About this project
Special Live Event!
On Saturday, June 1 between 10 and 3, all three of us will be at the Ballard Mud Bay pet store here in Seattle. We'll be there telling pet owners about what we're doing and asking them to make donations right then and there on our computer. In exchange they'll get a special reward designed for people who give then and there. So, if you know anyone who's got a pet and might want to pledge to our project, send 'em down or come by yourself. We'd love to see you.
Hey Hey! We passed 50% raised! In honor of that milestone, Alexis drew a special picture. Enjoy.
Awesome In-Kind Donation (Update: May 22)
Though we can't count it toward the Kickstarter goal, we wanted to report a huge pledge of in-kind support we got. The person who is doing the work to outfit the inside of our van (building a new bed and storage) is donating all of his work to us because he likes the project so much. That's a $1,000 value! Pretty exciting, eh?
What are we doing?
We're journeying across Canada in a 1984 diesel conversion van (her name is Vanny) to find the best places to visit with a small, slightly neurotic dog. Along the way we’ll document our trip on our website at ZoloNeurotico.com using words, pictures, video, reviews and an original webcomic starring our pup Zolo as Zolo Neurotico, hero to neurotic dogs everywhere.
At the end of the trip, we'll combine that collection with resources from around the Web including maps, links to other videos, reviews and stories that we found useful while researching our stops. All of this will become a multimedia e-book designed for smartphones and tablets that’s part travelogue, part guidebook. We find it easier to understand if we think of it as an app you might buy from the App Store's Newsstand instead of as a standard black and white e-book meant for electronic readers that use e-ink technology (they can only do black and white).
Why fund our project?
First things first: We’re not asking you to pay for an extended vacation for us. While we are on the road researching and creating content, we’ll also be working to pay for our basic living expenses (eg: food and lodging). Charlie will continue working as a contract writer and will also be pitching and writing articles about the trip for various magazines and websites. At the same time, Alexis is launching an Etsy shop where she is going to sell Zolo Neurotico merchandise and her unique style of pet art.
What we’re asking you to cover is the cost of the technology we need to gather material and tell our stories and also fuel for Vanny.
Video Camera $500
Mobile Internet Connection $300
Research Expenses (admission fees, etc.) $1,000
Why a guide book for crossing Canada with a dog?Honestly, the main reason is stories that include Zolo are much more entertaining to us and we think they will be to our audience as well. Also, when we first started talking about taking our lives on the road for this trip, we looked for books about travelling with a dog across Canada and found none. This got our entrepreneurial creative juices flowing. Combined we’ll make something entertaining and useful for which we think there is a market.
Think about it. How many RVs with small dogs do you see crisscrossing North America when you’re on the highways?
Who is involved?
We are a family from Seattle, Washington. Vanny’s drivers and the creators of the content are Charlie and Alexis, a married couple who will celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary somewhere in British Columbia this July. The star of the show is Zolo, a 27-pound mixed breed who came to live with us three years ago thanks to the magic of Petfinder. (We think he’s a cross between Basenji and Corgi with Formosan Mountain Dog thrown in.)
All three of us are world travelers. Our numerous past trips include a month-long honeymoon in Bali, four months working and living at the South Pole, long trips in Europe and many multi-day, back-country hikes around the Western United States and Alaska. Even Zolo was rescued and flown here from the streets of Taiwan.
(Vanny's original provinces and past itineraries are unknown, but we bought her from a guy in Federal Way, Washington who said he’d driven her to California a bunch.)
What’s going to be in the book?
The travelogue part will include tales of our adventures and the things we see and do told with words, pictures and video. This part will be a story of discovery and of fun and who knows what else. (That’s why you travel, right?) In the tradition of the best travel writers such as Paul Theroux and John McPhee, we hope to transport our audience to the places we experience so they too can get a flavor for the Great White North.
Zolo’s perspective is a huge part of this story. Alexis is drawing a webcomic starring Zolo’s alter ego, Zolo Neurotico. He will entertain readers with and without dogs in a comic series inspired by XKCD (though with less math), Hyperoble and a Half (though with one less dog) and The Oatmeal (though with less Siracha Sauce). The comics will be posted online during our trip and interspersed throughout the e-book to give readers a better picture of what Zolo experienced.
The guide book piece of the final product will list the places we visit and give vital information to help future travelers seek them out. We’re not aiming to create a comprehensive guidebook that covers every place to stay between British Columbia and the Atlantic Provinces. We will include our first-hand experiences and resources from the Web (allowing for always up-to-date info) for all the places we do get to see.
Each of the listings in the book will include two ratings. The first will describe its effect on Zolo, who tends to get nervous in crowds and around loud noises. This four-level Zolo Neurotico Scale will help travelers with dogs plan destinations that their canine companions can enjoy. Human readers of the e-book will want to know what Alexis and Charlie thought of a place overall, each one will be rated in a more traditional manner, e.g.: on a scale of 1 to 4 Zolos.
Why an e-book?
Publishing like this has a few advantages over publishing as a conventional printed book.
We avoid the costs of printing and distribution.
Future travelers can research from the road and, thanks to the various media we can pull in, they can get a fuller picture than a printed book can ever give of what they can see along the TransCanada Highway.
The most important aspects of any guide book are contact information and location information. Positioning ours as an app that uses multimedia and information from the web will let readers know they’re going to get accurate, up-to-date information.
Because it will be a multimedia project, virtual travelers will also have lots to see and do when they visit the sites with us from the comfort of their day-to-day lives. Along with all the content we create while travelling, users will be able to augment their virtual trip with us by pulling in content they seek out on their own, enriching their own experience from right within the e-book.
There are a few reasons we decided on Canada. First of all, it’s a huge country on our doorstep that very few people in the United States really know much about. As such an easily accessible place that’s not that well known, it was a natural choice for us.
Second, we wanted to travel and leaving Zolo behind was not an option. He’s a member of the family, not just a pet. Canada is the easiest place for us to get to with him in tow. Future trips and books might lead us further astray, but for our first major trip with him, we figured easier was better.
Finally, who doesn’t love a good road trip? Sure, we could have driven across the United States, and we will on the way back. But we wanted to do a travel book about another country. There is as much to see and do across Canada as there is across the U.S., so why not leave the country?
What’s the itinerary?
We are leaving on June 24 and have to be in Connecticut by Sept. 21 for a wedding. We’re keeping the itinerary loose, but know that we’ll be spending the first month in British Columbia, much of it exploring the wilds of Vancouver Island. We’ll also be making extended stops in Banff and Jasper National Parks, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. We aim to get all the to Newfoundland before turning back south toward the States.
What's the timeline for the e-book?
We'll say right up front that neither one of us has ever produced an e-book before. That said, we're going to give ourselves a lot of time to get it right.
The first step is going to be collecting the information and creating the majority of the content. This is going to be done during the trip and we'll be posting online at ZoloNeurotico.com as we go.
While we travel we'll also be getting to know the various forms of e-books that are available out there by consuming different generes related to what we're doing (travel guides, comic books, travelogues, magazines, etc.) This will serve two purposes. First we'll get to know what we like, what we don't, what works and what doesn't. Second, we'll become active members of online communities where we'll be able to market our finished product.
During the trip we'll also be learning the nuts and bolts of developing apps. To do this we'll use books and take virtual classes through ItunesU and other online outlets to learn the programming basics (Charlie has already started this). After laying down a solid base in the development arena, we'll research the various publishing platforms and how they work.
Once we're back in the fall we'll start combing through all of our material, both what's been published online and what remains unpublished, so we can pick out and clean up what's going to go in the final product. We expect this to take until the end of February.
When our material is laid out and organized we'll start the app development process in earnest. This is the piece of the plan that is hardest to define in terms of time. But we'll aim for four months. That brings us to the end of June. Once testing is complete and everything looks great, we'll launch. Our goal is to do that in mid-Summer 2014.
UPDATE MAY 16
In honor of The Seattle Foundation's GiveBIG Day, we donated 10% of all pledges made on May 15 to Seattle Animal Shelter Foundation. We raised $26.50 for them! Thanks to all who pledged to us on that day.
Risks and challenges
At the end of the trip, I will be the one to turn our website into the final product. Doing this could take a lot more effort than I realize since it’s the first time I’ve created an e-book or an app. But with almost 15 years experience as a professional writer, journalist, editor and web editor, I have a solid base in the production of publications both printed and electronic. So the creation and design of this project’s content is something I can do.
I am committed to learning how to develop the app because I am using this trip as an opportunity make a career shift into mobile app development. Creating and launching this one is only the first of many that I plan to build in the future. I believe that my personal passion for the project, the commitment I feel toward our backers and my plans to develop these kinds of skills into a career will give me the motivation to see the whole thing through.
International travel is inherently risky, but by choosing Canada we’ve taken a lot of the biggest risks out of the equation.
Driving brings potential trouble of its own, but we’ve bought what we think is a solid vehicle. It’s been checked by a reliable mechanic and the minor problems that were found have been fixed. We’re both careful drivers who have never had an accident while driving.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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