Reinventing the travelogue

By Iain Manley Sep 4, 2012

Yesterday morning, Claire and I stepped groggily off a bus after 25 hours of travelling feet first through Laos and China. The bus had flame-licked Chinese characters down its sides; inside, there were three rows of narrow bunk beds upholstered in faux velvet. I had to fold up my two-metre frame like a concertina to get into my top bunk, where I slept in fits and starts, terrified I’d crash down into bed with a scowling Russian woman. We don’t normally make such big jumps in a single journey, and the transition from Luang Prabang to a Chinese provincial capital has given us both a jolt.

As a number of you already know, our crowd-funding project went live last week. Time on a bus drags by painfully when you’ve spent the last few days online, with blurred vision, watching yourself progress slowly towards an ambitious target. Our target of $34,500 is ambitious, we know, but not wildly so: we believe we’re offering the best possible rewards, at fair prices, and roughly half that total will only cover our overheads. We’ll need all of the $17,000 or so we’ll have left to tell the story of our journey across two continents.

Kickstarter is unlike other crowd-funding platforms in one crucial, hair-raising respect: once you set a goal for your project, you have to reach it or you get nothing. Not a cent. That makes sense for backers, because a well funded project is more likely to deliver quality products, be they pocket-sized solar panels, jeans for tall women, ghouls playing baseball or the story of a journey from Shanghai to Cape Town, uniquely told.

We chose Kickstarter because it makes supporting a project easy. You can choose rewards worth between $4 and $1,200 – between a short story, a postcard from the Silk Road, a professionally printed photo set, signed copies of our books and a long weekend in Istanbul – and be done in just a few clicks. Everything goes through Amazon, which makes the process secure and simple. You also won’t be charged anything until our deadline, on October 11, if – and only if – we reach our goal.

The good news is that thirty six people have backed us so far, pledging a total of $2,777. Hundreds of others have helped out by sharing the project by email, Facebook and Twitter. South Africa’s Getaway magazine published our appeal for support and one total stranger both wrote about and backed our effort to reinvent the travelogue. If you did any one of those things, thank you! Altogether, it’s not a bad start, but we have a long, long way to go.

$2,777 is only 8% of our goal. According to the projection service Kicktraq, we’ll only reach $17,455 if we carry on at the same rate, but whether we’re $10,000 or $1 short of our $34,500 goal, the result will be the same: we’ll have to shelve Old World Wandering for the time being. We’re running this campaign so we don’t have to, because we believe that with time and your help our travelogue can fill some of the holes 24-hour news cycles and commercial travel journalism leave open. For now, we’re working towards reaching $10,350. That’s 30% of our target, and 90% of the projects that make it that far are successful in the end.

If you haven’t already, take a look at the rewards we’re offering, choose something you like and help us to tell new stories about an Old World.

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