Saturday, 29 August 2009

So you want to be a travel writer?

"So what do you want to be when you grow up?" Ah, the million dollar question. Hindsight is such a wonderful thing.

Chances are, what you envisaged yourself doing from when you were a child, is far from what your job now entails. For example, growing up, I really thought I would end up being a vet. If you were to mention this to my friends now, they would laugh in your face at the sheer thought of this.

I never thought in a million years, I would end up writing about travel. Let alone having anything published. But it wasn't until I returned from a trip in South America a few years back, that I thought I would try and put pen to paper. What was essentially a throw away excuse for me to relive my experiences in Peru, turned out to be a winning entry for a Lonely Planet writing competition that I entered at the end of 2007.

And then from there I guess it snowballed. I realised I actually quite liked writing, but knew I had a long way to go in terms of fine-tuning my style and adapting it to different audiences. Rather than it being "oh, this is what I did on my holidays".

Every day is still a learning curb and I am no way near in the same league as the many great travel writers who work so hard in this testing industry. And yes, 'travel writing' is not always the dream job everybody thinks it to be, even more so with publishing houses crumbling every day under the pressures of the economic melt down.

One particular person who I am indebted and forever grateful to, is the award-winning travel writer and Lonely Planet author,
David Atkinson who writes an insightful blog Hit the North, and has been a fantastic mentor and a great inspiration to me. If perhaps, as a result of my constant badgering and nagging for advice. David, your efforts will be rewarded in heaven. I can assure you of this.

Over the course of the last two years, one publication that I worked with to varying degrees is the monthly UK based magazine
Real Travel. I first started off with submitting selections of my travel images to their Reader's Gallery, and then from there I got the opportunity to review Tim Butcher's Blood River . And now, nearly two years on and several more book reviews and contributions later, I finally will have my first full-length feature published next month in their October issue.

The article will look at my time spent in Sumatra earlier this year. This is such a great achievement for me, even if I have to say so myself, and I am very excited.

So you can imagine how privileged I felt when Hfu Reisenhofer, Real Travel's newly appointed Chief Editor, asked me to contribute a few words towards an article he was writing about breaking into the industry, as I am a 'reader turned writer'...

If you would like to get a better insight into this and fancy reading my ''words of wisdom', then take a sneaky peak here:
So you want to be a travel writer?

Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Five things you might not know about the Camorra

In 2008 the award-winning film Gomorrah stormed the big screen, exposing the day-to-day realities of the Camorra – a branch of the Italian Mafia that operates in and around the cities of Naples and Caserta in the Italian region of Campania.

Directed by Matteo Garrone, the film was based on Roberto Saviano’s book which exposed the territory and business connections of this merciless organisation. Since the book’s publication, Saviano has received several death threats from “GodFather” style Camorra exponents and as such has now been forced to flee his native Italy for his own safety.

As the film’s first anniversary fast approaches, here are five facts about the Camorra that you might not know:

1. The Naples rubbish crisis, which saw its peak in January 2008, has proven how deep-rooted the Camorra’s influence is within local government. Making millions of euros from the transport and illegal dumping of waste, the Camorra has also been accused of sabotaging plans for new incinerators.

According to Italy’s National Research Council, the Camorra-controlled waste disposal has poisoned the environment in such a way that people living in some parts of the Campania region are three times more likely to get liver cancer than those living elsewhere in the region.

2. Majority of companies that pitch for public works contracts are financed by the Camorra, guaranteeing themselves a substantial income flow and the reputation of an enterprise that creates jobs for the area.

3. In order to launder monies, the Camorra builds exuberant shopping centres within the Campania region, despite there being a lack of consumer demand.

4. Members of the Camorra often have strategic relationships with political figures showing them their support with votes in return for help and favours.

5. For over twenty years the Government has tried to widen the motorway running between Salerno in Campania and Reggio Calabria, a town in the toe of the Italian heel, but given the Camorra’s monopoly over the area and the local construction companies, this has yet to happen.