Nov 012015
Lobsters on the boardwalk in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

This month I spent two weeks teaching students in the Netherlands. I led two week long seminars. One focused on travel writing while the other was about travel photography. It’s always a pleasure to impart knowledge to students who have a genuine interest in the subject. Several interacted by asking probing questions and the overall quality of the groups’ work proved good.

Between seminars I visited Ghent in Belgium and look forward to writing about the city over the months ahead. My first feature is on the annual oyster festival held at the Pakhuis Brasserie. The event has become so popular it is now known informally as Oyster Sunday.

On my personal blog,, you can read my look at the Negen Straatjes (nine streets) shopping district in Amsterdam. For that piece I interviewed Djoeke Wessing, the shop owner who came up with the name of the area, which is short walk from Dam Square.

You can also see my review of The Bridges of Paris, a beautiful coffee table book written and photographed by Michael Saint James.

If you are looking for things to do, you might find inspiration via my post pointing you towards the interactive Born Ready microadventures site, a cooperation between Wrangler clothing and Alastair Humphreys.

An Eyefi Mobi Wi-Fi enabled SD memory card

An Eyefi Mobi Wi-Fi enabled SD memory card

Testing a wi-fi enabled memory card in my camera proved fun. You can find out how I got on in the kit review via my post about the Eyefi Mobi SD card and app.

Choosing a title for my feature on Thuringia, the state that’s known as ‘the green heart of Germany’, proved easy. In it I take a look at Erfurt, Weimar and Bad Langensalza. Each of those urban areas proved photogenic. The piece provides an overview of the region’s rich cultural heritage.

Half-timbered buildings near the Kraemerbruecke (Merchants' Bridge) in Erfurt, Germany.

Half-timbered buildings near the Kraemerbruecke (Merchants’ Bridge) in Erfurt, Germany.

Dusseldorf also provided me with material for a post examining the shopping, architecture and art museums of the metropole on the Rhine.

I also wrote a couple of pieces for The Huffington Post. My first was about visiting southern France, where I visited the attractive small town Sommières in the Gard department, part of the wine-producing Languedoc-Roussillon province. Here’s a link to my feature entitled Sommières in Southern France: Travel and Heritage.

Sommieres in France

The Roman built bridge in Sommieres, France

That piece was followed by a light-hearted but thought-provoking rant about what I see as the ridiculously early start to the Christmas season in the United Kingdom. Wandering through Newcastle-upon-Tyne I noted how the Intu Eldon Square was displaying a Christmas greeting even before the end of October. That prompted me to ask Why Does the United Kingdom Start Celebrating Christmas So Early?

My feature on for Rough Guides on Lunenburg in Nova Scotia, Canada provided an overview of the colourful fishing town that I visited in July.

Lobsters on the boardwalk in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

Soft toys in the shape of lobsters on the boardwalk in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

Over the past six months I’ve also been writing a column on the 2015 Milan Expo for an in-flight magazine. The world exhibition came to an end on 31 October meaning I’m looking for new column opportunities. By all means get in touch if you’re a commissioning editor looking for regular content.

As the month came to close I was preparing my schedule for the 2015 World Travel Market,  which will be held at the ExCeL London events centre from 2 to 5 November. If you are a PR or represent a tourist board and want to work with me over the months ahead please call me on (0044 – if you are outside the United Kingdom) (0) 7947 587136 or send an email.

Two fellas in Den Haag, the Netherlands.

Two fellas in Den Haag, the Netherlands.

Oct 232014
Moroccan cuisine served at Bazar in Rotterdam.

I’d like to thank Mike Gerrard, a fellow travel writer, for passing on the baton in the writing process blog hop to me.

I’ll do what I can to answer the four questions succinctly before finding two more participants.

Since the end of March 2013 I’ve been blogging on my own website,, also writing posts for National Geographic Traveller and Additionally, I blog intermittently on The Huffington Post.

I continue to write newspaper and magazine features and, at the start of this month, received my copy of The Irresponsible Traveller, a travel narrative to which I contributed a chapter about the experience of being run off a national highway in Kerala, India. Michael Palin, Dervla Murphy and Ben Fogle number among the other authors who contributed to the book.

What am I working on?

Today I’ve been working on a feature about my experiences in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan for a man’s magazine. I’ll post an update on this site when it is eventually published (it’ll be going to print soon).

I also completed a blog feature about the production of a herb and spice infused gin. While I was in Rotterdam, at the start of this month, I met a man with Indonesian forefathers who successfully launched Bobby’s Dry Gin onto the market. In my interview led feature, Sebastiaan van Bokkel talks about how his grandfather’s love of jenever inspired his aromatic gin.

Looking to the future, I also pitched a couple of story ideas to editors, in the hope they’ll be commissioned. Tomorrow I’ll be working on a newspaper feature about architecture and design in Rotterdam.

How does my work differ from others in this genre?

I write informed features based on my own experiences and interviews with experts in their field.

I like to get out into the field to acquire insights as well as to meet people who can lend a local and authoritative voice to features about a destination. I try to synthesise my experiences with the views of people on the ground so that I can successfully convey a sense of place.

Studying history gave me knowledge of how to undertake thorough and detailed research, so I always like to check facts and verify details. I think this is important because readers should be able to trust the features they read.

I suppose I’m not as gushing as some writers, as that just isn’t me. That means when I am enthusiastic about a destination, an activity or a dish that I’ve eaten, it’s because it’s exceptional.

Why do I write what I do?

I love sharing positive experiences and conveying how I perceive places.

Not everything I enjoy will be perfect for everybody, but it’s great to receive feedback from people as to how my writing has helped shape their holiday or travel. I’m also interested in hearing how other people perceive the destinations to which I’ve travelled.

I want to entertain and inform. If that also means inspiring people to travel then that’s great. Sometimes that might mean people venturing outside their comfort zone but going beyond what we already know helps us grow and learn.

How does my writing process work?

I’m an avid note taker, as I think it’s essential to jot down observations and ideas while they are fresh. To achieve this, I tend to keep a Moleskine notebook in my pocket at all times. I can refer back to them well into the future, confident I’m bringing an accurate personal touch to my writing.

Additionally, I find it useful to gather quotes using an Olympus Dictaphone. The same piece of kit is also good for recording ambient sounds, which can be useful in jogging my memory when I’m at my desk.

My photos feed into my writing process too, because sometimes it’s easier and more efficient to make a pictorial note than to stand in one spot jotting notes.

I tend to start writing early in the day, continuing until early in the afternoon, and then edit my work. I use the late afternoon for administrative and organisational tasks. Ideally, if a feature deadline is approaching, I like to complete my work a couple of days in advance, have a good night’s sleep, and then read through the piece when I’m fresh before submitting it to my editor. It gives me a bit of distance from the initial time of creation and allows me to be objective in assessing what I’ve written.

Passing the baton

I’m going to pass the writing process blog hop on to Sophie Collard, who specialises in train journeys on Soph on Track and dark tourism on Travel Darkly, plus the travel blogger Nila Tamaraa.