropbox Folder on the off chance my laptop is lost, stolen or breaks. That way absolutely nothing is lost.
I also keep all my photos and recent video footage backed up on not one but two external drives. External drives are light and small. I keep all my photos and recent video footage backed up on an external drive because often with my documenting I go way back for photo selection and I find retrieving photos out of the cloud to be a pain. I keep all photos backed up onto a second external drive because external drives are known to break (like mine did last month). I don’t want to have to take the time to try retrieving 36,000+ photos plus video out of the cloud so I have a second back up to have an easy accessible copy on hand if an external drive breaks.
In the interest of staying organized I get my photos off my phone as often and as quick as possible and organize them in appropriate folders. For example, in Mexico I have so far visited over 215 different cathedrals. I often visit more than 12 a day. (In Puebla City I visited 25 cathedrals in one day!) Can you imagine trying to straighten and sort that mess out 6 months later? Using Mexican cathedrals as an example I often create a folder for a Mexican state and then the cities I visit and then folders for the various cathedrals I visit. For example, > Guanajuato State > Guanajuato City > Templo de San Francisco.
I am amazed at how many people don’t edit their photos (on Facebook). You can tell who edits and who doesn’t. Every night before bed in my sleeping bag or whenever I get a moment, I edit all my photos on my phone from that day. I don’t want multiple days of photos to get backed up. For me that can mean 1,000 photos. I find the editing tools stronger on my iPhone than my computer. Once edited, I transfer them to my computer as soon as possible. Organizing them and creating folders to keep my photos organized. If I don’t have time to put my photos through a second edit on my computer and get them in the cloud right away, I copy and paste an extra copy of the photos to my external drive as precaution. All my photos go through a second edit on my computer.
I keep and make daily blog notes using the Simplenote app on my phone everyday. Dropbox has its own note taking app called Paper. I prefer Simplenote. I find it an easier and a smoother user experience. Evernote is also a popular note taking app. Simplenote is great because it can sync up to your laptop except slow internet connection can delay the sync.
A note of interest. In Mexico for example when I come to a cathedral or other attraction, I also find the place on Google Maps on my phone and I take a screenshot of its information panel and then I copy and paste the name of the cathedral or attraction into my Simplenote blog notes. I try to take the screenshot when first arrive at my destination so that I have a “photo divider” between cathedrals. Cathedral for example can often look very similar. I copy and paste the cathedral/attraction/museum name because it can be very time consuming trying to type out some of these cathedral names when you can simply copy and past the names, for example: Parroquia de Jesús Nazareno e Inmaculada Concepción. Who wants to type that cathedral off of a screenshot?
A sample screen shot. Notice that you can Copy & Paste the title of attraction
I wish I had learned about using this screenshot secret at the beginning of my ride and not in Mexico. I took photos of a 100 or so churches in Atlantic Canada and Quebec and I have no idea what their names are unless I do a heck of a lot of research after my bike ride.
When it comes to your blog notes and details of your day you can be as detailed as much or little as you choose. I generally find myself keeping the details short and sweet. Even short and sweet ends up becoming a crap load of words by the time you have written everything out in proper sentences.
I once read that a good length for a blog post was 1,000 words. I find with 1,000 words I average my blog posts to cover about 4 days. Besides my daily notes I keep track of my destination city and number of kilometers pedalled. I use the Strava app to keep track of my kilometers pedalled. I find Strava a bit irritating as if I am not careful the app shuts itself off for no apparent reason. So, I find myself checking my phone constantly. I like Strava because I have it connected to my website so my website followers can see where I am.
Every morning I like to take a photo of my campsite and every evening I take a screenshot of my Strava download. I include these 2 images at the bottom of every day’s blog post. I wish I had taken a photo of my camping sites on my first bike trip. There was no such thing as Strava back in those days.
At the bottom of each daily blog entry I include a photo of my campsite and a screenshot of my Strava record
I also use a separate Simplenote page for certain daily experiences that I choose not to include in my public blog post.
With the number of social media platforms out there now a days it could be argued that one doesn’t even need a website anymore. Websites are a lot of work to maintain and generally cost a few dollars each month to run unless you are taking advantage of a free blogging platform. For me my website is my brand and a public reflection of who I am and where I can be creative. I have spent a lot of money developing my website. And I enjoy having one even just for myself.
It’s completely up to you if you choose to invest in a website or not. Simply consider the purposes of a website and whether one will serve your purposes and move forward based on that decision. You can Google search a 1,000 bike tour websites for ideas and themes and what information you want to include.
Also, I learned this the hard way. Unless your blog posts are actually SEO optimized your blogs are not SEO optimized.
My website ideas
Besides the obvious I have added a few things that I appreciate on my website, particularly on my Home Page. My Home Page includes the usual introduction to the website but I have over time added a few new sections.
Along with social media links and current blog post links I added a section of Current Stats that I update as often as I stop with a roof over my head. They include my current city, the city I am headed to. I include this on the off chance someone local ends on my page. Either they can reach out for hosting or set me up with hosting. I also show how many days I have been on the road, number of nights in a tent and my current kilometers pedalled.
Stats that I update regularly on my website
My bike ride evolved into ride that involved meeting and being hosted by a lot of people. 55 hosts just crossing Canada. I also had many crazy stories of crossing paths with people (as many cycle tourers do). For fear of these stories and people getting lost in 100,000’s of blog post words I ended up adding a section to my Home page that highlighted my “Friends and Hosts” along the way. This section has become a favorite section of my website.
My favorite section of my website
Another section that got added was a Latest News category. I added this because I actually have a few followers that are not on social media and this was an easy way to highlight any big news or something I wanted to highlight to people that might land on my website.
Another section that I added to my website was an Environment and Trees section. So, in other words a section specific to my passions. At some point I will be blogging/writing more about the environment and tree planting. This is my way of highlighting in on my website. If your thing is mental health awareness than maybe you want a separate section for those posts so that they don’t get lost in the 100’s of bike ride blog posts.
Another thing I did and I recommend this if you plan to maintain and grow your blog/website long after the bike ride is to categorize your blog posts. This assumes that you are writing about other topics besides you bike ride. At the time of writing this post I have written 265 blog posts. That is a lot of blog posts to scroll through to find a particular post. Categories that I use for my website (including specialty categories) are Bike Ride Updates, Biking and Camping, Reflection and Wisdom, Poetry, Environment and tree planting and Miscellaneous posts.
Two other pages that I have added on my website are Passion Projects and a Media Page. I add the Passion Projects page on the off chance someone who might be helpful to those projects comes across my website. And my Media page was because I get in the media and on a few podcasts a few times (28 times) on my bike ride.
I know almost nothing about the tricks to social media but I have posted many many 1,000’s of posts. Social media is a lot of work and that can burn you out quickly. I am very active on Facebook. It’s my platform of choice and I hate Instagram. Along with your own Facebook profile and Fan page there are Facebook bike and adventure groups. I am a member of about 50 Facebook groups and I attempted to post something about my bike ride to each group at least once a month.
Facebook Secrets – If you Like a Facebook group through your Fan page you are able to invite anyone who Likes your post in the group to Like your Fan Page.
You can only have 5,000 Facebook Friends but you can have unlimited Facebook Fans. That’s why I have a Facebook Fan page.
Facebook Groups – Posting monthly (sometimes more) various types of posts (video, blog post or photos) to 50 Facebook Groups I keep everything organized on an Excel Spreadsheet. I make a column, alphabetically listing of all the group page names. I then make a second column of any listed posting restrictions. Some groups don’t like self promotion (SMH – it’s social media). You can even add a column for the group’s membership numbers. I then make a column for the particular post I am posting. At the top of the column I give the post a title such as “Stealth camping post.” By keeping track I know not to post the same post again only 2 months later. Not to mention trying to post to that many groups with the name “bike” in them is impossible not to double post. I often repost my best blog posts every 4 months or so. You can even keep track of your posting dates.
I realize that Instagram is growing. I won’t go into the 100 reason why I hate Instagram. I do my best but most of my Instagram posts are scheduled through www.later.com. The free version lets you schedule 30 posts per month. This allows me to batch my posting and cut and paste hashtags for efficiency. I also have categorized hashtags saved on my phone for cutting and pasting for posts that I post via my phone.
I am very intimidated by video and taking video is not my thing. I try to discipline myself to shoot video but I am not very successful. I have no idea how to edit video. I am very lucky to have a YouTube guy that is invested in helping me grow my channel. If it wasn’t for him my YouTube channel would be obsolete. That being said we have various video categories that we post. We do what I will refer to long form documentation of larger sections of my bike ride such as 4 long form videos of my Canadian crossing. We will eventually do 2 such video for my US portion and at this point I am not sure how many videos will cover Mexico.
If I do a fair bit of video at a specific location then we will do a shorter documentary style video, often using the same edited video in the longer version documentary. Both these types of videos are common among bike tourers. We have 2 other types of YouTube videos that I have yet to see other cyclist do. We do what we call the Safari Arie Road Show and an extended video style called the Safari Arie Experience. The Road Show is when my guy – Brandon calls me up on Zoom and does a quick interview with me. Where I am, what’s been happening and where am I going. This was my way of preventing me from rambling on Facebook Live plus it creates content for the channel. We try to keep these videos down to 10 minutes but often run longer. The Safari Arie Experience is when we discuss a specific topic and we talk as long as needed. These shows often run close to 45 minutes.
The Road Show resulted from a bike ride follower mentioning that I do a pretty good podcast (two of us talking) when I complained about my habit of rambling when I do a Facebook Live. I still do Facebook Lives when I am somewhere cool and I remember to do a Facebook Live. Sometimes the footage is downloaded and put on YouTube. Currently we have 85 videos on our YouTube channel.
On separate Excel Spreadsheets I keep track of date, daily kilometers, daily destination city, if I had a host and if I slept in a bed or a tent. I separate them by province or state depending on what country I am in. While technically this information is in your blog it is nice to have all this information on one page for easy access and it’s far easier to keep track of total numbers on a spreadsheet.
I also keep track of all expenses on an Excel Spreadsheet. It’s actually not to difficult keeping track of expenses. In Canada and the USA, I use a credit card for 100% of my purchases. By the numbers, 90%+ of your transactions are food and meals. In Mexico I pay 100% with cash (Pesos). I keep track of my cash withdraws. I write down every expense that is not food. I add up my cash balance at the end of every month. At the end of the month, I add my starting balance to my withdraws, I subtract my total expenses that were not food and then I subtract my month end cash balance. The number remaining is your food expense divide by 30 or 31 days is your daily average.
For me documenting my bike ride is a labor of love. It has to be. I have spent many 10.000’s of hours doing it. For me I see bike touring as 5 main categories of activities and I enjoy them all equally and not one more than the other. For me bike touring is cycling, camping, meeting locals, visiting tourist hot spots and documenting.
For those who enjoy documenting your adventures convincing is not needed. For those who don’t enjoy documenting than don’t.