Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wild Wednesday: Cambodia Challenge 2010

The New Year has barely begun and I already think I have come up with my wildest plan for the year yet. While doing some research on the web the other weekend I stumbled across a website seeking participants for a charity cycling tour of Cambodia to help raise funds for War Child Australia. Oddly enough, just the night before having a glass of wine with a friend, my friend turned to me and asked me where I would go and what would I choose to do for a holiday if it didn't involve work? I replied that I really wanted to do a cycling tour of either Vietnam or Cambodia, but timing/money made it an impossible dream for now.... What do they say? Be careful what you wish for!

As many of you may be aware, I was meant to travel to Cambodia in December 2007, but was sadly stood up by my travelling partner (an English doctor whom I'd met in Libya who'd asked me to meet him in Cambodia for our first 'date') three weeks before we were due to depart. Ever since that failed 'date', I'd been searching for a way that I could still do the trip. At the same time, if I did indeed get another opportunity to travel Cambodia, I wanted to go under completely different circumstances that weren't quite as self-serving. So here flashing on the screen before my eyes, War Child Australia was presenting me with the perfect answer, opportunity and challenge all in one. And I, of course, couldn't resist.

From 11-22 May this year I'll be taking part in the War Child Cambodia Challenge which is being organised by Inspired Travel, to help the charity provide education and support to Cambodian children who have been affected by war. It's a very long way from the green hinterland hills of Byron Bay and I will need to get very fit to cope with cycling up to 6-8 hours a day. However, having witnessed so much poverty and hardship in many of the countries I have visited while working as a travel writer, I see this challenge as an opportunity to not only do something worthwhile for an organisation for which I have great respect, but to also contribute to a local community in a country through which I am travelling in a positive way.

Together as a team we are hoping to raise over $50,000 from this event. I personally need to raise at least $6900 (half to go as a donation to the charity and half to cover my expenses). So I hope you will all support me in this challenge, even if it is just to wish me luck. Though obviously I need more than just best wishes (does anyone I have a bike I can borrow to train on??)! In the coming weeks I will post details about fund raising events I will be holding. In the meantime, if any of you have any great ideas for events or are able to support me with a tax-deductible donation or raffle/auction prize, please let me know – it would be very much appreciated and will bring me much closer to reaching my goal.

Picture: Monks walking at Angkor Wat (or Angkor Vat), a temple at Angkor, Cambodia. Obtained from

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tales from the road: An introduction to travel writing

Aspiring travel writers take heed. I'm running a new introductory course, Tales from the Road: An Introduction to Travel Writing, in early February. To be held in Mullumbimby on the Far North Coast of New South Wales, the course takes 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 write a great article, how to dress up articles with photographs and how to approach an editor with the perfect pitch.

Dates: 13 & 20 February
Time: 9am – 12.30pm
Cost: $63 Full Fee; $57 Concession

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

Picture: Me assumning the pose in White Sands National Monument, New Mexico, USA.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Where do travel writers pay to stay?

Have you ever wondered where travel writers choose to stay when they're footing the hotel bill? Well, this was the question recently pondered by David Wickers and Mark Hodson at 101 Holidays. In a Twitter first, they asked a number of well-known, tweeting travel journalists and editors, including myself, to each recommend their favourite hotel, B&B or guest house. The rules were simple: the recommended place could be anywhere in the world, but it had to cost less than £150 ($250) a night for two people, and, of course, had to be described in no more than 140 characters.

My recommendation? "Tunza Lodge in Mwanza, Tanzania: Between the beach, the bar & the sunsets over Lake Victoria, this is one lusciously laidback lodge." Doubles cost $US45 - 60.

You can read the full list here

Picture? One of the many mesmerising sunsets over Lake Victoria as viewed from Tunza Lodge, Tanzania.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

More wicked websites for wild, wandering women

Thank you so much for the positive feedback for my last blog post, Wicked websites for wild, wandering women. In less than an hour after uploading the post I had more than 150 hits not to mention dozens of emails from women all around globe. It seems we sisters are very keen to do it for ourselves!

Amid all the thank yous and twitter retweets, I was also passed on two more recommendations for honours as a wicked website for wild, wandering women. They are: Recommended by Evelyn Hannon, editor of Journey Woman, this is a free international directory of women who are willing to mentor other women travelling to their part of the world. As Evelyn writes: "It's my personal gift to women, everywhere and it has connected 1000's of women to date."

WAVE Journey An acronym for Women's Adventures, Vacations & Experiences, WJ is an online resource for women travellers around the world co-founded by Vivienne Chapleo and Jill Hoelting of Canada and United States. The travelling duo also run a travel blog, WAVE Journey Women where they'd highlight places they rather be.

If you know of any other worthy wicked websites for wild, wandering women, please let me know and I'll add them to my list.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wicked websites for wild, wandering women

It's Wild Wednesday and I can't think of any better way to celebrate than to nominate my favourite websites for wild, wandering women. All started, owned and operated by women, the following eight inspirational sites are the ones I seek out when planning my travels:

Go Galavanting Founded by Katy Quissell and Kim Mance, this online travel magazine and community is for gutsy women who believe there is more to travel than staying in expensive five star resorts and finding the world's perfect facial. Think: experiencing new cultures and going on life changing adventures, but all done with style of course!

Journey Woman Award-winning writer, editor and travelling grandma, Evelyn Hannon, has proved that age and gender are not barriers to travel, creating one of the most respected websites designed especially for women along the way.

Thelma & Louise Club Started by gal pals Christine Davies and Grace Frankel, this exclusive female-only network allows members to meet like-minded women and find travel buddies for their next adventure.

UGoGurl Travel writer and self-confessed media maven, Elaine Lee, offers great advice for African American travellers as well as extensive reports and articles.

Wanderlust & Lipstick Founded by Beth Whitlam – a 22 year wild wandering veteran whose career highlights include having a grenade pulled on her in Cambodia – this is a website for women who are passionate about travelling offering tips and hints from experienced Wanderlusters who, like Beth, have seen it all.

Women on the Road Created by Leyla Giray, Women on the Road is a fantastic website aimed at women who love to travel. Along with practical information on planning, safety and money, the website features interviews with inspirational women travellers who share their experiences and philosophies on travel.

Women Travel Tips Started by National Geographic author and editor Marybeth Bond, this website is an excellent resource for women travellers with practical tips and hints for business, adventure, family and solo travel.

Women Travel the World This website is dedicated to connecting women travellers through female-friendly tour and accommodation listings. There’s also a range of articles covering topics from adventure tourism to food and wine shopping.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

New Frontiers: Travel writing in the digital age

Travel writing has long provided readers with a window to the world allowing us to see and experience faraway places without leaving the confines of our homes. Thanks to the world wide web, the field of travel writing has undergone a swift, head-spinning transformation in recent years. Starting February this year, I will be presenting a new six-week course for the Northern Rivers Writers Centre which will examine the art of travel writing within the context of the digital age. From contemporary e-guides, blogs and online forums to traditional newspapers, magazines and guidebooks, this course will show you how to build a career as a travel writer in the digital age. Participants need not be published but an introductory course [in any genre] will be assumed. So pull on your boots and get ready to walk a mile with me; if you plan to write travel it will be worth it!

When: Fridays, 12, 19 & 26 February; 5, 12, 19 March, 10am - 12.30pm
Where: Byron Bay
Cost: $255 (currently Members Only)

To find out more, contact the Northern Rivers Writers Centre.

Image sourced from

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wild Wednesday: Win a travel guide to Tanzania

In celebration of my wish for a wild, wild New Year for everyone this year I've decided to start a new regular segment for my blog titled Wild Wednesday. If any of you have seen my website, you'd know I have an affinity for the word 'wild'. It is more than part of my name. Wild is also symbolic of who I am. It describes my life and my experiences and it informs how I work and how I write. So in embracing my wild side, I've decided that each Wednesday I'll highlight something I consider wild whether it be a wild experience or wild photograph from my travels, a wild person or a wild place or even a wild posting from another blogger. To kick Wild Wednesday off, I'm giving away a copy of the new Bradt Travel Guide to Tanzania which I helped Philip Briggs update last year. All you need to do is answer this simple question:

What is the name of the wonderfully wild national game park stretching from northern Tanzania into southern Kenya which is famous for the annual migration of millions wildebeest and zebras?

The first person to provide the correct answer in the comments section of this post wins the guide (just make sure you include your email so I can contact you for an address to send the guide to).

Good luck!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Is it goodbye to guidebooks, getting lost and grotty youth hostels?

As the decade draws to a close, I asked whether the Internet and mobile phones are robbing travellers of adventure for a new article for MSN Travel.

Thanks to a new generation of sophisticated technologies, some of travel's greatest traditions are under threat. When was the last time you kept a hand-written journal on your travels, received a dog-eared postcard with someone's excited scrawl on the back or arranged your holiday snaps neatly in a photo album? Before they disappear from the scene forever, here are a few travelling traditions that I'll sadly miss:

1. The photo album
The digital revolution has certainly made holiday photography much cheaper and simpler, but it's also leading to the decline of one of travel's greatest traditions - the photo album. With sites such as Flickr and Picasa fast becoming the most popular way of sharing our happy snaps, fewer and fewer people take the time to print their holiday photographs and transfer them into albums. Yet it's still hard to think of a better way to reminisce about your travels than flipping through the pages of a time-worn photo album.

2. The postcard
They were once as much as part of the holiday experience as sunbathing or tasting the local cuisine. But thanks to the mobile phone, email, Facebook and Twitter, the humble postcard is facing extinction. Research quoted in Coast magazine shows that postcard mail has dropped by 75% in the past decade alone. While they are not instantaneous, like a text message - there's no guarantee they'll even arrive home before you do - nothing says "wish you were here" quite like the postcard.

3. The unplanned road trip
Remember when half the point of a road trip was to get lost down some interesting byway? Thanks to GPS, however directionless meandering down hidden roads has lost much of the thrill it once had. If it looks as though you've stumbled into a dangerous Hicksville somewhere or conveniently ended up in a city's most crime-ridden neighbourhood, you need merely fiddle with your GPS and that familiar tinned voice will tell you, more or less reliably, how to get out. GPS might be invaluable when you're truly lost, but it also takes the adventure out of travel and shortchanges you of stories to tell when you get home.

4. The total disconnect
Before mobile phones and Skype, many travellers were faced with making an expensive long distance trunk call from a roadside phone booth if they wanted to speak to friends and families back home. These days, staying in touch has never been cheaper and easier. On the plus side, travel has become safer: you face less chance of getting stranded somewhere if you can get out your mobile and call for help. On the downside, one of the greatest lures of travel has always been how out of touch you can be. But between instant messaging and texting home, to updating Facebook and tweeting, many of today's travellers don't know how to untie the apron strings and take in the new environment they find themselves in.

5. The travel journal
With more 200 million travel-related blogs out there, the once personal travel journal appears to be moving overwhelmingly online. Internet diaries are a great way to keep your friends and family up-to-date with how your holiday is going. They can track your movements and see photographs and videos of where you have been. Sophisticated as e-journals - to coin a term - might be, they are pretty clinical compared with a hand-written diary, whose very scuffs, stains and faint smells bear witness to where you've been. Hand-written journals are also less self-conscious and more personal than any travel blog will ever be. Moreover, they probably encourage more intrepid travel: as long as you remember your trusty pen, you can update your journal anywhere. No need to hunt down an internet cafe or restrict yourself to places where such technology can be found.

6. The guidebook
Long before the internet and web-connected phones, the travel guidebook was the way we navigated our way around the world. If you wanted to know when the train to Bucharest departed or where to find a bed in Berlin at 2am - you'd reach for your Lonely Planet. With up-to-date information now just a click away, however, the once-beloved traveller's bible is slowly waning in popularity. In the past year the guidebook giant Lonely Planet reported a sharp drop in sales, from £142m in 2008 to £128m in 2009. While it and other guidebook companies are now offering sections of their guides as PDFs and iPhone applications, the tactile heft of the guidebook - its very bulk suggesting endless exciting possibilities - is decidedly lacking. Besides, you can't swat a fly or prop up a table leg with a mobile phone or netbook!

7. The foreign language phrasebook
You've just arrived in Rio and jumped into a taxi but you don't speak a word of Portuguese and your driver doesn't speak English. No need to flip through a phrasebook these days and fumble with impossible pronunciations: simply whip out your portable electronic translator and let it do the work for you. Many of these pocket-size translators, available in hundreds of languages, provide both verbal and written translation. And no doubt they're very handy - but they might encourage you to become even more linguistically lazy. If you really want to learn the language, you have to immerse yourself in the culture.

8. The unencumbered backpacker
Once upon a time, backpacking was about exploring the world with as few possessions as possible. But today's techno-savvy generation of independent travellers, with their trolley bags, laptops, web-phones and MP3 players, are more encumbered than ever. According to AA Travel Insurance, all the backpackers trotting the globe at any one time are lugging around flashy gadgets worth more than £1 billion. Weighed down with all those gizmos, think how much time you'll spend worrying about losing them.

9. The old school hostel
Keeping pace with the new, web-connected traveller, the backpacker hostel has undergone an extreme makeover of its own. Sporting espresso cafes, tour desks and free Wi-Fi, many of today's hostels resemble bland international airport lounges. Don't be surprised to find your fellow travellers are too busy tapping away on their laptops to play a round of pool. While it's certainly good riddance to bedbugs, the old school hostels with their laidback attitude and great social vibe had much more personality.

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Monday, January 4, 2010

Here's to a wild, wild New Year!

I finally hit the send button for the last chapter of my Ghana travel guide update right on New Year's Eve, so I certainly had much to celebrate this year (or is that last year now?). Anyway, while I still have several months of edits to go through before the new Ghana guide is released, I've already launched into the New Year with renewed determination and focus to make this my wildest travel and writing year yet. I can't say too much, but I do have a number of exciting new projects on the horizon for the year ahead including travel writing classes and retreats for Byron Bay Regional Community College and the Northern Rivers Writers' Centre (more information to follow shortly). No matter where you are, I wish you all the very best for 2010!