I dreamed last night that someone handed me the keys to a brand new BMW convertible, and then I woke up to find my site looking like this, so I guess you can say that dreams occasionally do come true?
If you’re a long-time visitors to Camels & Chocolate, things may look just a wee bit different around here. And if you’re a first-timer, well, perhaps I should start from the beginning.
I’m Kristin Luna, veteran journalist, Southerner and adventure seeker. I started C&C more than eight years ago, and it’s evolved from a travel blog to a personal site to a lifestyles portal through which to share my varying interests and passions: food, bourbon, home renovation, the South, writing, and of course travel (some things never change). You can read more of my backstory in depth on my fancy, new about page. Even if you think you know everything about me, I encourage you to click over and learn something new!
My last redesign, while pretty, was a bit dated, clunky and no longer functional for my needs, so in the early spring, I reached out to Further Bound, who had given my friends Pete and Dalene the VIP treatment when they unveiled their latest iteration of Hecktic Travels. I loved how, right off the bat, Hannah was responsive—a major problem I’d had with development teams in the past—and suggested we set up a Skype call to further explore a collaboration. Five minutes into our chat, I was smitten: I knew this was the pair who could deliver exactly what we needed for Camels & Chocolate v. 5.0.
SVV and I spent a couple months strategizing with Hannah and Lee and plotting out exactly what this site was going to look like before formally starting the design process in July. Hannah, having been a reader from the beginning, had a very distinct vision of how the C&C virtual journey would go; Lee, was responsible for executing it in concept from the coding end.
I don’t think these two had an inkling of an idea at just how big this project would turn into (VERY is the answer). As we got our hands dirty with the details, we kept delving deeper and deeper into possibility, page by page. I wanted a bold palette and a font with hints of Art Deco. I needed a way for people to find the 1000s of pages of content easier. I needed punch. I needed a way to display my hundreds of magazine clips in a clean and easy-to-navigate format. I needed a method of displaying multiple images as collages, or to have the images be flanked by compelling pull quotes. And, most importantly, I hoped they’d come up with a way to put together eBook ideas that had been rattling around in my brain for the last several few years.
After creating mood boards on Pinterest for everything from design ideas, colors, shapes, fonts, textures and photography ideas, the bare bones outline of the site began to form. Art Deco became a driving design component, with its linear lines and geometric turns—something I’ve always felt drawn to. We also spent a lot of time thinking about how to make the website a more pleasing place to visit: clearly defined categories and destinations and content that readers can really drill down into was the ultimate goal. Previous website iterations didn’t do this very well and we were ready to make a big leap and refine our virtual journey. We hope you agree that it’s now a place to get lost, bookmark and, most importantly, return to time and time again.
And behold, magic ensued: Lee and Hannah gave me a platform to do all this and much, much more. This site was a huge step for me on so many levels, not only because it was the biggest upgrade we’d undergone to date, but because it was also the first time I’ve ever had professional pics taken to fit within a uniform site branding (all Hannah’s doing). For that, I turned to Nashville-based lifestyles photographer Joe Hendricks, who is one of the best in the biz and an all-around awesome guy. He made the whole shoot a whole heck of a lot of fun—he even got my stoic husband to crack a smile for a few shots! Major victory right there alone—and my pageant queen-turned-makeup artist and stylist pal Brenna Mader did my hair and makeup for the occasion. I’ve decided I want these two to style my life because they did such a great job making me feel pretty. (And funny enough, they both were behind the scenes at my sister’s wedding this past weekend, too, so you’ll be seeing more from them soon!)
But what’s new exactly? Wellllll, other than literally everything, you’ll find all the international destinations I have ever covered on the Places page, which is my absolute favorite part of the entire site. If you’re looking for U.S. states specifically, those are broken down even further here.
Within posts, you won’t be able to click through the categories anymore, because we made it even more streamlined for you: You can either see the major categories on my homepage or you can always click on the Topics tab at the top of the page, which will take you to my archives broken down by theme: At Work, At Play, At Home, On the Road, City Dog Tales and Creative Crush. There is also now a breakdown of the categories at the bottom of many pages to help you through a crappy day in the cubicle with images of prancing puppies or pristine and sandy beaches.
My portfolio of published magazine and newspaper work is not only much easier to digest now but even broken down by genre: travel and food, celebrities and entertainment, business and startups, homes and entertaining, and health and wellness. Many of you have, in the past, asked to read samples of what I do all day, every day (other than tend to this blog and Ella’s every need), so here’s your chance! Be sure you have a solid Internet connection or free WiFi (183 pdfs is a lot of bandwidth to peruse).
Probably the biggest development is that I’m (finally!) rolling out the eBooks in phases, the first of which will be a very lengthy—read: upward of 20,000 words—rendition of my popular post of the same name, “So You Wanna Be a Travel Writer?” This will come out in October, and if you want to be notified of when that happens, you can sign up for an alert. If you want a FREE eBook on my favorite travel tips and products, you can nab that right now by subscribing via the form at the bottom of this page.
There’s so much more, but I’d prefer you discover it on your own, rather than break it down page by page. So have a seat and stay for awhile, will you? Since we just took the site live today, there are no doubt still bugs and broken links we’ve yet to find. If you locate any such holes, I’d be ever so appreciative if you’d do me a solid and leave a comment below.
And even if you don’t find missteps, I’d still love to hear more about YOU, period. I’ve been blogging for nearly a decade and my audience has changed with the times. People interact differently, through Instagram and Tweets as opposed to blog comments. As such, I’d love if you’d humor me: Do introduce yourself, tell me where you’re from, what you’re all about and why you’ve stuck around. Because while this site is about me, it’s kind of about you, too.