Caroline West, an Australian art director and photographer, moved to Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, four years ago where she met Marco Khalil, a Canadian yachtmaster and pop-up shop owner. They go on regular road trips through the US in their vintage Volkswagen Bus called Stella, documenting their adventures on their blog, Travels With Stella
So, why did you start the blog?
Marco: "The blog was launched solely for ease of access to our travel documentaries. Every road trip we undertake is a chapter – and at its resolution we publish a photo essay to share with our friends."
And how did you find Stella?
Marco: “While browsing the internet I happened upon an enthusiasts’ website for air-cooled, vintage Volkswagens. Their online gallery rekindled a long-idle desire to own a vintage VW Bus. I set out to find one immediately. We boarded a ferry to the mainland to view three prospective vehicles and to take them for test drives. With our car packed with a complete camping outfit we were motivated buyers indeed – we had a vacation to make it happen! I cast caution aside and bought the second of the trio we test drove. It was clean, running and more or less ready to go.
I think getting it for half the asking price was a factor, too. It was August, and we wanted to go outside to play! From the moment of inspiration (impulsiveness) to buy a VW camper to owning one took less than a week.”
How do you create your blog?
Caroline: “I edit our photos as that’s what I’ve done professionally for more than 20 years, and Marco compiles the words. We’re always side by side, and in the end what you see is ‘our’ work.”
What do you love about it?
Caroline: “As a photographer, with thousands of images to file, it’s a relief and a joy to see photo essays on the blog. The images are edited and tell a story, far better than scrolling for images on an iPhone or searching through folders on a desktop.”
What iPhone app do you use for the photos?
Marco: “Retro Camera Plus by Urbian, Inc, for the iPhone 4. It captures photos in our desired square format with vignetting, ghosting, high contrast and modest colour saturation without the further requirement to scroll through ‘filters’ or use ‘effects’. The resulting image is a digital version of a retro plastic ‘toy camera’ similar to a Diana or a Holga. Regrettably, the app is extremely buggy, but we continue to use it because we value consistency in the look and feel of our images. There is no automatic sharing to social networks as found in some other apps.”
How do visitors use the blog?
Marco: “From simply viewing chapter samples and travelogues to using links for complete photo albums and route maps. Unlike many blogs that seek to retain engagement with continually refreshed content, Travels With Stella is only added to on completion of a voyage.”
Why have you chosen Tumblr?
Caroline: “It has a range of free templates. It’s quick, easy and does the job. As a designer I would ordinarily shun this way of designing, but the fact that Tumblr is fast, free and hosts 77 million blogs, leaves you no excuse not to have one.”
Do you have much control?
Caroline: “With Tumblr there isn’t a lot of control when it comes to design, so we chose a simple template and let the images draw you in. If a reader wants to see more, they can click on the links. When we first travelled with Stella my professional camera was at the repair shop so we chose to shoot with our iPhones. We liked the results and have made a point of taking photos this way on every road trip.”
Is the blog linked to other social media?
Caroline: “Social media is fast and furious, the antithesis of Stella. She thinks only birds tweet, and none of her friends are on Facebook.”
What sets you apart from other travel blogs?
Caroline: “We are not trying to get noticed. Travels With Stella is very personal and our way of sharing with friends, near and far, what we get up to during summer in North America.”
What are your favourite blogs & websites?
Caroline & Marco: “We like Oh So Lovely Vintage, A Devil of a Time, Etsy, Get Back Inc, Second Shout Out, Kirk Albert, and Modern Fifty.”