| "Perhaps the greatest social
change since the Second World War is the way citizens from the free
nations travel as never before in history." Martha Gellhorn
When I was growing up I had to cycle past
a complex of old people's flats to get to the park. One old lady
had positioned her rather cumbersome armchair in front of large
French windows which overlooked the path that lead from my house,
through the cemetery, past her flat, to the park. Every day she
would wave as I cycled by, her face lit up and I always waved back.
Is this old age? I used to think. Is this
what I have to look to forward to? Growing up in a small seaside
town crammed with residential care homes, the future looked bleak
and immobile and I believed from an early age that the only way
to survive old age, and its cumbersome armchairs, was a supply of
memories from a life lived to the full.
I came of age in the age of Thatcher, the
age before yuppies disgraced themselves and rich pickings blinded
those who worked hard, asked no questions and burnt out decades
before their pensions matured. When the promises of the 80s turned
into the broken dreams of the 90s, I took to the road in search
of what I'd been looking for all along and that old lady's wave
had urged me to seek.
Now 15 years after cashing in my pension
and buying my first Rough Guide, I write for the company whose books
saw me through the perils of turning up in a strange country alone
and introduced me to a way of life and way of seeing the world that
only those who get off the beaten track experience.
So, as a mark of respect for the old lady
in the armchair and what she impressed upon me at an early age,
I'd like to encourage all you armchair travellers, and armchair
travel writers, to pick up your passports and your pens, stop dreaming
and start packing.
There are many reasons why we travel and
many reasons why we write - but why travel write?
From purely financial perspective travel
writing can fund your way around the world. And if this is your
aim the biggest market to break into is writing travel guides. There
are many different kinds, many different publishers and the market
is growing all the time. If you're reliable, can hit deadlines and
already have a bit of traveling under your belt, don't be afraid
of getting in touch with a few publishers to see if they'll give
you a chance.
However, for those who think this is an
easy ticket, here's a few words of advice. You might get your airfare
paid when writing a travel guide but it's by no means a free holiday.
On the contrary, it's hard, often painstaking work, which will allow
you little time to relax and enjoy the places you visit, little
editorial space to wax lyrical about your impressions and no space
at all to share your travellers' tales and experiences on the road.
Travel articles do allow a bit more creative
freedom in which to tell tales - depending on who you are writing
for. They are also a good way to sell yourself to guide book publishers
who will sometimes want to see something in print before they'll
trust you enough to send you off around the world to write for them.
This can mean writing for free in the first instance just to get
something published - but that's how most of us start and the best
way to see it is as an investment in your future as a travel writer.
The other great thing about articles is
that once you have written or updated an existing guidebook, there's
extra cash to be made by selling features to magazines and newspapers
on the places you have just been. Having written a guidebook you
will have instant credibility when trying to sell your work and
your information will be bang up to date.
If you want to be less factual about travel
writing and simply tell the tale of your life on the road, (all
be it as an article, book, TV programme or radio feature) then get
an angle on your story. Travel in a way no one has ever travelled
before, follow in the footsteps of a previous adventurer, or simply
find something different to say about the places you have been.
Or, if all these facts just get in the way,
then make it up and do it in the name of fiction. Keep notes throughout
your trip of your experiences, impressions, the people that you
meet, the amazing things that you see - and more importantly when
it all goes horribly wrong. Because lets face it, the tales most
stay at home travelers love to read are those involving danger,
disease, delay and discomfort. Record all of these and the experiences
you can hardly put into words because they have changed your life
so much, and transform them into poetry, short stories, novels,
radio plays and even film scripts and in doing so take people's
imaginations to places they never knew existed.
Having said all that, fame, fortune and
freebies are not the only reason to travel write. The most valuable
souvenir I bring back from any trip is my own personal journal that
records my internal as well as external travels. I write this purely
for myself - for those times when visiting the memories of all the
places I have been is all the traveling I can do. And if the only
thing I leave behind in life is a collection of battered travel
diaries, stained with splashes of water from the Mediterranean,
mud from a South American rainforest or stains from a spilt bottle
of Caribbean beer, I'd consider this is a legacy to be proud of.
Whatever the reason you feel to compelled
to travel and whatever the reason that you want to write about it,
don't be afraid to give both a go. One day when I cycled to the
park the old lady wasn't there anymore. I knew she'd gone traveling
and I knew she wasn't coming back.
© Lesley Anne Rose 2004 reproduced
here with permission.
See her blog at http://find-grace.blogspot.com
Web links to other articles by Lesley Anne
Rose on the Rough Guides website.
Eco-tourism or Bust
The Whaler's Legacy