Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tears in Tobruk: The tears flow on

Today I had a moment. No, not an Oprah light bulb moment, but an "OMGH how cool is that?!" moment. Quite by accident, I discovered that the Australian Government has quoted me on their official website. The quote they used is from an article I wrote last year about travelling to Tobruk in Libya to celebrate ANZAC Day. This was a very emotional and personal journey for me – my grandfather, Private John Joseph Alman, was a member of the 9th Battalion who, against all odds, held Tobruk for an astounding 240 days during WWII; unfortunately he died before I was able to make it home to tell him about my trip – and as such it was a hard article to write. So I have to admit that I'm kind of chuffed that they quoted me. For anyone who is interested, you can read the article here.

Picture: That's me (in green) delivering my grandfather's speech at a small impromtu service on ANZAC Day in Tobruk, Libya.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

The parent trap: How to travel with your parents

Why is it there are numerous articles around that highlight the joys and challenges of travelling with children, but very few that deal with how to travel as an adult child with your parents? Hoping to fill this gap, I recently shared my best tips on how to survive travelling with your parents for a new article for MSN NZ.

The last time I remember going on a proper vacation with my parents was when I was 10 years old, packed into the back of a Holden station wagon along with my three siblings for a cross-country road trip to see our relatives. Fast forward some 30 years, I unexpectedly found myself going on a road trip across Southwest USA with my parents at the end of last year. Considering I'm much more independent and well-travelled than when I was living under their roof - and not forgetting that I now work as a full-time travel writer and so am very controlling when it comes to organising travel itineraries - it certainly made for an interesting trip. My parents and I of course had our moments (we were already arguing before we made it to our first destination!), but I can honestly say that this was one of the best trips I've ever taken.

THANK YOU Mum and Dad!

Picture: That's Mum and I trying to do our best alien impersonations in Kingman, Arizona, on Route 66.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tales from the road: An introduction to travel writing

As has probably been made fairly obvious by the slowdown in my blog postings over recent months, I've been keeping myself very busy with work (which is a blessing for a travel writer in today's economic climate!). Not only have I been continuing with my regular writing assignments for both Ninemsn and MSN NZ as well as organising my research trip for my next guidebook assignment in Ghana, I've also been working hard to break into several new markets, finally cracking The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age....But that's not all. I've also been secretly organising a new travel writing course for the Byron Bay Community College.

Following on from the feedback and queries I received after my guest lecture on travel writing at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, I decided to put my knowledge and skills to good use with a series of new workshops on travel writing. The first two-day course, Tales from the Road: An Introduction to Travel Writing, will be held in Mullumbimby on the Far North Coast of New South Wales, over the weekend of 1-2 August. The course itself will take a practical approach to travel writing, giving an overview of the market from writing for newspapers, magazines and on-line, to authoring guidebooks. Students will learn how to evoke a sense of place, how to dress up articles with photographs and how to approach an editor with the perfect pitch.

Date: 1-2 August
Time: 10am - 4pm
Cost: $120 Full Fee; $108 Concession

If you happen to be in the Byron Bay area around this time, I would love for you to come along!

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Monday, July 13, 2009

We're gonna go to Ghana

The countdown is now most definitely on for my upcoming trip to Ghana. With little over four weeks to go before I depart, I have been busying myself with my final trip preparations. While I'm certainly looking forward to hitting the road solo, yet again, it's always nice to be able to share your travelling experiences with someone. So when one of my old Cape Town cohorts, Margi Sutherland, asked if she could join me for the first few weeks of my eight week journey around Ghana, I was thrilled. Before we set off on our first travel adventure together, I thought it wise to ask a few questions. Here are Margi's answers:

Name: Margi Sutherland

Occupation: I have my own business - we are service agents for H2O Water Purifiers in Cape Town.

Why did you decide to join me on this trip?
I recently turned 40! [Same here! Kim] Apparently this explains it all? I haven't travelled a lot, priorities were different in the past, and now I want to catch up, be a little adventurous, explore new places and cultures. I have been to Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia and Malawi, and always used to dream of an overland Africa trip. I'm over that now, but when Kim announced that she was looking for a travel buddy I jumped at the opportunity! Also, I dealt with West Africans on a daily basis at my previous job - we had clients from Senegal down to Angola, and the guys that came to Cape Town for product training (which was what I did) were just the sweetest, friendliest, most positive people. I wish I could remember the name of the technician from Ghana that I used to speak to so often!

What are you most looking forward to?
Besides a break from the rat race? And this freezing winter? I am looking forward to a completely new experience. To a different pace, to spontaneity and unpredictability... where I won't have to be in control, I won't have to check the time(!), and where Africa is really Africa.

What's the best piece of travel advice you’ve been given?
Well, Mum always gave us kids a tummy pouch wallet type thing, and told us to make sure our passports and money were on us at all times... no matter which country we were visiting. Oh, and wear long sleeved shirts, hats and sun block on the river (Zambezi) because the sun burns even through the clouds... which is what we all did and we didn't get sun burnt at all. Thanks Mum... I will take those same shirts with me on this trip!

What's your favourite destination and why?
I love Italy; have been there twice and WILL go back. It is possibly my favourite place only because I haven't yet been to France... I will find out in 2013 when I have my gap year. And Malta, although it is to be avoided during a heat wave.... Such incredible history, and beauty, I will be back.

Then again, I think it has to be anywhere along the R62, Montague, Barrydale, down to Outshoorn... then Hogsback... and the Garden Route (Nature's Valley, the Tzitzikamma Forest, Knysna...) we live in an amazingly beautiful country. [I'm with you on R62 Margi! Kim] Even the stark Karoo, which we travelled through by train recently, is stunning in its own way.

Where else is on your 'top places to go list'?
Next trip is a road trip through the UK with Dad, with the aim of writing his story, visiting his place of birth, his schools, meet some of his old friends, try to trace something of his father who was born in Scotland. As the only child of only children, his history stops with him unless I make the effort to journal it. I just hope that he gets slightly LESS cantankerous with age, not more so!! I'll try do most of Europe in 2013, but after that it has to be China, Japan... and Russia... Although I have recently had the urge to spend just one Christmas in the States, with snow, and carollers, and houses draped in Xmas lights... maybe one gets more sentimental with age? Of course there is still so much of SA that I haven't experienced yet - Drakensburg, and the Kruger area, must still be visited. And I want to take my boys to Namibia next year, during the World Cup, if that doesn't sound too unpatriotic!

Is there anything you try to do wherever you travel?
I buy a decoration for my Christmas tree! I also love to explore the back roads... just get into the car and head off somewhere that isn't necessarily on route to somewhere big. I always mean to take masses of photos, and to keep a travel journal... this time I will!

Finally, since we are going to be spending a large amount of time together, do you have any strange travelling quirks that I should be aware of?
Strange? I don't know how strange it is, but I do like to take a break and read a few pages of a novel every now and then... I enjoy quiet time. I also like to explore craft markets, which is not everyone's favorite pastime I've noticed! Kim, if you pick up any really strange quirks, let me know so that I can warn my next travel buddy!

Will do Margi. Though, perhaps you'd best have a talk to Dan; he'll fill you in on all my bad travel habits! By the way, I'm still looking for a travel buddy for a road trip from South Africa to Namibia in October. So if anyone wants to join me, give me a shout. Kim