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Hanna Butler Journeys

The end, the beginning

NEW ZEALAND | Monday, 16 July 2012 | Views [3427] | Comments [1]

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 might happen.

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 story.

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 laptop.

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 work.

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? 



I love your globe and all of the National Geographic magazines!

  jmarie Apr 28, 2014 7:19 AM

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