I’m in bed drinking tea and eating crumpets with a wicked
flu. Outside the window at home in Wellington, the weather looks like I feel.
It’s wet, cold and cloudy.
Another world away, just last week I was in Malaysia on hot
humid, sunny streets eating spicy satay. The three weeks of my scholarship were incredible.
I surfed, ate, saw inside dozens of hotel rooms, cooked, wandered and met magic
men. It was pretty tiring, long days of activities, filming, photographing,
note taking, mentoring and just generally trying to absorb everything I could.
I love Asia. I love getting off the plane and into the heat
that wraps up around you, underneath your arms and up into your nose. I find
the noise and chaos quite calming; you just become part of it.
But I do love coming home. Travel is what makes me love home
more. I feel exactly like I do when I arrive in a new country and notice things
I hadn’t before. The thing I notice the most is the sky. The long white clouds
and blue skies that spread across and up and down. The native name for New
Zealand – Aotearoa, means land of the long white cloud.
I am home, my washing is done, my mosquito bites have been
itched away and I have caught up on sleep. Now it is the hard part, where the
real writing begins. While I did briefly
blog, I was also planning and note taking for other travel stories that I will
try to get published.
But something I have been thinking about a lot is what travel
writing is? So I Googled it. I asked, what is travel writing? The first result
from Wikipedia summed
it up pretty well.
My entry into the competition was travel writing that was evocative;
it would sit in travel literature and travel books. It had elements of
narration and description, but in no way was it instructive. If you were off to
Pakistan, I would volunteer tips and advice, but probably not my travel story.
In Singapore my time with Richard Lim
from Rough Guide was travel writing of a totally different kind, but the kind
that you need from a guide book - instructive
and descriptive. I felt a certain responsibility about accuracy and practicality
of the information. Guide books are the bible of the traveller, they rely on
the information to get the safely to their destination, but also point them in
a direction so they get the best from their destination.
My blog was my brief personal journal, my own narrative of
my days. I used it as my online diary, but I think a blog has the opportunity
to embrace a bit of everything, depending on what you want to produce.
All styles of travel writing of course overlap, but I do
feel it is important to understand the different types of travel writing in
order to understand what you are doing, who your audience is and simply why you
are writing. Travelfish is a pretty
good example of a site that combines all the elements of travel writing. They
have instructive and descriptive guides to a destination, but also personal accounts and experiences, that inspire and motivate instead of direct and aid.
While I am no expert travel writer, I just thought I would share my tips and mantras from my writing scholarship that have helped me and that I will continue to follow.
Time - Give yourself time to wander, watch people and get a
feel for your destination. Sit and have a cup of tea and you never know what
Write – Write every day. Even just a diary to yourself or
emails home to your mum. My travel writing started via my emails home, which
were forwarded around town, until it seemed the mailman knew what I was up to.
Read – Read anything you can get your hands on. I love travel
classics by Albert Camus and Eric Newby, but now I find myself absorbed by
in-flight magazines and more current and commercial publications. I try to read
what I would like to write.
Photograph – Take photographs that will remind you of things
you might want to describe, and also take photographs that will help tell your
Notes – I have journalism training to thank for being a
quick and comprehensive note taker. Words and phrases jump into my head at all
times, so I always have a notebook on hand to capture them. I also find note
taking to be a little more discreet in some situations than taking photographs.
Be organised – Know what you want to cover and what you need
to get. Write a list, have a plan and questions that you want answered.
Desk - Have a spot where you know you can write. Whether it
is your bed, or a decent desk in a quiet room, if it is conducive to writing,
then use it! But for a travel writer, in and out of new places, you need to be
able to sit and work anywhere, cafes, airports and hotel rooms. Find out where
you can get decent local wireless, or buy a local Sim card and tether to your
Edit – Unless you have lots of time to walk away from your
work, come back and self-edit, see if you get a friend or someone to edit your
Content – I think you don’t have to travel to do travel
writing. Don’t put it off until you can next get overseas. Write something
about your home town or your favourite spot at home.
Social media – Have a blog or website to act as your shop-front
and promote your work through social media networks.
So this is where its starts. While the last few weeks have
been an incredible journey, it was really just the beginning of what I have
been wanting to do for a long time, putting my writing together with my
travelling. It sounds easy doesn’t it?