Please note that there are a couple of affiliate links in this post. Also – every time you click a link, it will open a new window in your browser, so feel free to click and then check out the links when you’re done reading this post. Clicking a link on this blog will never take you away from what you’re actively reading (a huge pet peeve of mine).
The day has finally come. After years (and years) of talking about wanting to both redesign my blog AND fix the ten thousand errors that seemed to plague it… IT IS FINISHED! OK, actually, there is still a lot of work behind the scenes to be done, but for the most part, things are running a lot smoother and are (hopefully) a lot easier to navigate.
But let’s back up, shall we? If you’ve been reading this blog for a little while, you know that I got my start online fifteen years ago, and I know, I know, right now you’re thinking, “Oh my god, but you look so young, you must have been what, seven when you started?” *cough* Through various iterations, numerous monikers, three platforms, and countless dubious online confessions, I have been writing online in some form for a decade and a half. Yikes. In fact, last week it was my eight-year anniversary of my first post on This Battered Suitcase.
And if you have indeed been reading for a while, you know that my main focus was never to make this a career or to make tons of money from it; I just truly love writing and being part of this amazing community of people who love travelling (and apparently Shawn Mendes). I didn’t even know that blogging made people money until about five years ago (though I can name, in frightening detail, the plots of every single Leprechaun movie. Let’s not dwell on how my brain works, shall we?). Over the years, however, it did grow into something that I could make a career, and with the recent addition of ads and the acceptance of a few collaborations, all of those thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of words have made me finally wake up and be like, “Oh shit, I might have something here.” I might have something beyond just a passion, something more than a hobby; I might have something that actually pays the bills.
While my business savvy started to grow, my blog itself felt very firmly left behind. Although I switched platforms in 2013, from Blogger to Wordpress, and got a new header, that was about the extent of what I did in terms of technical aspects on this blog. There was barely any way to navigate, barely any organisation, and literally thousands of broken links and photos. It was a nightmare.
Just over a year ago, I emphasised this in the post, I Feel Bad About My Blog. Design issues, 404 errors, newsletter errors (I didn’t even know I had a newsletter, that’s how sad this situation was)… I could go on and on about all of the things that made me feel awful about my blog. I sometimes even felt embarrassed to give my blog’s information out to potential collaborators, because I felt like it looked so outdated and unprofessional (yet I weirdly wasn’t embarrassed about 40,000 people reading this, go figure).
And so, for years, I said I was getting a new design. No, for real, if you go back through my blog, I’ve been saying this for years. Finally, I’d had enough of talking about it, and started to look into it. I knew I had to hire a designer and a developer, or maybe some magical unicorn who was amazing at both. I sent out a few emails to potential designers and developers, feeling smug. “I’m totally getting a new blog in the next couple of months,” I thought as I hit send.
Well. Do you know how much freaking money it costs to get a new website built from scratch?! I was being quoted anywhere from $5000 to $10,000, and we’re talking USD. I’m Canadian, so that basically meant the equivalent of one million Canadian dollars plus a kidney. I do have some savings, but the more I looked around at custom built websites, the more I realised I didn’t really care if it was custom or not. I simply wanted a blog that worked and that encouraged people to read more. I also realised I was only looking into custom built blogs because I thought that’s what I was supposed to want – it’s almost taboo in the blogging world to say that you’re OK with having a blog that looks like other blogs. I briefly considered switching from Wordpress to Squarespace – I often like the look of their websites – but felt that they were too photography-based compared to my text-heavy site, and I also panicked at having to learn a whole new platform when I barely understand Wordpress some days.
Armed with that new knowledge, I found a Wordpress theme I liked; I went with the Soledad theme, as I felt it most reflected what I wanted my blog to look like. But because I struggle to perform even the most basic technological tasks on my blog (I chalk it up to thinking that I might click a button and delete everything I’ve ever worked on) I knew I couldn’t implement this theme alone.
Enter my magical unicorn, Daria Olivo. Daria and I met at a blogging conference in Spain a few years ago, and later bumped into each other at a Blogstock in the UK. We worked together on a project in 2016, so I knew she was professional, patient, and talented as hell. She wasn’t available when I first contacted her last year, but she had time this year… and it was TOTALLY worth the wait.
Daria not only designed my amazing new header – I blabbed on for a few minutes about my favourite colours, favourite artists, and sent through a couple of examples of old travel posters and she fucking nailed it ON THE FIRST TRY – but she also helped me implement the new theme, no small task when I had very specific instructions of what I wanted and also a very messy, disorganised blog to work with. She made the entire experience incredibly stress-free, which is nothing short of a miracle. The many hours she spent working behind the scenes as well as the time spent emailing and on the phone with me resulted in what you see today, and I can’t thank her enough for all of her hard work.
Seriously, if you’re thinking of design work, development work, or both, hire Daria. You won’t be disappointed.
The other big switch I made that has helped things considerably is my hosting provider. OK, I don’t truly understand a lot of what I’m about to say, either, so bear with me here… but basically, every blog needs to be hosted somewhere online. Without a web host, your blog won’t exist on the Internet. There are tons of hosts to choose from, and, in general, beginner bloggers choose affordable hosting providers; you can find ones that only cost a few dollars a month.
The thing is, I found those hosting providers very limited, and when shit went down, their support teams often took a long time to resolve the issue. Not only that, my site was unbelievably slow, and we all know that nobody has any patience anymore; if someone has to wait ten seconds for a website to load, chances are they’ll click away. I made the switch to Performance Foundry last year, and while I certainly pay more for it, as someone who takes blogging seriously it definitely felt like the right move. My site is much faster, much more secure, and their support teams are on the ball. I’d highly recommend them if you want to take your blog to the next level.
So that’s where we are today. I have spent the past month working behind the scenes to retag every single goddamn post on this blog, as well as fix tons of broken links and photos. I also deleted a lot of weird old posts that had absolutely no relevance or value (keep in mind I had this blog before I had social media, so sometimes an entire blog post would consist of me saying, “I really like this story!” and link to a since-deleted travel blog. Yeesh).
You might still find a few errors here and there – it’s a work in progress – but in general I hope the experience is much smoother for you. In the past week alone I have only worn sweatpants, survived off of tuna sandwiches, peanut butter sandwiches, and one giant cauldron of vegetable soup, and have watched three seasons of New Girl, one season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, one season of American Vandal, four documentaries, and seven movies while updating everything. Yeah. I think I need to shower. Also, my eyes hurt.
The most noticeable changes are that you can now dive into sections that might pique your interest. Want to read all of my narrative stories? There’s a section for that. Want to see all of my posts about fashion? There’s a section for that, too. Want to read about all of the times I’ve been dumped? Well, you’re in luck, because there’s an entire section dedicated to that as well (with a scarily abundant amount of posts, I might add). The eight sections on the blog are:
Romance (Dating and Relationships)
You can access those sections on the homepage under the main slider, but you’ll also see them in the drop down menu above under “Topics”. The main slider on the homepage will be updated whenever I feel like there’s an article I’d like to feature again.
I’ve been subconsciously distancing myself from “travel blogger” for a while now, although I still use it to describe myself from time to time. More and more, however, you’ll see that I’m posting more lifestyle pieces, or blog posts that have nothing to do with travelling. Travel will always be a huge part – the biggest part – of my life, but I think just “blogger” is probably more appropriate these days.
Another really exciting update to the blog, and something that took an ungodly amount of time, is my new Destinations page. Honestly, can we all just bask in how beautiful that looks?! I have wanted a page like that for years – my old one was so broken – but finding photos for each of those countries was no joke. You can click on any continent or country to see what I’ve written about it (some countries don’t have any posts attached yet) but you can also see that in the drop down menu above as well under “Destinations”. For example, you can now easily click on Italy and get all of these articles.
I also rewrote the About Me page as well as the Work With Me page because both read like boring resumes before (my About Me page now discusses taking shots of tequila as well as my history of emo poetry, so, yep, sums me up well).
You can also sign up for newsletters, meaning you’ll never miss a new post! With all of the algorithms on social media, my posts are being seen by fewer and fewer people on Facebook and other platforms. If you sign up (you can see the subscribe feature in the sidebar on the right) you’ll be notified when there’s a new article live. This has been SUCH an issue for me over the past few years – there was a serious problem with my old signup and newsletters – but I’m so glad that Daria and I could figure it out. Even if you’ve previously signed up, I’d recommend signing up again!
All in all, other than the fact I am legitimately worried I now have carpal tunnel, I am SO FREAKING HAPPY. Today I told my friend Sarah that I didn’t even realise how much of a weight this was on my chest until it was gone. For years, posting on this blog hasn’t felt as fun as I wanted it to feel, because I kept thinking of all of the problems, kept being distracted by a clunky design. It has honestly held me back from posting as much because thinking about it often made me feel so bad. I’m hoping this new facelift motivates me to update even more; with tons of new content on the way, I think it might already be working.
I can’t thank you enough for continuing to come to this blog even when it didn’t really work, or when it was a bit of an eyesore; every single day I’m motivated by your comments and messages to keep trying to be better at all of this, and this new design is a prime example of that.
Listen – I’m never going to be the Ferrari of bloggers. I’m probably never going to have a slick, custom-built website. I like to think that my old design represented the lovable old beater of a car that didn’t look very good, often broke down, but eventually got you from A to B. Now? I’d like to think I’m still the lovable old beater, I just have a new paint job, an oil change, and I’ve finally seen a mechanic. Either way, I hope you’ll stick around for the ride.
It looks fantastic! I love the colour scheme in particular. There is something really satisfying in implementing a new blog theme. Kinda makes me understand at least a little bit why people get facelifts.
Aw, thank you so much, LC! And yes, I kind of understand them now, too ha ha 😉
Love the new deign and the Destinations page is incredible.
Thank you so much, Gemma! So glad you like it.
Aw, so clean! I’ll admit I miss the old beater a bit… but that could be because I’m still mourning the loss of the ’99 Chevy Tracker I had to sell before moving to Italy. 🙁
I will 100% NOT miss it, ha ha… but hopefully you’ll come around! I’m sorry to hear about your Chevy 🙁
Hello from one of your favorite country! (Italy) 🙂
So glad to click on your blog and see all these amazing changes: your content I’m sure will keep to be interesting and entertaining, the new theme looks awesome so nothing’s going to stop you now! 😀
Great job, really!
Aw, thank you so much, Ally! Your support really means a lot to me. I wish I was in Italy to celebrate 🙂
Oh Brenna I love it! I did the same thing with my blog – chose a theme I liked, hired someone to design my header and I was good to go and it was affordable doing it like that. Congrats!
Yeah, I really don’t think that people need to drop huge bucks on it… I realised I could get so much of what I wanted with a new header and theme! Thanks so much, April, I’m so glad that you like it.
I love this new design it’s fresh, modern and bright. Plus, I can find all the different post easily now from the front of your site 🙂
Aw, thank you so much! I’m so glad that you like it. I definitely wanted the posts to be easier to find!
The new design looks great! and taking the time to find photos for your destinations pages was well worth it because I’m obsessed!
Aw, thank you so much, Jenn! Yes, that was incredibly time-consuming but I think it was worth it 🙂
Congrats girl! It must feel SO good to have a slick new design — it looks fab (as do you in these photos!). Miss you and hope we can catch up soon somewhere! xx
Yes, it feels amazing! Thank you so much, Edna, and ABSOLUTELY… I’d love to hang out again soon! Been too long xx
Looks amazing! So much brighter and cleaner. Excited to see what new content you come up with after this bout of inspiration 😉
Aw, thank you so much, Anna! Yes, it is definitely motivating me to get a lot more content I’ve been working on live. 🙂
Love it! Looks great! It always amazes me how long some of my favorite bloggers go without knowing much about the tech stuff behind blogging – amazing proof that what you do is worth it and the pretty blog is only icing on the cake!
Ha ha yes, it’s definitely a huge oversight of mine that I don’t know more… I’m fairly confident with Wordpress but actual coding goes way over my head. Hopefully I’ll learn a bit more soon! Thanks a lot for your support, I really appreciate it 🙂
It looks great, and I can’t wait to spend some time going through it more. A huge congrats to you! xx
Aw, thank you so much, Veena! That means the world to me. 🙂
LOVE the new site! I’ve been feeling a bit stuck with writing and reading your work always gives me a jolt of inspiration.
Aw, thank you so much, Jodi! I really appreciate that. 🙂
It looks so good! You go girl!
Thank you so much, Cate! 🙂
Congratulations on the new site!!! It looks fantastic and I’m so happy for you because I know you’ve wanted this for a long time
Aw, thank you so much, Elizabeth! That’s really sweet of you to say 😀
SO GOOD. It really is beautiful. You and Daria did a fantastic job.
This blog is always one of my favourite things to read.
xoxoxo <3 <3
Thank you so much, Meaghan – your support over the years means so much to me! I hope we get to hang out the next time I’m in Toronto xo
Wow this looks amazing!! I can’t wait to (re)explore the archives–I have fond memories of reading a ton of your older stuff when my grad school college town was snowed in a few years ago. Oh, those misty water colored memories! 🙂
Aw, thank you so much, Paige! You’ve always been such a big supporter of this blog, and I can’t tell you how much it means to me 🙂
Your new space looks AWESOME! Love the header and the sleekness of the design. Congrats on your big update! I’m excited to explore everything, and so happy for you that you have a new online home that you love!
Aw, thank you so much, Carrie! I’m so glad that you like it.
Waugh, I love the new destination page
Thank you very much, Ben!
Yes well done! It looks really good, youre right to be excited! You have been talking about changing the design for so long that it doesn’t even feel strange to see a new one (altho clunky or not, I still liked the old one too.. Or maybe that’s just nostalgia haha)
Aw, thank you so much, Elina! And yes, I’ve been talking about it for way too long, ha ha 🙂
I love this SO much Brenna! The new design looks beautiful. The colours are fresh and you seem so much happier to be posting. I’m sure your newly discovered enthusiasm for blogging again will be very apparent. I think the way you have broken up the topics makes it really easy to zoom in and binge your thoughts/posts. It’s great that you are deciding to become more of a general lifestyle blogger rather than just Travel. To me you will always be my first stop for all things travel, but I really enjoy when you write about love, style, and your general thoughts on being a woman. Ive been following your blog since I visited Japan a few years ago and will be sticking around for the long haul. Congratulations on a gorgeous new design! You deserve it and I will be signing up for the newsletter now 🙂
Thank you so much! I’m so glad that you like the new design and also like how it is organised – I felt there was so much content that was difficult to find, so I’m hoping this helps. Thank you for all of your support over the years, it really means so much to me and YES… I’m super excited to start posting more!
The new design is beautiful!! Congrats 🙂
Thank you so much, Sophia! 🙂
So great, Brenna! Your blog is honestly one of my favourite spots on the internet. The update looks so good. Congratulations on all your hard work!
Thank you so much, Erin, that comment means so much to me! I’m so glad that you like the new design 🙂
Well this is dangerous. I might disappear down the rabbithole of your blog like I did when I first found it!
Congratulations on all the hard work. It’s really paid off 🙂
Ha ha… beware the rabbit hole! 😉 Thank you so much for support, Jessica, it really means a lot to me!
Congrats Brenna, it looks awesome!! Definitely worth all the hassle. Looking forward to exploring and rereading some of your older posts 🙂
Aw, thank you so much, Ashley! I’m so glad that you like the new design…
Woha!! I came to read one of your old posts today and this is what I was greeted with. Your blog looks truly amazing and I wish you all the very best for future travels and some great stories.
Thank you so much, Sukirti! I’m glad that you like the new design 🙂
Wow! I have not visited your blog in a while and was pleasantly surprised. The new design looks awesome. Congratulations!
It looks amazing! So easy on the eye 🙂
You’ve been one of my leading travel inspirations for almost 4 years, Brenna. I’ve eaten up nearly every post in that time, and more. I love your candor, your sweetness, your beautiful, open-mouthed smile, and your passion for visiting new destinations.
In the past 2 years I’ve travelled solo in 18 countries, including living in Australia for the last 12 months. When I first departed the States, aged 20, tears in my eyes, terrified, I kept your posts and thoughts about India in mind, and experienced actual magic for the month I spent in that INCREDIBLE country. So, thanks 😉
I have been wanting to start a blog for most of this time, but haven’t gotten around to it. :/ *insert shameful self-pitying pout* I will, I will, soon….
When I saw the new face of your amazing blog and read this post, I felt inspired anew.
You’re amazing, great work, keep it up, can’t wait to keep reading.
Oh My God, Brenna! You finally have one of those “destination” page!! I LOVE it! It’s fabulous, classy, efficient and well organised! It’s marvelous I am finally going to be able to read your previous adventures in other countries ! I badly wanted to do it before, but the search function did not work so well, and I only joined something like 3 years ago… Now I have access to all of your precious memories and posts!! (Does that sound weird? It does sound weird.)
Anyway, fantastic job, I love it! You must be so proud of your baby now 🙂 !!
No need to wish me a happy reading, I’m on my way!
I know I have told you this before but it looks SOOOOOO GOOD!!! I just read this post now so I loved exploring all of the new features. All of your hard work definitely paid off sister 🙂
As if I couldn’t love your blog more, then you drop this new design. Amazing work Brenna! Definitely worth the years of hype.
Just dropped by to see if there were any new posts and was shocked to see the new design! It looks so great and I’m really happy that you have finally gotten this done… I know it will inspire you to write more and I can’t wait to read. 🙂
Your blog is amazing and you’re doing a great job.
P.S I’m so jelly you got you got to be that close to a giraffe. They’re my favorite animal.
Your pictures are always so amazing, I love them. Great post like always!