Monday 9 September 2019

A decade of gloating

I missed an anniversary not long ago: 15 July 2009 was the first-ever post in this blog. Even though it's such a low-profile site with, as far as I know, just the one regular 😃 reader (thank you for your loyalty, Queen) and, in ten whole years, according to Blogger, a relatively scant 452,000 page views (most of them probably mine), it's still a bit of a milestone.

I started it as the result of attending a travel writing course where we were encouraged to establish a social media presence. Its value in establishing my credibility as a serious and professional writer is dubious; certainly unprovable. Consequently, as it can sometimes be a bit of a chore, I've occasionally neglected it for weeks at a time - but I always get sucked back, mainly because I've already invested so much time and effort into it, it feels wrong to abandon it completely. That's a common human response to this kind of situation: there must be a label for it in psychology.

Anyway, I'd already been writing travel stories for a while - 2000 was my first, a random one-off about that Royal Garden Party I referenced again just a few posts ago - but it took a while to realise I could work that up into a thing. Meantime, I did a lot of book reviews, opinion pieces on everything from head lice to apostrophe abuse; and then one day in 2003, having had a rough morning as a relief/substitute teacher wrangling reluctant, not to say stroppy, Year 10/fourth form/15 year-old girls for the first two periods, instead of reporting to the Deans to file detention forms, I sneaked in my free period before lunch into the library for some respite. There I read a copy of North & South magazine, right to the back page where they had a feature called 'Places in the Heart' where readers wrote about bits of New Zealand that were special to them.

"I could do that!" I thought; so I did, about a high-country horse trek I went on when I was around 12. And the magazine published it, it was a thrill, and that was it, I thought.

Then I got a big envelope in the post from Outward Bound, with a brochure about their courses that I glanced at, thinking that would be fun but too expensive, and put aside. Several days later I picked it up again and this time read the letter accompanying it, in which the writer said she had seen my North & South story, thought (rightly) that I sounded the sort of person to appreciate what they did, and would I like to take part, gratis, in a special 8-day course they were running for media people, to advertise their upcoming 40th birthday?

So, suddenly, I was a media person. I did the course with a bunch of TV, radio and print journalists (one of whom got scared off on the third day when shown the high ropes course we would do that night, and ran away home to Nelson) (he was a bloke, by the way) and afterwards I sold the story to the Sunday Star-Times.

Then, having taken on board the Outward Bound philosophy that you can do anything, you just have to believe in yourself and get on with it, I decided I would be a travel writer. Where would I like to go first? No-one I knew had ever been to Tasmania, despite its being so close, so I wrote to the Tasmanian tourism people, said I was a travel writer interested in getting some experiences to write about, and showed them a copy of what I told them was my latest story - true, but I didn't elaborate that it was my only travel story.

They were persuaded, and sent me (and the Firstborn) on a 10-day self-drive around the island, all expenses paid. It was a revelation. And that was the beginning of a career that's taken me - after a slow beginning that involved many rejections and much patience and persistence on my part - to all seven continents, Antarctica to the Arctic, Machu Picchu (twice) to Rwanda, from a swag on the bank of a crocodile-infested river to a 6-room suite in the Peninsula in Hong Kong with a TV over the bath and a telescope in the living room. It's been a blast, and writing about it here has been a rewarding way to record it all, for my own enjoyment, if no-one else's. 

So I'll carry on, even if the future looks to hold less travel than I would prefer. There's always the other function of this blog [see above, right]: to use everyday events to connect with memories of places that are now far away, but also forever a part of me. Ten more years? We'll see. 


the queen said...

So nice to know - I’ve always wondered how you transitioned into travel writing. I always imagine your posts are first drafts of stories you will sell to the papers. Also - ten years and 400,000 + views sounds good to me, given that I’ve got almost fifteen and 500,000 + views.

TravelSkite said...

Gosh, I've told that story so many times, I quite forgot I hadn't done it here. My posts are more daily diaries that I find useful later to get back into the zone - but you're right, many of them transition easily into stories. And I'm sure I visit my blog far more often than you do yours! Nearly 15 years is very impressive - make sure you don't forget to mark it.


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