Habla de Tu Ciudad: An Online Training Course

I have a short list of things that make me happy: sunshine, a cold beer and my friends (and puppies, too). Moving to Seville was a no-brainer for me.

When I graduated college, I expected to live abroad for a year, learning Spanish and traveling as much as 631€ would allow, and the  return to Chicago to become a journalist. But I was hooked, not willing to give up my daily siesta, the cheap tapas and a whirlwind relationship with the Novio. Five years on, I make a living from teaching part-time and blogging part-time. Turns out, with Seville as my muse, I’m able to sell the city I now call my hogar dulce hogar. A city where flamenco seduces, where the sun and empty blue sky reflect off the Guadalquivir, where lunchtime stretches into dinnertime. My visitors to Seville understand the draw it’s had on me, and I seek to relate that to my readers, too.

When Flavio Bastos, a travel professional with a background in digital platforms, offered me the chance to test run his course about how to use your city as a vehicle with which to make money, I couldn’t say no. Habla de Tu Ciudad y Vive de Ella is the result of over fifteen years in the travel industry, numerous city guides and a love for Europe’s great cities.

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The Course

Habla de tu Ciudad is a five-part online course that focuses on the various mechanics of starting up a blog or webpage, learning SEO, writing compelling content and learning how to monetize your blog. Each module comes with mini-lessons, complete with videos and text to helped you get the most out of each one. After deciding to self-host Sunshine and Siestas late last summer, I’ve used loads of resources on the net and other e-books to get an idea of how to begin taking my humble blog to the next level. They’re useful and pertinent, but very one-dimensional in the sense that you read it, take notes, and try to apply what you’ve learned to your own pages. But Flavio’s approach, his videos that show real-time tutorials and “homework” activities that allow you to put to practice the different topics discussed in each module.

Want proof? Type in “guy speedo siesta spain” and see who comes up first. I am an SEO genius. Not really, but the 15-year-old boy in me is loving this. Or, do a google image search for “Ham Fair Aracena” and you’ll see a few of my photos.


What Else I Liked

Flavio has worked on this course for the last four years, taking into account the latest rules and algorithms used by Google to rank pages. Apart from having the latest information within the travel and digital journalism, Flavio’s personal anecdotes of trial and error and how they led to his own successes were heart warming and left me feeling at ease. And even though it’s travel and tourism-centric, there are loads of relevant information for bloggers and digital media strategists. The course is easy to follow and starts with the basics, followed by a gradual build up.

Satisfied with that I had learned, I asked the course creator to tell me a bit more about the course.

Describe tu experiencia profesional, tanto en el sector en turismo como plataformas digitales. // Describe your professional experience, both in turismo and the digital world.

De formación soy periodista. Sin embargo tengo más de 15 años trabajando con Internet, trabajé en varias startups a lo largo de mi vida, y siempre de manera muy autodidacta. Cuando vine a vivir a Lisboa, hace 4 años, decidí que era el momento de entender más del área del turismo, que es algo que siempre me había fascinado pero nunca había tenido la oportunidad de explorar. Desde entonces he trabajado en el área de comunicaciones e internet para varias empresas, desde las RRPP para un software de revenue management hotelero hasta el community management para un buscador de turismo rural muy conocido en Portugal.

I’m a journalist by studies. Nevertheless, I have more than 15 years of experience working on the Internet, working on various start-ups throughout my life, and always in a self-teaching type of way. When I came to live in Lisbon four years ago, I decided it was he best moment to start understanding this part of tourism more – it’s something that has always fascinated my, but I never had the opportunity to explore it. Since then I’ve been working

¿Cómo desarrollaste el curso? ¿Tienes algún plan de elaborarlo o hacer otro curso parecido? // How did you develop the course? Do you have any plans to expand it, or begin another, similar course?

El curso nace de una inquietud: ver el potencial de muchas personas que no saben cómo sacarle provecho a las herramientas que nos brinda la era digital. A nivel personal, antes del curso, había formado a algunas personas con conocimientos básicos sobre cómo hacer ciertas cosas.

Por mi experiencia con la industria turística y tras ver casos como el de AirBnb (empresa valorada actualmente en 1 billón de dólares), pensé que esto es algo que puede hacer cualquier persona. Me refiero a “hablar de su ciudad”: la gran mayoría ya lo hace a través de las redes sociales: instagram, facebook, twitter. Y para vivir de ello sólo deben entender un poco más de el mundo digital y hacer eficazmente esas comunicaciones. Deben tener ciertos conocimientos: conocer cómo funcionan los programas de afiliados, optimización para buscadores (SEO), cómo escribir para web, gestión eficaz de redes sociales, asuntos de publicidad,  etc.

El curso es una plataforma pensada en brindar las herramientas necesarias a cualquier persona que quiera trabajar con Internet intentando abarcar de lo más básico a un nivel intermedio. El curso podría perfectamente llamarse “Habla de cualquier cosa y vive de ello”, pero pensé que no sería un buen nombre, y por eso decidí enfocarme en las ciudades y el turismo. Pero el curso lo han hecho personas de varias industrias y todos le están sacando provecho en sus carreras o empleos actuales, además de estar generando webs paralelas que les permiten tener ingresos adicionales.

No tengo planes de hacer un nuevo curso, sino de seguir mejorando el actual. De hecho, el curso está en constante actualización, y tenemos sesiones grupales y personales permanentemente para garantizar que quienes hacen el curso sacan el mejor provecho de las herramientas dispuestas en el curso.

The course was born from restlessness: seeing the potential that many people had to create content, but had no idea of how to take advantage of the numerous digital tools at their disposition. On a personal level, I was already training several people and teaching them the basics.

In my experience in the tourism industry and after seeing cases like AirBnb (currently valued at 1 billion dollars), I thought that it was something anyone could do: talking about their city. Most already do it through social media: twitter, Facebook, instagram. To be able to make a living really only depends on understanding the digital world a bit more and effective communication.  One should have certain skills: they should know about affiliate programs, SEO, how to write web copy, how to use social media, publicity, etc.

The course is a platform that uses the necessary tools that anyone who wants to live and work on the Internet, from the most basic to an intermediate level. It could actually be called, “Talk About Whatever You Want and Make a Living Off of It,” but I thought that it wouldn’t be such a good name, and that’s why I decided to focus on cities and tourism. But the course has been done by people in various industries who have seen its benefits in their professional careers and current jobs, in addition to running additional blogs as an extra income source.

I don’t have any plans to make another course, but to keep improving the current one. In fact, the course is constantly under construction, and we have group and personalized sessions constantly to guarantee that those who do the course get the most out of the tools at their disposal.

¿Cómo pueden los blogueros adaptar tu curso a sus blogs o las redes sociales? // How can bloggers adapt your course to their own blogs or social media?

Una de las inquietudes permanentes de los blogueros es “vivir del blog”. Con mi plataforma, muchos blogueros descubren qué están haciendo bien y qué están haciendo mal, así como generar ideas sobre nuevas oportunidades que quizás no vieron anteriormente.

Así que el curso puede funcionar como varias cosas: mera inspiración y mejoramiento de habilidades, o aprendizaje de cero de cómo iniciarte en el mundo digital, cómo escribir y sobre todo cómo sacar dinero de ello, en cualquier industria.

One of the biggest worries bloggers have is how to “live from” their blogs. With the platform, many bloggers have discovered what they’re doing well and what they’re not, allowing them to create new opportunities that perhaps they didn’t see before.

That way, the course works on many levels: plain old inspiration and improving skills, or starting from zero and learning how to get started in the digital world, how to write and, above all, how to make money within any industry.

¿Cuál es tu ciudad preferida? Descríbela en una o dos frases. // What’s your favorite city? Describe it in a few sentences.

Lisboa. Lisboa es una ciudad que para empezar, no parece una ciudad, sino una pequeña aldea pero al mismo tiempo con todos los beneficios de una capital europea. Tiene playa y montaña a menos de 30 minutos. Y es muy auténtica. Por  eso adoro esta ciudad.

Lisbon. Lisbon is a that, at first glance, doesn’t seem like a city but a small town, but at the same time has all the benefits of being a European capital. It’s got beaches and mountains at less than 30 minutes. And it’s very authentic. That’s why I love this city.

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Mil gracias to Flavio for providing me with a free trial of his great digital training program, Habla de Tu Ciudad. As always, all opinions expressed are my own. Click on the link above to learn more and sign up to learn how you can start living from your city, and take advantage of this incredible offer, plus a 20€ discount by using the code SUNSHINE. First ten to grab it and purchase the course will get the discount. Follow Flavio on twitter at @fba.

Seville Snapshots: Making a Splash in Croatia

This blog is a long love letter to Spain, particularly Andalucía, but traveling outside the land of sunshine and siestas is a lovely hiccup to my everyday life, my vida cotidiana. Like any expat, I’ve got my gripes about my adopted city, but spending a week away from Seville always rejuvenates my love for the place I now call my hogar dulce hogar.

I have a short list of what makes me happy: sunshine, cold beer and traveling (I’d also add food and puppies to this list). When Hayley and I decided to spend Holy Week outside of Spain, we were looking for those few things in our destination. We settled on Croatia, landing in Dubrovnik just as the rain clouds threatened the Easter processions back home and had a quick lunch to be able to enjoy the sunshine while we hunted down a cheap Balkan beer.

Rounding the old city walls near the ancient port, we captured the twinkle of the sun against the jade waters, the cats lazing in its warmth. In an attempt to find the famous Buza bar, we were met by an old man removing the last of his clothing, revealing a speedo and a belly that looked like he’d also been spending years downing Ožujsko beers at Buza. Clucking at us, he turned around, toes barely grasping the cement pier, and swung his arms backwards.

I was a gymnast my entire youth. He was making a go for it.

The old man’s backflip got me thinking about life and aging and goals. He reminded me that I’m never too old to try something new, to push myself to the limits, to quite literally jump into something headfirst. As his friend clapped and I held my breath, he bobbed up and down in the Adriatic, looking refreshed and pleased with himself.

Today may be April Fool’s Day in the US, but I’m not joking around anymore – I’ve got something big in the pipeline, and I’m ready to make a splash in 2013.

Seville Snapshots: Reflecting on 2012 at Parc Guell, Barcelona

As I sat having a beer at 11 a.m. a few days ago with my family, I slipped off my coat and let the sun shine right on my face. It was nearly 65 degrees in Barcelona and I was toasting to a family trip. As the year was coming to a close, I found myself in disbelief that 2012 was already over after such a whirlwind year of travel, big decisions and finally finding some equilibrium between America and Spain, work and play.

2012 is a year that neither sticks out as fantastic or awful – it was a good balance of both. I turned 27, got my first ticket, traveled a whole bunch to new destinations like New York City and Turkey, learned to cook. For once in my life, I’m looking back at a year that just was. And, honestly, I’m feeling alright about it.

I think my biggest accomplishment was sticking up for myself and quitting my job. After two years teaching, I decided it wasn’t for me. Without even trying to say goodbye to my students, I wished them a happy summer. I found a job that gave me just the thing I was looking for – balance – and enough time to keep up this writing project and get my master’s online. Life is slowing down to a comfortable pace as I’m finally finding time for being a better girlfriend, friend and teacher.

Here’s to you and yours and to all of the things 2013 holds. I’m looking forward to the things I love best – grabbing Camarón, having a beer outside with the sun on my face and exploring a new place. I’ll earn my master’s in Public Relations, hopefully start a new writing project and maybe finally take the plunge… in more ways than one.

For now, the cava and the 12 midnight grapes in Puerta del Sol!

PressReader Newspaper Application: A Review

When I was seven, my favorite place in the world was my best friend Megan’s farm. Even though she needed to shove her cats into the basement and vacuum the entire house so my allergies could be kept at bay, the farm and her mother’s cooking made for many happy memories. Among these were having her mother carefully split the comics section down the middle, serve us pipping hot pancakes and mason jars of milk and digging into two things I have always loved – newspapers and breakfast food.

I graduated from college 15 years later with a journalism degree.

While I’m abroad, my desire for news seems to be more acute. Even Spanish news programs are on at 3pm, the time at which most families are sitting down to lunch. I devour newspapers each morning over breakfast – this time with a cup of coffee instead of a mason jar of milk.

I recently took a test run of PressReader, the largest online kiosk for reading newspapers from around the world on a mobile device, tablet or computer. Over 2,300 newspapers in 54 languages are available for browsing, and my subscription started just before the 2012 Presidential Elections. I opened the application to find loads of information about the impending polling and last minute pushes in swing states, quickly saved a few English and Spanish language newspapers into my favorites and dove right in, cup of tea in hand.

They say no news is good news, but no news makes for a deprived Cat with nothing to do to keep her entertained in the morning. Here’s what I thought of PressReader’s application.

What I liked

The benefits of PressReader stuck out right from the beginning. I could easily move through titles, sections and languages and get a good feel for the applications and its capabilities.

Easy Navigation and Stellar Graphics – When each new newspaper is opened, found through a keyword search or by choosing a language, the front cover pops up and the sections can be found on the right hand side. Here, one can browse the sections that interests them the most, using either the table of contents or the thumbnails of the paper’s actual content. There’s also the option to download the paper to a mobile reading device or to send the article to an email address. The newspaper appears just as it was if it were in your hand, with crisp graphics and the ability to open a separate window with larger text and related articles. If anything, I’d prefer the icons for zooming in, turning the page and closing the article to be floating, rather than on the bottom.

Radio Option –  An automated reading of the piece is available in all languages, perfect for multi-tasking or downloading for later listening. The Spanish readings actually sounded better than the English ones!

The Price – After frustratingly trying to open articles to just browse and get my news fill, having to click to read through Facebook ro other social media was irritating. PressReader offers a close to unlimited number of views for a flat fee of $0.99 cents per download, or a rate of $29.95 a month. Considering you’ve got access to well over 2,000 newspapers and all of its content (including the crosswords!), it’s a great deal for keeping informed.

What could be improved

Small Type – The small type led to problems with me clicking on the wrong articles or links. I couldn’t find a magnifying glass to help me sort it out, either.

Not personalized enough from the beginning – Largely due to the enormous number of newspapers availble, the front page is a big jumble of popular articles, my saved newspapers and a dashboard. Trying to find articles that interested me was tougher than I expected, so I would have liked the application to begin with a short questionnaire about my preferences, geographic location and preferred language, along with the look of my homepage.

Overall Value

While PressReader is great for the traveler and the digital minded, I miss the slight weight of a newspaper and the smell of ink on my hands. Regardless, PressReader offers travelers an easy way to stay in touch with no pesky “two clicks a day” limit and a reasonable price to have it all at their fingerprints, no matter where or when they’re having their coffee and paper break.

PressReader generously offered me a multiple-month trial of their application for my desktop. As always, all opinion are my own.

How to Survive a Blog Conference as a Newbie

Bridging my current knowledge gap with those who know far more.

It seems that I can confide in my blog designer (let her know how great of a job she’s done!) about all of my blog-related qualms. When I told her my site needed some work done before attending Travel Bloggers Unite earlier this month, I also blurted out, OMGIHAVENOCLUEWHATIMDIONGTHEYREGOINGTOHATEME .

Staring down the list of all of the big names in the industry and all of the other delegates, I was immediately intimidated and glad I would be with my friends and fellow Spain bloggers Lauren of Spanish Sabores and Liz of Young Adventuress. We schmoozed, we had silent freak out moments (ok, mostly me) and we traded business cards with some big guns, all in the name of self-promotion.

Bring Business Cards

Not three days before leaving the US for the conference, I realized I hadn’t had business cards made. For many, seeing this little card will give them your first impression of your blog, so it’s important to have them on hand and ready to dole out. When meeting people, I often jotted down something that we’d connected on, like bikes or fundraising, and made sure to tweet them right after the conference.

Moo and Vistaprint can get you fast cards with a professional look for just a few dollars, plus shipping. Having made this mistake, I’d really take a look at your brand and what message you want to send to another blogger or PR rep. Black and white for a country as vibrant as Spain? Sure, it fits the picture I used, but it doesn’t really tell the story of just how colorful a place it is.

Research Who Will Be There and Reach Out to Them

Conferences of this calibre often have a list of delegates who will be attending, along with the keynote speakers, chat givers and organizers. I was shocked when Lauren checked in and the conference organizer said, “Right, you’re the American married to a Spaniard in Madrid!”

My designer told me to talk to a few people in particular, many whose blogs I’ve read, so I did a little research to find out something we had in common, or a particularly interesting anecdote to comment on. As Gary Arndt put it when we met last week in Seville for tapas, “Someone never makes themselves visible to me until they’ve got something to say.” My connection with Gary?

We’re both Green Bay Packers fans (and he even owns stock!).

Introduce Yourself By Way of an Interesting Anecdote

On a sunset cruise of the Duoro with Liz and Lauren

Speaking of which, use the “elevator pitch” technique when introducing yourself. Think about your blog as a product, and imagine you’re in an elevator with someone. You’ve got maybe 45 seconds to present yourself and your blog, the product, so how do you package it up?

Just like a speed dating event, blog conferences allow you to rub shoulders in buffet lines or cramped into a lecture hall. The first questions people tended to ask was, “So, what’s your blog?” and I had to think fast to tell them about me and Sunshine and Siestas. Nerve wracking, maybe, but I have sorority recruitment practice!

I had conversations ranging from how to swear in Spanish (with tutorials), to the bedbugs I caught at the hostal, to my missing laptop. I immediately hit it off with the duo from As We Saw It over my strange pareja de hecho marriage business, and we spent an hour talking about dozens of topics. Once I felt comfortable enough to do more than observe, I could let my voice shine through and connect with people – even if it was about bug infestations.

Have Any and All Gadgets on Hand (and their chargers!)

I had to laugh when we rolled up the magnificent Palacio do Freixo on the Duoro. I was ready for a glass of port, but the first thing handed out to us was a sheet of paper with Internet passwords. I realized I had left my iPod at the hotel charging, so the paper was no use to me. Many blog conferences have a special hashtag, so you’ll see people social media-ing away between chats, over coffee and when they’re up thinking at night (maybe that’s just me).

Roll out the ipods and smartphones!

I sent many tweets to people I was interested in meeting, and used instagram to show people what I was eating and seeing on the day of our city visits.

Be a Fly on the Wall Until you Have Your Bearings

My designer told me it was normal to feel overwhelmed and out of place. Thankfully, the first day’s pre-conference tour introduced me to a small group of people as we toured Porto’s artsy haunts. There were a mere six of us, but we all got on well enough to talk travel, products and marketing. Don’t feel the need to start doling out cards the second you arrive – ease into it, and speak out when you feel comfortable.

Ask All of your Questions

I went into TBU without a clear idea of what it was. Thanks to research and my training as a communicator, I soon found that the atmosphere was a bit more relaxed, and that most people were willing to help. Look at the conference site and map out what talks you’d like to attend. Note what you like on other blogs and write down questions on how to do it. Stay in contact afterwards.

I’m extremely happy that I made the decision to attend a conference, as I left feeling inspired and ready to tackle a new design and more ideas for content. With more preparation, I could have probably squeezed even more out of it, but we’re just taking baby steps for now!

should be applauding, but this crème burlee is so, so good!


Have you ever been to a conference of this nature? What was your experience?

If you are looking to rent an apartment in Porto which feels like home try MyFriendsRoom Vacation Rentals in Porto.


Show Me Some Love (and get some back, too)

Readers, we need to have a serious talk.

Things just aren’t, gosh how do I say this, sitting well with me.

Here I am, with a million things to say and no ears (or computer screens) to preach to.

Remember when I had that little blogger blog? With its boring template and crap spellcheck? Well, apparently people were reading that one since I had over 50 followers. This blog, with its own domain name and way cooler, um, everything, has just 11 (OMG THANKS). Seriously where are you guys?

Maybe I’m wrong as to think that just 11 of your read my blog, but I’m getting desperate. I want my own version of a Facebook news feed to show up in your mailbox once or twice a week. I want you to sit next to a good friend of mine on the ORD-MAD route and casually mention you know me (this is a true story courtesy of the Doles). I want you to know what it’s like to be me.

So I’m going to bribe you. After all, it works with my babies (along the lines of, “Be quiet for three minutes and color and I’ll give you each a piece of candy”).  I’m holding a subscription drive. See that little banana-yellow box up there? It says EMAIL SUBSCRIPTION. You put your email in there, and then you write me in the comments. On October 18th, I will pick one winner to receive a gift basket of tapas favorites from Latienda.com, a Spanish food import company if you’re USA or Canada-bound. If you’re here in Spain, I will send you a Christmas lote of about the same price from El Corte Inglés. And if you’re elsewhere, lucky you. I will send you some goodies from Sevilla (maybe even the Duquesa de Alba).

Let’s recap:

Sign up with your email.

Write me in the comments (as WordPress sometimes tells me he “thinks” he knows where someone is from and is often wrong) to tell me you’re in the Cool Kids Club and tell me one thing you’d like to see featured on Sunshine and Siestas. Want to learn more about obnoxious Spanish grammar? Or see more pictures of my pretty face? Or should I not talk about babies at all since they’re germy? I want to know!

Do it before October 18th. Do it now or forever not get your tapas and polverones.

Sign up for my blog? Or are you still as confused as I am over the title of this stand-up show?

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