Now that we have been blogging about our sabbatical for more than a year, it might be interesting for you, our dear readers and followers, to see what that has been like: how many visitors and views did we have, where do our readers come from, what are the most viewed pages, what are our writing goals and policies, and how did we keep it up and what experiences did we have? This post will answer all these questions.
Our writing policies
Believe it or not, we have been thinking a lot about how to set up the blog. Most importantly, for whom are we writing what? We aimed for a double audience : first, friends, colleagues and family, just to tell you about our daily life, volunteer projects and small adventures in the tropics. Secondly, we wanted to write for everybody who is considering to undertake a sabbatical year abroad, maybe far away in an exotic tropical country like Costa Rica and maybe also in nature conservation.
For the first group we had the list of blogs on the home page and the photo albums. Many of our friends and colleagues live in Sweden and they all speak English. However, some of our families in Spain and the Netherlands are not that good in English, so for them we wrote in Spanish and Dutch respectively. We even made two items in the main menu for them. The topics were selected based on our inspiration to write about. Some of you gave us the feedback that Cristina and I write so differently, and I guess that is because of that, plus the fact that we are different people (in case you had not noticed).
For the second group we created special items and pages under the main menu ‘The sabbatical’. In part these are simply groupings of the blogs that we happened to write, and in part these are special pages. Topics ranged from the books we read, practicalities, and planning to bringing pets and so on. For those interested in nature conservation in Costa Rica we made a main menu item as well.
This organisation of the blog is the end result of a historical process. We started the blog already in March 2019, relatively few posts that could only be about the preparations. After we landed in Costa Rica, we had many discussions about how to set up the blog and what to write. We occasionally changed the structure and reorganized it. But I believe that in the end, we mostly wrote for friends, family and direct colleagues, i.e. people we know well. Also, in the course of time we had covered more or less everything we wanted to say about going on sabbatical and as of the second half of 2020, we did not write a lot about it anymore.
Who are you?
As is clear from the above, we know many of you (or so we think), although we of course don’t know exactly who is visiting, how regular and who is mostly reading what. The logs of our WordPress account don’t keep track of that. But it does keep track of which posts are viewed on which days, from which country you are viewing, and which links you click. No surprise that most of you are from Sweden, Spain and the Netherlands. In 2020 we had almost 20.000 views from 3300 visits. About 6000 of those views came from the Netherlands, 5000 from Spain and 3000 from Sweden. The next biggest group of viewers were from the United States (1200), Mexico (1000), Costa Rica (850) and Italy (800). Other countries had about 300 or less views originating from them.
We can explain the interest from Mexico and Italy, which we won’t do here because it’s personal, but you’ll know if you know 😉 . The interest from the United States is a bit curious because we don’t have many friends or family living there. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that Costa Rica is a well known holiday destination for the United States. But perhaps also with the fact that in the course of 2020 the blog received increasingly more views through search engines (Google mostly), from about 25 views in January and February to about 200 views in the last two months. And since the US is a big user of internet, this could explain the relatively high amount of viewers from there.
Views, visitors and posts. Some numbers
I will let the numbers views and visitors speak for themselves. Here is the graph for the past 23 months.
It is not too difficult to see the trend. We wrote a few posts during the preparation year and got a few views and visitors. But as soon as we landed in San José, we started writing like crazy, and everything was new for everybody, so we got a lot of views. I remember how surprised we were with these high numbers from the very start. And your attention of course made us even more enthusiastic about writing more. Perhaps it went a bit out of hand, because some of you said they had a difficult time keeping up! We take this as a huge compliment on multiple levels.
As you can see in the graph below, after the first few months, however, our ‘production’ went down somewhat and so did your visits. Still you can see some months with relatively high views and others with lower numbers, notably June, October and November. Keep in mind that in the pages with photo albums one can click on a picture and then click through a slideshow. Well, it turns out that each of those clicks are counted as a view. I just checked and in August, October and November, Cristina who makes all those incredible pictures, did not upload any new photo albums.
Perhaps interesting about the posting activity is that in September, October and November, we produced very few posts. As you may remember, those are the months that we lived in La Ceiba, where we had no internet. Then in December we produced a lot whereas we were still staying in La Ceiba. However, that month, we had no volunteer work anymore, so we had more time to visit a place where we did have internet access. And we had some catching up to do. You rewarded that with your views and visits. All in all, it seems that the more one writes, the more views and visitors the blog get and the higher the blog shows up in the search engines, which produces more views and visitors.
Next, a common question on blogs and websites is ‘what are the most viewed pages’? Again, let me start by showing the top of the list.
Some of these are no surprise, of course: the home page and the about page are typical ‘winners’. One page that did surprise us a lot, is the page with the list of nature conservation organizations. We started compiling it because we thought it might be useful for others interested in finding an NGO for a volunteer or sabbatical stay. That appears to have worked really well. Perhaps it is different for you, but if I Google ‘Costa Rican nature conservation organizations’, this page will be at the top of the hit list of almost 7 million hits. A couple of months ago, the Ecosia search engine (powered by Microsoft) did not have it as its first hit, but now it does.
The second most visited page is the overview of the photo albums. From the discussions about the views, you could have guessed it, but it is still worth mentioning. You have been devouring the pictures, and for good reasons!! If you ask me, Cristina could consider becoming a wildlife photographer.
The post ‘Where in Costa Rica’ is one of the oldest posts in the blog, published in April 2019. Cristina explains the choice for the locations where we wanted to do our volunteer projects. The interesting part regarding the number of views is that it originally did not get many views. Hardly any in fact, until last September when it suddenly received 35 views, and many more in the following months.
The last post/page with more than 100 views is the post in which Cristina described how other countries could learn from Costa Rica how to deal with Covid. This post received almost all its views in the month that it was published – May 2020 – probably because it was forwarded by a dear friend and follower. Again, I can not name names here, but if you are reading this: thank you very much.
What was it like?
Now that I have described what it was like for you 😜, I will now talk about what it was like for us. In short: it was a blast! We had so much fun with this blog! It’s simply nice to tell the story of our sabbatical, of what we learned, saw and did. Of life, the universe and everything about volunteer work, doing a sabbatical, and living in Costa Rica with its wonderful people and amazing nature.
As you may have noticed, Cristina and I very rarely wrote a post together. As I mentioned earlier, we are different people with very different writing styles and interests. However, we usually did read each other’s drafts and gave feedback. Hopefully, you noticed that. I sure remember Cristina’s occasionally ruthless comments about some of my drafts that I found personal diamonds of narration. But she was always right and I would have to go back to the keyboard with the steam coming from my ears.
Blogging really is something else than writing a scientific article or a report, and I learned a lot about it. Also, I know I sometimes simply refused to obey the rules of keeping it short and simple. After all, life is perhaps short, but never simple.
Last but not least, even though it was fun, stimulating and educational, it also was not always easy to find the time, the internet connection or the energy after a long day of volunteer labor to put some words and pictures on the screen. This is where you, our dear readers come in. Your views (I mean the number of views), your likes and comments in the blog and via separate emails or Skype talks were incredibly stimulating! Thank you so much for your support! I am sure we would not have done it or kept at it, if it was not because of you!