If I were to write a book about the last six years, it would be called “The Reluctant Entrepreneur”. The book is a hypothetical, but it has become a fun joke with friends about how I never planned for Legal Nomads to become a full-time business. Those of you who have been here for quite a few years know that I didn’t quit my job to “be” a travel and food writer, I just wanted to travel and eat and write for a bit. I am extremely excited and grateful that the site has progressed into both a community of great people and well as a springboard for other projects. I’ve loved learning as much as possible — about WordPress, about photography, about self-publishing, about food — along the way.
When I say reluctant, I don’t mean it in the resistant or negative sense, but rather along the lines of its other definition: hesitant. Many people I meet were devouring books about entrepreneurship in high school, dreaming of having their own businesses, and running out of the shower half dry to jot down their newest idea. I wasn’t one of them.
My dad is an entrepreneur, one who started up his own company around the time I was born. But while he encouraged my brother and I to be our own boss, I ended up accepted to law school at 18 and working for a firm instead of for myself. I didn’t see anything wrong with that; I learned a lot, I was thrown into the firepit of corporate transactions, and I enjoyed what I could of New York in the limited time outside the firm.
But then I quit, and I started this site. For the first long while, I did not travel with a computer, and I expected to return to the law and to New York. As I’ve written elsewhere (here and here), the site slowly grew into what it is today. As time went on, I found it satisfying to work for myself. I worked to circumvent the challenges of not wanting to post advertising or sponsorship on a travel site, but still requiring income to live. I spent many late night hours at my computer, tweaking things on my site or scribbling down new posts. And nowadays my life includes running out of the shower with new writing ideas, and digesting all sorts of books about business and entrepreneurship. Sure, there have been times when I’ve used the word “pivot” without irony and subsequently wanted to punch myself in the face. But overall, it’s been a marriage of champions: I get to do what I love (writing and eating, much of it in Asia). And I still get to gobble up information and apply it to the site.
Basically, along the way I became one of those people who baffled me prior.
My dad was slow to cheerlead a more permanent hiatus from the law, worrying that I would – in his words – “end up living in a cardboard box somewhere”. Nowadays, he sees what I am building and gets to say, “I told you so” — which is better than “here’ s a great law job I found”.
For a long time I worried about converting this blog into “blog plus something more”. I did not want to alienate long-term readers, many of whom signed up for updates well before I even realized non-friends were reading my site.
The challenge in growing the site was to be judicious about related projects and about associations; this is why I’ve been what has been called “annoyingly selective” in partnering with brands. (I take this as a compliment!) Over the last years, I’ve slowly reinvested money earned into learning about ways to build Legal Nomads further. I’ve cut down on freelance writing and outside work in favour of working on and showcasing my own projects, which has been really rewarding. First up was my book about food and travel, and then the Saigon food walks, and now I’ve kicked off the series of hand-drawn food t-shirts, each one-of-a-kind illustrations.
Ultimately, I suspect I will alienate some of the readers who want a pure hobby blog with no added business component attached. But as I said on the 6 years of travel post, keeping the site ad-free is really important to me. The t-shirts cover many things I love: creativity, food, typographic design, travel. I’m excited to share them, and it’s even more compelling to fund this living tree of a site in a creative way, while still maintaining integrity.
About a year ago, I started to think about a way to showcase my new projects on Legal Nomads. The site started as a blog, and was re-designed in 2011 with that in mind. As I added new projects, the sidebar started to get awfully crowded. I needed to find a better way to house and showcase the full ambit of the site.
Shiny New Redesign
The blog remains the backbone and spirit of what I do, and my primary concern. I love sharing the stories from my travels, and am excited to keep doing so. What I wanted was a portal style homepage, one that would be a map of different rabbit holes, each leading to a different component of what Legal Nomads had become.
I struggled to find a theme that I could use to build a page of this kind, and initially thought that I would just get a homepage built and redirect my current homepage to a “blog” page instead. But then James from Nomadic Notes sent me a new WordPress theme that he found. I sent a note to the WordPress developer who built it explaining what I was looking for: a portal-style homepage with a responsive theme and very specific elements on the sidebar, navbar and footer.
The theme the site is built on is called WP-Prosperity (affiliate link; a non-affiliate link here). The WordPress developer, a gentleman by the name of Michael Pollock, ended up being a great partner in crime, sending long emails of questions, pushing me to make changes I wasn’t sure about, and thoughtfully reviewing prior posts and my Facebook page to ensure our visions were aligned. He has build a wonderful child theme based on his original theme, and I am really happy with how it looks.
The biggest change is the look of the homepage portal, but there are dozens of other, smaller ones as well. The site is now fully responsive, it has sleeker navigation, the navigation bars scroll with you, and it will soon have a store to house the hand-drawn typographic maps I’ve been starting to build.
Other than the store, the content of the site has not changed. We’ve just taken the items from the old site’s sidebar and given them their own place to shine on the homepage.
I’m happy that the projects I’ve built have a nice new home to call their own, and that the site has been modernized and updated to reflect the vision for the coming year.
I hope you enjoy the new design as much as I do.