Bugger of a year, I think we’ll all agree. This is the first time since 1986 that I have not left the country – the UK in my case – which gives me pause for thought and a huge dose of travel wistfulness.
It’s hot in a face-searing, bone-sapping, migraine-inducing way that they definitely don’t warn you about before they open the plane door – “Welcome to Berlin where the local temperature is WHAAAAAT the…”.
Stick a geologist in front of the Giant’s Causeway and this is what they’ll say. Sixty million years ago, give or take a week or two, molten lava erupted through the chalk beds of the Irish Channel and formed a huge, bubbling lava field, hundreds of thousands of square kilometres in size.
The leaflet promises ‘Authentic Slovakia’ and while I regard the word ‘authentic’ as suspiciously as the next travel writer, I’m assured by the tourist office assistant that this is the real deal.
It’s all in the intonation.
“May God help you!” – the rising word ‘God’ stretched out across several syllables and the ‘help you’ a dismissive, downbeat ‘help ya’, as the officer waved us through.
What were you doing forty years ago this summer? (I will accept the answer ‘not being born yet grandad’).
Let’s say you were going to write some new travel books, and design and launch a new travel publishing website to promote them. Would you A) take the current temperature of the world in turmoil and decide not to do any of that or B) . . .?
I’ve gone with B.
I had dinner with Lisa Stansfield once, as it turns out, in London. I saw Oasis play in Adelaide, and Blur in Washington DC. In Las Vegas I once had a front-row table for Engelbert Humperdinck, and THAT is a story my friends, I can tell you.
Like the departing dolphins in ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, I’m leaving the planet that has sustained me for decades, with some regret and with great gratitude.
It’s easier than it’s ever been to write a book and get it published. First, you write a book. And then second, you publish it on Amazon or another platform of your choice, with a minimal amount of formatting work and couple of clicks. It’s that easy. Even I did it, with Takoradi to the stars (via Huddersfield).
On Friday 24 May, a record number of flights took to the skies over the UK – more than 9,000 planes in the air in 24 hours (the same day, incidentally, that schoolchildren around the world staged their latest climate strike). That won’t be the last record broken. But it might be the one that forces you to have a serious conversation with yourself as a traveller or, like me, a travel writer.
51, 10 and 55. Remember those three numbers, because I’m about to tell you the truth about travel writing and book sales.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away I got roped in by my publisher to help with launching Rough Guides as a travel guidebook series in America. I say ‘roped in’. I mean ‘flown to New York, put up in a swanky hotel and asked to drink white wine with beautiful people’.
The thing with the job of travel-writing is the number of people who want to do it. I am the expert, it seems – by virtue of being an actual travel writer – and therefore must be in possession of knowledge which can help others become actual travel writers.
Travel guidebooks are useful, insightful, helpful and informative – but they can also be infuriating, misleading, out of date and sometimes just plain wrong. I should know, I write them. So here’s an insider’s view on how to get the most out of your travel guide.
Search on Amazon – All Departments for ‘Takoradi’ and I sit proudly at #1, there not being a lot of products in the world with Takoradi in the title (though, at 381, probably more than you think).
You have to jump through all sorts of hoops to publish a book with Kindle Direct Publishing, but in the end it’s fairly straightforward and there are lots of tools to help you promote your book and keep track of its progress. But with a brand new book, there’s not a whole lot they can tell you straight away.
What would you never leave home without? Here’s my list – and best of all, they don’t cost a penny.
For most of my travel-writing career, coming up with a book title wasn’t an issue. Here’s how it usually went.
Me: I’ve finished that book you sent me to write, on Sicily.
Rough Guide Editor: Great, thanks, we’ll call it The Rough Guide to Sicily.
There is a certain amount of snobbery attached to travel writing, especially applied to those of us at the bus-timetable-and-opening-hours end of the business. In fact, writing guidebooks is somehow regarded as Not Proper Travel Writing.
Here are the 6 things I’ve discovered about travel-blogging so far – excluding the fact that no one – seriously, no one? – calls it trogging.
There is a land, far, far away, where travel writers spend more time than they should. Its siren call lures travelling hacks to an oasis where mere everyday words are not enough to describe the awesome wonders that confront them.
Feel free to play ‘Travel Writer Bingo’ next time you read a travel feature, and see how many of the following crimes against clear, inspiring writing you can spot.