I have a lot of news this month - that's what happens when you travel non-stop for five weeks.
First, I've heard my new e-book will be available in a couple of weeks, so I'll be posting about it on Facebook and Twitter. I feel like a kid at Christmas, hugely excited!
Second, my blog is finally up! For those of you who have been following on Facebook, you know I've been dithering for months about whether to start one. I have - and it's right here. Please visit regularly, sign up for the RSS feed, and leave comments if you like (or don't like) what I'm writing. To start I hope to have a new post up every 7-10 days.
And finally, after spending several weeks at travel blogging conferences or traveling between them, I have plenty of food for thought - and you may too. I've tried to distill some of the wisdom I picked up and would like to share it with you. Couldn't care less about what happens behind the scenes in the world of travel writing? Then skip the next section and check out the great links and suggestions I have for you this month. The two conferences, by the way, were TBU (Travel Bloggers Unite) in Porto, Portugal and TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange) in Girona, Spain.
Even if you're not interested in my travel blogging world, you'll find some of this informative...
What I Learned from TWO Travel Blogging Conferences - Issue 56
To succeed, you need to have the passion
How true for anything! A dead-end job doesn't get you very far, nor does a boring one. If you're passionate, you'll probably go the extra mile to succeed. I'm passionate about travel and writing so even if I have to stay up till 3am on a worknight to finish a story, I'll do it gladly, and that leads to readers, income, satisfaction, and success.
You need to know what you're worth
Do you ever sell yourself short? Do you ever charge less than you should because you don't think you're worth it, or settle for less of anything because you don't think you can get more? How much would someone else be charging for the same service? I have this problem with advertisers - I have a hard time negotiating a higher rate, even though I'm worth it.
Collaboration is key
How much easier and faster things get done if there's more than one of you! My e-book is a good example: I was initially going to self-publish but was going nowhere fast (steep learning curve, distractions, overwork) until I approached Indie Travel Media and we agreed to collaborate. They've done the design, helped with the edit and they're engaged in helping me promote it as well. There's strength in numbers.
Build a community or take part in one
This follows from the previous point on collaboration. When I began posting on Facebook regularly, I started reaching so many more of you. It wasn't all one-way because you answered back and we became part of the same community. You're all scattered around the world but we share our passion for travel.
In writing, this is so much harder than it seems. I'm myself when I talk to friends but when I sit behind a computer screen I'm not as sure of who 'me' might be. Few people are, and many of those who exude confidence are often hiding behind it. I've had to ask myself questions about who I really am and some of those questions haven't been answered yet to my satisfaction.
Get out of your comfort zone
This is a hard one. I'm fine as long as I don't get too personal but I've never been one to lead my entire life online, so sometimes, if I feel scared about what I'm going to say, I try to push forward but it doesn't come easily. Then there's the physical risk: in Barcelona I took a motorcycle sidecar tour even though I was scared and actively dislike motorcycles. I loved it, but wouldn't have known without pushing beyond my comfort zone.
You need discipline
True for everything in life, isn't it? Getting up at 5:30am to catch some writing time before going to work isn't my idea of the perfect morning but that's when I can write so, day in and day out, I write first thing in the morning. On plenty of days I could think of a few other things I'd rather be doing.
You have to start at the bottom and pay your dues
Yes you do. My very first job in journalism involved getting coffee for a cranky old man who smoked a cigar in the newsroom (shows you how long ago that was!). I graduated to ripping copy off the newswire, and eventually to research. It took a while before I was actually able to report a story. This gave me a great foundation that I cherish to this day. (It certainly took discipline to get Clary Pottie that morning coffee, I'll tell you.)
Oh dear. That won't be easy.
Be brave and tell the truth
If you don't like something, as a writer you should say so. There are many freebies in the travel blogging world (I had several during these two trips) and there could be a temptation to 'please' the sponsor. No! It's important to call it the way you see it. I'm writing for my readers, not for other writers or sponsors and if you're reading me, you should know what I really think about a place or facility. Easier said than done though, and honesty, while the best policy, isn't always easy.
Do your own thing
A parable of the sixties but it still makes sense. Just because everyone is doing something doesn't mean you should. In the world of travel this is particularly important because if a group of us visits a certain destination and we all write the same thing, you'll soon run screaming from boredom. Originality is crucial, not just for your entertainment but for my creativity.
Trust is important
This may be the most vital point of all. Without trust, we have nothing. If you don't trust what I write - or at least believe I'm writing as honestly as I can - then you shouldn't be reading me. Similarly I trust you to keep coming back, to tell me if something is off-key (and you do!) and to spread the word. I try to empower women to travel solo: if you don't trust my advice, you won't feel empowered and I will have failed.
Recommended Books and Products
What I'm reading this month: The Balkans: A Short History, by Mark Mazower.
I started this book before my trip to Albania last month because although I was familiar with the country's Communist and most recent history, I had no idea how it fitted in with the rest of the Balkans - Albania was isolated for decades. The book is so simply and intelligently written that it's an eye-opener about why things in the Balkans are the way they are. A must-read if you're interested in visiting this region. You'll find the Amazon reviews here.
The Art of Solo Travel: A Girl's Guide (by Stephanie Lee) - Still the bestselling guide to traveling on your own for the first time. Filled with information, fun to read, and a quick download right into your inbox. The place to start if you don't know where to begin.
Video 101: Tips and Tricks for Awesome Visual Storytelling (by Lisa Lubin) - My other favorite download. Video continues growing in popularity and Lisa, who has won three Emmies, has written the perfect teaching guide.
Travel News from Across the Web
The Good Global Traveler: 17 Actions You Can Take
How to Overcome Your Fear of Traveling
A Unique Theme to Your RTW Trip
Countries That Offer Working Holiday Visas
20 Ways to Cut Expenses and Have Money for Travel
Resources: List of Airports Worldwide
For food lovers...
...and lovers of other arts
Samarkand: Not So Golden Anymore?
How to Go Local in Istanbul
Getting to Know Naples
Turkey: The Low-Down
A Closer Look at Bali
The Heart and Soul of Hilly Sri Lanka
3 Days in Baku, Azerbaijan
Finding Peace and Inspiration in Ancient Chinguetti
Island Life on Bazaruto
Madagascar: 6 Fascinating Facts
If You're Visual
Hiking the Haraz Mountains of Yemen
A Photo Journey Through Hungary
Belfast Peace Walls
The World's Most Beautiful Bridges
38 Surreal Beaches and Coasts
Hidden Passageways of Paris
Best Adventure Videos
For more fantastic links to great blogs, articles, photos and videos please join me on...
Facebook - facebook.com/womenontheroad (don't forget to click Like!)
Twitter - @womenontheroad
Pinterest - @womenontheroad
New Posts and Pages and Things
My first four posts for you are up on my new blog:
The Many Faces of Albanian Women
Barcelona Highlights, Unconventionally
Lello Bookshop in Porto: Stairway to Heaven?
The Train in Spain Stays Mainly on the Plain
We've also got contributions from readers and this month, Juanita from New Zealand takes the plunge into solo travel in Eastern Europe, while Marta from Germany shares what it was like to travel as a woman alone last summer.
Cause of the Month
When Development Goes Crazy
Growing up in Spain I remember the heady days of unbridled construction as highrises sprouted along the country's coasts. A few weeks away and I wouldn't recognize the skyline.
Chunks of Spain's coast went from fishing-village-pretty to concrete-block-ghastly in barely a generation. Picturesque villages became drunken jungles catering to cheap mass tourism which would have felt at home anywhere cheap beer and wine flowed. First the eastern coast, and then the South around Marbella - one by one they fell to the developer's desire.
More recently, last month in fact, I saw something similar but on a smaller scale. Tourism is about to hit the mountains of Albania, and areas like Valbona, until now isolated several months of the year, will soon be served by a wide road, to be inevitably followed by busloads of day trippers. Further into the mountains, a full-day hike to the remote village of Thethi may be replaced by a short leisurely drive if developers have their way.
The villagers in the mountains don't mind development: they just don't want their way of life destroyed to provide some faraway landowner with extra pocket money. Hideous new constructions which clash with the gentle natural surroundings are more suited to garish resorts than to the genteel calm of the mountain.
Surely this part of Albania can learn from its coastline. The country was barely accessible two decades ago and had lived until then under one of the world's harshest dictatorships, which perversely helped protect its lovely Riviera from overdevelopment. But all that has changed and Albania is catching up with a vengeance, growing fast, both vertically and horizontally. What was once a handsome fishing port, Saranda, is now a concrete strip of hotels bounded by a ferry terminal to Corfu half an hour away. The city of Durres feels more like a Kosovar-filled Disneyland than a pleasant coastal city. They can't be 'saved' - but the rest of the coast hasn't been developed yet because it is inaccessible by road. Once roads are built, new developments will appear and unless care is taken to plan properly, the Albanian Riviera may end up looking like some of its nearby cousins in Turkey and Spain.
Resorts and developers will give the ever-growing number of tourists what they want. If you accept cheap housing, jetskis and crowded beaches, that's what you'll get. If you demand clean water, quiet surroundings and uncrowded stretches of sand, you might get that too.
Development? Of course - it helps local economies, especially in times of crisis.
But not at any cost. For several other parts of the Mediterranean, it is too late. For Albania, it may not be yet.
Here are a couple of other examples of development gone wild:
How much tourism is too much tourism?
Bali: Paradise lost?
Costa del Sol fast becoming Concrete Coast
Turkish locals: no more coastal concrete jungles!
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