Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Where travel writing fails

Don't let my lack of any recent blog posts fool you, once more my creative side is deep in the final stages of nutting out what will be the next chapter in my rather inglorious writing career so far. The problem is, this project is almost impossible to limit to just one new book for 2017. The scope for where I can take this is almost endless. TV spin-offs, travel (hopefully for once it can bloody-well be paid for!) and even merchandise.

After coming up empty handed when seeking assistance to continue my Train Tripping series of books, I've spent the past 12 months concentrating on the small business I run with my wife Denise, and generally planning to do all the things we've always talked about doing together. In 2016, we visited Shoal Bay, Newcastle, the Hunter Valley and saw in the New Year in Port Douglas in far north Queensland. And 2017 doesn't look like slowing down. Next week we head off to Sydney and the Blue Mountains, then Melbourne for the Anzac Day weekend, before finishing the year in Perth and seeing in the New Year at Margaret River in Western Australia. Sounds like I'm a rich travel writer being pandered to by luxury resorts and airlines right? Wrong. In fact, it couldn't be further from the truth.

The truth is, I run a small Mum and Dad cleaning business on the Sunshine Coast with my wife of 24 years Denise. Despite spending the past 10 years throwing everything I had into trying to 'make it' as a writer, for some reason or other, it didn't work out. Somehow, in the space of the past 18 months, our cleaning business did. So with our children both studying full-time at University while also holding down decent part-time jobs of their own, suddenly Mum and Dad have the time, and the money, to travel.

Now you'd think that, (as a writer), I'd take this next opportunity in life to try my hand at travel writing. But again, you'd be wrong. While I've shared some Travel Tales of my own on this blog in the past, and written several small pieces on travel sites, magazines and web e-zines, (all without being paid, or expecting to be paid), the truth is that this is our time, and I'm not about to give it away for the benefit of any website or magazine that wants to offer me the chance of 'furthering my career', under the guise of simply selling advertising space. Don't believe me? Take a good look at the advertising that springs up on most travel related websites. It's all click-generated income built around keywords in the freely submitted travel articles. Honestly, with the over-saturation of travel bloggers on social media these days, resorts, airlines and travel agents have never had it so good.

At the end of the day, professional travel writers get told where to go, where to stay and ultimately what to write. But they do expect to get paid or reimbursed for their work, (even if it's not as much as some people might imagine). In business, time is money. With writing, time is still time. If you're good enough, or maybe just plain lucky enough, someone will talk to you about the money later.

So why would someone like myself, who's had to work hard for 11 months and 2 weeks of the year to afford a 2 week getaway with his wife, feel compelled to compete with the hundreds of thousands of aspiring writers talking-up their accommodation, attractions or airline, all for the opportunity to 'further their career?' It just doesn't interest me anymore. I'd much rather leave a tip and tell our waitress that we had a wonderful meal, thank the reception staff for a wonderful stay and pray to God that our flight home isn't cancelled again as it was coming home from Port Douglas, (thanks a lot Tiger Air!) without the compelling duty to find nice things to say about bad service.

As for the social media 'travel experts' who desperately want to show you how you can make a living traveling the world and blogging about it? Keep buying their books. They desperately need your money.

Me? I plan to keep writing. Why? Maybe because its like my sister, and fellow writer, Tanya Bird says; "we do it Phill because its like a disease. It's just in you so we have to get it out." I do know I'm glad I have someone like my wife Denise to talk ideas over with. Each great book idea I've had pop into my head over the past year, we've had to dismiss due to either the time or money it would take away from our business. Believe me when I say there are plenty of great ideas lying dead in the water! The truth is.... I like to write, and somehow through all that frustrating thought process, we've both landed on an idea for a new book project that is going to work. How do I know? Because the photos I've already taken, the memories I'm already passionate about and the stories are already in me. I just have to get them out.

Steve Jobs once said; "people with passion can change the world." I don't know if my next project will change the world, but I do know it has already changed the way I look at it. So watch this space, because I'm about to venture further off the beaten track than I ever have before!

P.S. no travel writers were harmed during the writing of this post. Nor was Tiger Air, who did give me a full refund and have no doubt since cancelled other flights.
P.S.S. Tiger Air did not pay me to write this article.

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