Virtual Wanderlust

One of the interesting parts of being a writer, advertising my books, and having an active website is tracking from where my website visitors come. Thanks to Google Analytics, I can see (approximately) each visitor’s log-in location. I initially expected most visitors to come from the Owatonna area and Minnesota in general. To a large part, they do live in those areas. But over the last three years, my biggest number of “fans” hailed from someplace called Samara, Samara Oblast in Russia. And this is #1 by a huge margin out of more than 840 locations that have been detected on my website in the last three years.

Samara is a large city (3 million +) southeast of Moscow on the Volga River. Lest you think my books have been translated into Russian and become wildly popular in a town not too far from the NW border of Kazakhstan, the real reason for my seeming popularity is probably something else.

I probably was the target of an intense robo-campaign to hack into my website by a company or an individual who mistakenly thought I had anything of value on my author website like credit card numbers. Fat chance. I don’t handle ANY transactions on my website and don’t intend to! The “Samarians” haven’t checked in with me in the past year or more, which further points to a hacking campaign that was eventually discontinued.

Nevertheless, it got me to haul out my world atlas and start looking up all the strange places where people come from who have checked out for one reason or another. Because I’ve been in love with map reading since I was about four years old, this is a fun diversion for me. I can page through an atlas for hours, noticing towns, states, bodies of water, islands, and mountains that stir my imagination and get me wondering what a trip to that exotic (or not-so-exotic) place would be like.

So I’ve wasted lots of time wondering about other locations that show up on my Google Analytics dashboard: St. Petersburg, Russia; Vienna, Austria; Naples, Italy; Kailua, Hawaii; and Hull, England. All are places in the top 70 locations that have landed on my website over the past three years.

That leads to my question: With what places do you have a strange or unique connection that is not physical OR personal (as in having relatives or friends who live there)?

52 thoughts on “Virtual Wanderlust”

  1. your question makes my brain hurt
    i am not sure how to twist my thoughts to think of places i don’t have a certain kind of relationship with
    i smile because i can tick off most of the spots mentioned and it makes me feel like a world traveler
    vienna, naples, kailua, and many spots in the uk hull not included (but i did have fond memories of my trips to the uk while looking up the location on the map)
    i too love looking at atlas pages
    i used to travel as much by the dotted scenic routes as i could wherever i was
    pj mentioned her connection to someone in her mother’s part of ireland yesterday and it ignited a quick mental trip to my parts of ireland my trips to china thailand indonesia turkey the train trip daughter and i took when she finished her study abroad trip was so enjoyable getting to see budapest and prague innsbrooke lake como milan venice my day in paris my stop in iceland the teenage trip to spain
    i love amsterdam and cologne and have quick flashbacks of brussels edinburgh and london
    (my daughter just got accepted to study in london this fall) but my true love is canadian rockies and the american west
    thanks chris
    was it a month ago vs said why don’t you just say the world? as i look at the map i see denmark is attached to germany ( i didn’t realize that) i haven’t been to scandinavia central america africa of australia yet nothing on russia ( i will get to kosovo soon to meet son in laws family) i look longingly at france the caribbean (been there but not enough) the island paradises around this world and realizevid better get pluggingvthis stuff in. time is ticking…
    i did just plan with a friend to hike the john muir trail next summer for three weeks
    220 mile hike with a backpack full of dehydrated food and sleeping bag ( conditioning starts now ) looking at the map of yosemite and the area goes get my heart beating
    woo hoo
    thanks chris
    congrats on the new book launch and the world as a place to join hands with

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Talking about books, and tim’s reference to time ticking away, I just read the rather sad news that Micawber’s Books in Milton Square is closing permanently on April 14th. “Tom Bielenberg, who has owned the bookstore since 2003, was seriously injured March 3 when he slipped on ice while walking back to his car after the University of Minnesota women’s basketball game in Minneapolis.” His injuries are two broken ribs, a broken pelvis, and he has dislocated dislocated several vertebrae. He has been running a one-man shop, and he’s in for months of rehab, and although several friends have stepped forward to volunteer, it’s more than he can handle. You can read all about it in today’s Pioneer Press. ( This past Sunday was the last day that Sixth Chamber Used Books was open as well. Two of my favorite small book stores gone within a very short time.


    1. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Micawber’s or to that part of St. Paul in general but I remember his selection was good. That’s too bad. A good buyer makes such a difference in the character of a bookstore.

      Sixth Chamber, on the other had, was our go-to place for relatively contemporary used books and we were greatly disappointed when James announced its closing. Fox Den (their other store) in River Falls is a long way to go for a used book but we’ve been there before and I’m sure we will again, just not as often.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Micawber’s were known for their excellent selection of books. Tom is an old hand at book buying. He worked for the Hungry Mind and later Ruminator Books for many years before he bought Micawber’s in 2003.

        Losing two such little gems of book stores in such a short time really hurts. Will have to make a point to visit the River Falls store when I make my annual trek to Randy Johnston’s pottery sale.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The Strib article about the demise of McCawber’s Books included this surprising fact: “Micawber’s is closing as independent bookstores are enjoying a resurgence nationally. According to data from the American Booksellers Association, book sales and the number of bookstores have been climbing for several years.”

    Liked by 3 people

      1. You just cannot replace a leisurely browse of real, hard copy books, with a website. They each have their place, but the pleasure of browsing in person is just so wonderful.


        1. when best buy and target decided to sell the top 10 books on s rotating basis with virtually no other offerings it helped sales of janet evonivich and james peterson but didn’t appeal to readers just the grocery store book buying customers


  4. On the Google homepage, you can select “images” and then drag an image into the search box to find instances of that image or similar ones. It works if you are searching from a laptop or a desktop—something with a desktop screen where you can drag an image from, but I haven’t been able to find a way to work it from a mobile device. Sorry.
    Anyway, if you download this image from Flickr:
    1904 Four Boys From Volendam
    And drag it into the image search, what you will find is that it has been appropriated by websites and blogs from all over the world. Some are in Cyrillic, some in Arabic, just about any language and country you can imagine. It’s fascinating and a rabbithole.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. the other photos in the album include a bunch of people standing on the top deck of a houseboat. my daughters recent play has a historical account of the lake michigan event where a bunch of people got over to one side of the boat to see the action going on below and they tipped the boat over and many drowned in the accident. i was trying to picture the image. and there it is in your collection

      cool photos


      1. They are wooden shoes. One thing I learned was that wooden shoes were not all alike. Every area or village had subtly distinctive shoes—the roundness of the toes, etc. Put together those subtle differences in costume, like where the pants terminated above the shoes, and experts in regional costume could place a person by his or her clothes alone.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. I don’t know if they still have one, but when I was growing up, Orange City, IA always had a resident wooden shoe maker who they hired from Holland.


  5. Sorry Chris, didn’t mean to hijack your blog. What fun to think that your website gets visitors from so far afield, even if some of those visitors appear to have had sinister intentions.

    I don’t know that I have connections to places that I don’t have personal ties to. Of course, I might be defining “personal” more broadly than you. I have lived in, and trekked through, Africa through books, and I visit Australia regularly through friends who live there. I have endured some of the hardships of exploring both polar regions through reading and first hand reports from explorers. Heck, just last week I had dinner with a couple of friends who had just come back from visiting their daughter who lives in Tasmania.

    Like you and tim, I have always loved maps, and the places I have visited both vicariously and in real life cover large swaths of the globe.
    If you’ll excuse me, I going to take a short trip to a sunny beach somewhere. I should be back by noon.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. Ever since helping son Joel with a report on Spain for school, I have wanted to go there, and Portugal. Then I had a cookbook organized around regions of Spain that cemented that thought.

    I’d also love to go some little town like Homer, Alaska, but I’m afraid I’d be disappointed if it were not like “Cicely” from Northern Exposure. And Gaborone, Botswana, but I’d want to see Mme. Ramotswe’s Gaborone…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I heard once that Homer is a weird place. It is–or at least was–at the very end of the road, so it collected people who were trying to get as far away from government and civilization as they could.


  7. I have always had a strange affinity for things Swedish and Norwegian. I wasn’t surprised to find from my Ancestry DNA testing that about 30% of my DNA is from those countries. I have never been to Scandinavia, and I would love to visit there.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It’s near the top of my bucket list too. I’m about 1/4 Swedish (or possibly Norwegian–Grandpa’s birthplace must have been near the border, but he spoke fluent Swedish, so he at least grew up in a Swedish household.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can recommend visiting all of the Scandinavian countries, lots of historic and/or beautiful places to see, good food to eat, and congenial people who virtually all speak English to visit with. Just be sure to save up your money, they are expensive places to visit. I might be slightly biased, but Denmark holds a special place in my heart.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Norway felt so familiar to me, even though I had not been there prior to 2014. I think the conduct of the citizens is so similar to those in the Midwest—stoic, diffident, friendly yet guarded.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. This was too long of an answer for me to do at work on my phone using voice recognition. Too busy these days. Like tim, I have a large number of wonderful places that speak to me. Usually when I think I have an affinity with a place it’s when I say to myself “I could live there”. Small towns in northern Maine along the coast. Outside of Brussels. South Africa but only if I were running a safari camp. The Big Island. Or Maui. The only two places that I will drive when I am out and about for my travels. New Zealand.

    And then there are the places where I do not have an affinity and can’t see myself living there, although I certainly enjoyed visiting and would go again. Paris. Quebec. Any place in Mexico. Sicily. Singapore.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Rise and Shine Baboons, just in time to go to bed again.

    What a day. It started with a meeting at 8:30am and flew on from there.

    Savannah Georgia and anywhere in Italy. Sigh.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I’m reasonably content in St. Paul, but the truth is, I could live almost anywhere where the climate is moderate. I don’t do extreme heat well. Today, with rain and temps above freezing, my neighborhood felt like everything was afloat. But I sure would love to be able to walk out my backdoor and pick an avocado, or citrus fruit. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have experienced places where I could do that, though I have never lived there.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. India. My parents lived as a young, freshly married couple for three years in India, back in the 60’s.
    Throughout my entire childhood I heard my parents talk about “back then in India…” or “remember, in India…?”
    I heard sooo many stories about it, that when I finally made it there, I had this strange feeling of having it seen before. I mean, how many times do you travel to a new place and can say “I am home”?

    Liked by 1 person

  13. That’s a good question. I don’t think I have a particular place. The only place I could consider is an island in Norway, but I do have some connections there. Most of the time I spent there (like 90%) was alone. Because it has such a high sense of place for me, I’d love to be able to create a retreat for writers.

    Liked by 1 person

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