Straight talking at Travellers’ Tales

I spent the weekend preparing the nice and nasty sandwiches. It’s a delicate recipe, served up to people needing some positives to cushion all the negatives, based around a judicious double-decker design of good, bad, bad, good.

Or, more bluntly, a shit butty.

The reason? I was at the Travellers’ Tales festival at the Royal Geographical Society, volunteering at the travel writing workshops run by the British Guild of Travel Writers.

This year's event at the RGS

Shattered illusions

Potential, hopeful and wannabe travel writers booked 30-minute slots to talk about getting into freelance writing and the state of the industry, and to show us examples of their work for a critique.

For some, the illusion-shattering pep talk from a grizzled freelancer probably came as a rude awakening.  Structural change. Reduced fees. Moving it all online. You get the picture.

But amongst the reality checks, I did try to proffer some constructive advice. Most of all, if you want to start building a portfolio of work, don’t chase the assignment to a luxury spa in the Maldives, or a wildebeest-stalking safari in the savannah. Simply look to your doorstep.

Expert views

Elsewhere at the festival Jan Morris reeled off anecdotes to a reverential crowd and Fergal Keane, the man behind the much-celebrated Letter to Daniel, offered an update of what the young Daniel did next. There’s an audioBoo of his intro here.

The event's photo exhibition

But it was the Last Frontiers panel of Simon Reeve, Martin Hartley and Hilary Bradt that resonated with my shit-butty prognosis for the future of travel writing.

Hilary summed by saying that travel frontiers are often not always the far-flung destinations but the unusual experiences and characters we encounter in our own backyards.

Maybe some of the best Travellers’ Tales are right under our very noses. We tend to look far and wide for inspiration, but forget that the Eureka moment can also be located in the short and narrow.

Your feedback

What do you think? And was the advice that myself and my Guild colleagues offered on the day of real constructive help? We’d love to know.

Post your comments below.

* Update: More views from Travellers’ Tales at Tourist vs Traveller here.


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