It’s been almost 3 months since I published the first article here on Exile Lifestyle, and a lot has changed in that time.

Probably the biggest (and quickest) change was the name of the project, which was born as 3rd Education but changed only a few weeks in to the less-vague (and more rhymish) Exile Lifestyle. The logo and color scheme also changed minutely right in the beginning, along with the writing style and length (which arguably shifts depending on my mood and the topic, but definitely got a lot shorter and a bit less florid over time).

The project itself has also changed, as I originally intended to leave the US at the end of the year, but will now be taking off mid-September. I’ve expanded the focus of the project to include more of my lifestyle design projects along with the travel writing (which would have been VERY lacking at this point, before I start traveling!).

Leaving Beta

With all those changes already, it might be difficult to discern what makes this update so significant. The first component is the new look.

The original look/feel for Exile Lifestyle was cobbled together using a free theme called Arthemia which worked wonderfully for a while, but eventually just didn’t have the right layout for what I wanted to do. I finally decided to move forward with a new look when I started to feel uncomfortable with the vibe (the same way I feel uncomfortable when my apartment is cluttered…bad feng shui). I needed to simplify.

The new look is built on top of a very simple and very beautiful theme called Modio by Upstart Blogger. I was thinking about building my own theme from scratch, but I’m trying to use more Open Source content in my work (it’s one of my projects that I’ll likely write a post about someday), and Modio was pretty close to what I was going to build, anyway. After a weekend of heavy modifying, Exile Lifestyle now has a much cleaner and better-organized look.

Some other changes to note:

  • Exile Lifestyle now has a logo (which you can see in the top left corner of the page); a little bird in a business suit. The idea was to have an iconic representation of being a businessperson who is also free as a bird (get it? get it?). It’s a bit literal, I know, but I was also able to re-purpose an old illustration I created over a year ago, so overall I’m pretty satisfied with the results.
  • I’ve removed a lot of the ‘clutter,’ which is Colin-speak for things that are probably useful but are totally in the way when you don’t need them. In case you need them, the RSS feed button is currently in the top right corner of the landing page, along with the newsletter mailing list sign-up button. I’ve removed the lifestream and instead linked to my FriendFeed account on the Social Networks page, removed the individual pages for Facebook, Twitter, etc (the links are still on the Social Networks page, though), and moved the FAQ to The Project page.
  • The landing page now features a quick greeting at the top, followed by the Featured (most recent) article and then a list of the ten most recent articles (to reduce bloat, I’ve taken out the images and excerpts from the landing page for these articles). At the bottom is a list of the different categories, which you can click to see a list of all the articles in that category (along with their excerpts).
  • Another other big change that you’ll see while browsing around the site is the abundance of beautiful new photos taken by Cris Dobbins. I’m thrilled with the results and have a nice supply of them (so I’ll probably be swapping them out periodically). Contact Miss Dobbins if you need some creative and professional photos for whatever (website, project, vanity, bathroom wall, etc).
  • You’ll find that I’m using a slightly different categorization system than before, focusing on the genre of the writing, rather than the type (so ‘Project’ relates to articles on the Exile Lifestyle project, while ‘Education’ can mean tips on self-education or education philosophies). I’ll be seeing how it works and may tweak it more if I get any good suggestions.

So those are the major changes to the site! I’d really appreciate any feedback you might have to offer, which you can leave in the comment section below or send directly to me through my handy-dandy contact page.

If you have any other comments, concerns, suggestions, etc for me or about the project, I would love to hear about it. I respond to every message I get, so even if you just want to introduce yourself I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks so much for your continued readership and support! The feedback I get from you folks is a big part of what’s keeping me going at such a steady clip, and I definitely don’t take it for granted.

Update: April 24, 2016

Three months in! It’s nice when I have a chronological reference point like this, because it firmly roots what I wrote about with what was happening in my life at the time.

I actually went and visited Cris in Amsterdam on a recent whirlwind trip through Europe — she’s still a killer photographer, and the snaps she took for me back then at the beginning of my blogging career are still some of the most-used by people who interview me or write about my travels.

It’s funny how impactful WordPress themes can be on how we perceive our own words. These things are what determine how the words are organized, and what the blog itself looked like, design-wise. I still tend to use a change in theme as a milestone, the new look serving as a new coat of paint, granting an old online property a fresh vibe, the musty old smell replaced with something a little cleaner and more of-the-times.

Going through and writing these updates was synchronized with a theme update. Likely the next round of updates will align with the same.

It’s worth mentioning, too, that a lot of the things I focused on in this post are now somewhat irrelevant. The social media and mobile internet revolutions changed a lot about how the blogosphere operates, and things like RSS feeds and social media aggregators went sideways after Facebook became our default timeline and Twitter our resource for updated blog posts. That space in still in flux, and things like RSS feeds have periodic resurgences when a shiny new RSS app comes along, but the clutter that I mentioned has largely disappeared from notice on a lot of blogs, because we’ve disseminated much of that content around the internet, rather than keeping it in one place.