Special Announcement: The Campsite Finds New Owners

Back in January 2011 I had a vision: to create an online community that would facilitate discussion about the outdoor lifestyle and the inner journeys we experience there. To give budding writers, or those wanting to hone their skills, a home for their words. To network with the outdoor industry – from longstanding gear companies to grassroots campaigns. To feature high-quality, curated content that would distinguish this outdoor website from a field saturated with outdoor blogs.

Nearly four years later, The Campsite has become just that. It has a loyal community of readers and it has explored the outdoor journey in various forms. It continues to produce highly curated content, and has supported many writers, photographers, organizations and companies along the way. It has nurtured an impressive network. And, finally, in 2014 it was noted for its quality content with a nomination for USA Today/10 Best Readers’ Choice Award for Favourite Hiking and Outdoors Travel Blog – landing in the top ten.

But like many things in life, The Campsite needed new wings to let it evolve. Being a freelance writer, a full-time mom, and a woman with many passion projects, I wanted to see The Campsite thrive, but knew that I would not be the person to take it there. I considered shutting it down, then thought I could bring on someone to help keep it going while I figured out my next steps (thank Helena Artmann for being such an amazing team member!).

The Campsite.

The Campsite.

The Sale

About one month ago, I decided I would list The Campsite for sale using freemarket.com. I used a few websites to get a sense of its value, and took the bold leap to find it new owners. I had no idea what to expect. I had never built and sold a website before. After a quiet first few days, with the odd spark of interest, I got a phone call from a local acquaintance showing a bit more sincerity about taking over The Campsite. After a flurry of text messages, she and her partner were well on their way to putting together an offer for me. I knew instantly that these were the women meant to take over my beloved website. For me, it was about finding the right people to take over and I couldn’t believe these two women had pulled through. To find two other Canadian Rockies souls was a big bonus.

So, I’d like to introduce you to The Campsite‘s new owners as of 2015: Alannah Jensen and Jen Whalen. Alannah, of Lannie Rae Gourmet, and Jen, of Mountain Bound Photography, are teaming up to bring you the next iteration of this outdoor lifestyle blog! They are stoked, to say the least, and I’m equally excited that The Campsite will have the power of these two women behind it. We’ll be sure to give you a proper introduction to these women in the weeks to come.

Of course, I’m a bit sad. It is hard to let go of something you love so much, of something you built and nurtured. But we must let go of things in order to make space for new opportunities. And that’s where my life is leading me right now.

Jen and Alannah, I wish you all the best! And thanks to all of you for your loyal support. You taking the time to read my articles makes it easier to do what I do each day.

Keep Following The Campsite

Thoughts on the Outdoor Blogging Industry and An Award Nomination

Open the Rocky Mountain Outlook on August 28, 2014, and you’ll see this piece written by Lynn Martel. It provides a bit more of the backstory of my blogging career and my perspectives on the outdoor blogging industry.

The articles starts with:

Banff blogger nominated for award

“A Banff outdoor writer and blogger is quite pleased to be among 20 of her peers nominated for USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice Award for Favourite Hiking and Outdoors Travel Blogger.

Meghan J. Ward, a mother, freelance writer and blogger living in Banff, said she was surprised to learn she was among the nominees for her blog, thecampsiteblog.com.

Unfortunately, however, she missed out on the initial announcement because she was at Shadow Lake Lodge in the Wi-Fi-free Banff backcountry with her 16-month-old daughter, Maya, and husband, photographer Paul Zizka, when the news was announced.”

Continue reading here.

 

 

Meghan J. Ward Nominated for Best Hiking and Outdoors Travel Blogger by USA Today and 10Best

I have just emerged from a four-day backcountry trip here in Banff National Park to find out I’ve been nominated for Best Hiking and Outdoors Travel Blogger by USA Today and 10Best (readers to decide the final verdict!). After 3.5 years of work on The Campsite Blog (with the help of an editorial assistant, Helena Artmann and a team of gear reviewers), I am thrilled with this nomination, and stoked to be amongst some friends I admire in the outdoor blogging industry.

USAToday 10Best Hiking and Outdoors Travel Blogger

Here’s how they decided the nominees:

From USA Today/10Best.com: The top hiking and outdoors bloggers have a passion for nature, history, cool gear — and they have the blisters to prove it. It goes with the territory when you’re out and about snapping photos and sharing your tips, maps, gear reviews and expert advice. For them, exploration is a gift to share through beautiful images, vibrant stories, detailed guides and breathtaking video. Voting begins August 4th at noon. Come back each day through September 1st to give your favorite travel and food blogger your support. Winners will be announced on September 3rd.

Please go and vote!

I’m not normally a fan of these popularity contests, and would rather be judged by a panel, but if you like what I do over on The Campsite, please cast your vote! You can vote once per day until September 1st.

Vote here.

Travel Logs from the South Pacific

I’ve been a bit quiet on here the past few months, but that’s because I’ve been island-hopping in the South Pacific with my husband (photographer Paul Zizka) and my now 13-month-old daughter, Mistaya.

Our travels have taken us to New Zealand, Niue, French Polynesia (the islands/atolls of Tahiti, Moorea, Huahine, Maupiti, Bora Bora, Tikehau and Fakarava), and Hawaii. Throughout the journey, I have been writing about the process of travelling abroad with a baby – the joys, challenges, enriching moments, and the struggles.

You can find all of these blog posts using the South Pacific tag on The Adventures in Parenthood Projecthttp://adventurousparents.com/tag/south-pacific/

Here is the archive:

70 Days in the South Pacific

Finding Our Bearings on the Banks Peninsula

Is Adventure Worth It Even When It’s Miserable? A Baby on Jetlag

Solitude and Separation at Punakaiki Beach

Finding Our Groove in Opunake

Why My Husband Hiked a Volcano in the Middle of the Night

Discovering More Than Meets the Eye in Niue

Paradise, Milestones, and a Reality Check in French Polynesia

6 Awesome Things About Travelling Abroad with a Baby

Thoughts Turning Homeward in Tikehau

Determining Success Amidst the Hardships of Travel

The Reverse Bucket List

At the beginning of this year, as many people were talking about setting resolutions or goals for the year to come, I found myself reflecting a lot on 2013. So, as I planned my next blog post for Women’s Adventure Magazine, I had the idea of bringing a concept to that community that I had benefited so much from in the past: the Reverse Bucket List.

In 5 Tips for Writing a Reverse Bucket List, I walk the readers through the benefits of writing such a list, as well as five ways to make the process easier.

Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

Excerpt:

Benefits of Writing a Reverse Bucket List

At first it sounded like a fun, perhaps silly, activity, but the process of writing my reverse list had a profound impact on me. Here are just some of the benefits:

  • It gives you the chance to reflect positively on the past, and acknowledge how important certain milestones were to the direction of your life.
  • It gets you thinking deeply about the events and accomplishments that left you feeling happy and fulfilled.

Read the rest of the post here

Copyblogger’s 11 Essential Ingredients Every Blog Post Needs

Copyblogger is a fantastic website that I have subscribed to for awhile now, and I highly recommend it to bloggers and writers. They published this infographic recently, and I just had to share! I have now printed off their pdf (see the link at the bottom of the post) and keep it by my desk. Happy blogging!

11 Essential Ingredients Every Blog Post Needs [Infographic]

Click to download a one-page PDF of these rules, suitable for printing and hanging near your workspace when you need to see it most.

Click to see the full, original post.

8 Things I Learned From 52 Weeks of Feedback

On April 15, 2012, I set out on a mission.

I was feeling discouraged by the lack of feedback in the world of writing. We live in a fast-paced culture where editors are often too busy to include us in their editing process, and in which readers often consume without providing any response, whether they are tight on time or just don’t think of it. The Internet seems to have raised a new generation of “scanners” – readers who quickly gloss over a piece, check the length and read the headers and sub headers before deciding if they are even going to continue reading at all. Bloggers are actually encouraged to cater to this type of reader by compartmentalizing longer pieces into smaller chunks with catchy subheadings (I’m doing that in this very article). Throw in a few photos to make things interesting because, my goodness, a page full of text? We’re lucky if readers get to the bottom of our articles, of pieces we work so hard to produce.

I know this because, at times, I am that reader. So, how can I expect to hear from my readers if I don’t provide feedback to others?

Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man's growth without destroying his roots. Frank A. Clark

Why do I care so much about feedback?

I realize that not every writer cares about receiving feedback. Some are content to throw ideas out to the universe without any sense of where they end up. But that’s not my approach. My eagerness for feedback isn’t some superficial need for attention. It’s a genuine desire for information that will help me sharpen my sword and produce better stories. It’s a longing for discussion around the ideas I’m presenting. Like many writers, it’s the need to know that someone finds my words helpful, insightful or inspiring – that there is a purpose to what I’m doing. Call it affirmation, but I’m not talking about a pat on the back or a gold star. For me, it’s the force behind what I do, the reason I see the world in words, the result of a lot of hard thinking and hard work.

The Challenge

So, on April 15 of last year I set out on a mission to choose an article (mostly online) each week and provide feedback to the author. This could be a comment about the actual writing or the ideas presented. I kept my comments positive and shied away from offering constructive criticism since this was all occurring on a public forum. Some writers asked me to choose their pieces to provide feedback on, and so I provided more constructive criticism privately. If I couldn’t provide genuine feedback, I didn’t provide any at all. As tempting as it was sometimes, I never wanted to comment simply for the sake of commenting. I only gave my feedback when I had time to think it through, and provide an authentic, thoughtful response.

You might be wondering, if it was 52 Weeks of Feedback, why did it take me 80? The most basic answer: I had a baby. Things got busy and I missed a week here and there. But I stuck to it and still provided feedback for 52 weeks. You can check out my reading list here.

So, let’s get down to it. What did I learn after my 52 weeks of reading and commenting?

What I Learned From 52 Weeks of Feedback

1. Providing comments on a regular basis paved the way for new relationships with other writers and bloggers. The majority of authors who received my feedback were thankful that I took the time to comment, and this sparked the beginning of a meaningful exchange. Sometimes it didn’t go beyond that first exchange; in other cases, I am still in regular contact with some of these writers.

2. The weekly challenge encouraged me to keep reading. I have heard many times that the best thing a writer can do to improve his or her craft is to read. As much as the project was about providing feedback, an unintended benefit was that I read more than I would have otherwise.

3. Keeping track of the articles I was reading helped me clarify which topics I am most passionate about. Looking back on the list, here are the dominant themes: parenting and the outdoors, motherhood, adventure, goal setting, thoughts on the writing process, creativity, and women in sports.

4. Knowing I had to provide feedback forced me to read more attentively. I fought the temptation to skim or skip ahead so that I could provide an informed response. As a result I also took more away from the article and invested myself more in the ideas that were presented. I allowed myself the time to think, even if it was on a topic I wasn’t particularly interested in.

The Six Golden Rules of Writing: Read, read, read, and write, write, write. ~ Ernest Gaines

5. Often my first comment was the beginning of a meaningful discussion, not just with the author but with other commenters.

6. This wasn’t a reason for my feedback, but looking at my web traffic, referring links increasingly came from articles I commented on. This proves to me that meaningful feedback will eventually loop back to its source.

7. I learned a heck of a lot about writing – from techniques that make for effective storytelling to the power of anecdotes as a way of making ideas stick. And after 52 Weeks of Feedback, here is the one piece of criticism I came up with the most (something I am also working on): cut the fluff. Be rigorous with your choice of words. While I’m a strong believer that long-form pieces belong on the web, longer is not necessarily better. One editor put it this way: learn to distinguish the pepper (relevant details) from the fly shit (details that don’t ultimately serve the piece). Help your reader get to the end of your articles.

8. Committing to a challenge helped me to create a new habit. I can’t promise I’ll continue the process weekly, but I will take the time more often to provide feedback for other writers.

There you have it! I encourage you to take on your own feedback challenge, whether it’s weekly, monthly or whenever you feel like it. As I have written above, I learned a lot from the process, and the practice has resulted in some long-term benefits: relationships with other writers, meaningful discussion and helpful tips that will improve my writing.

Is feedback important to you? Why or why not?