Travel writing has taught me to be better at a number of things in all aspects of my life. Here’s the short list of things I do better now than I did before I started travel writing:
1. I ask for what I want.
I have learned that if I want lodging at a 5-star hotel, dinner in a castle, or tickets for ziplining through the Julian Alps, I have to ask.
Amazingly, if I do my research, am prepared, and ask the right people, I end up getting some fantastic perks. But I would never get them if I didn’t ask. Nowadays, I seldom hesitate to ask others for assistance in all aspects of my life. Most people are happy to oblige if they know you are a sincere person of integrity and are willing to give something in return.
2. I work my network.
It’s one thing to have a list of names or to meet people in your field, but it’s another thing to be able to use those connections to make other connections and enhance your career and personal experiences. By helping others and doing favors for people in my network, they are more than willing to step up when I have a need or request.
3. I can cut through the BS to get at the truth of a story and find the good in every situation.
By being a travel writer, I have learned to be better at reading between the lines, researching to find the facts, and using my knowledge base and judgment to arrive at my own conclusions. I’m better able to discern between fact and opinion and to offer the facts, as well as my admittedly biased opinions.
4. I plan ahead.
In order to make all the detailed parts of an itinerary work, it’s essential to plan ahead—sometimes several months or even a year in advance. I have sharpened this skill of planning ahead for my many trips to Europe. Being a better planner has also helped me as I plan other work projects and my eventual retirement.
5. I’m more accepting of other people’s passions, hobbies, and choices in general.
As a travel writer, I have learned to expand my understanding of other people’s beliefs, ideas, and perceptions. For example, when talking to people and reading through countless reviews of places I am going to visit, almost every review is either very positive or very negative. How could one destination have such divergent views?
Obviously, people have different backgrounds, expectations, interests, and ideas of what is enjoyable. I am more able to understand why certain people may look at a destination positively and another negatively. Whenever possible, I choose to be positive about an experience and find the things that are good and make for a more fulfilling experience.
6. I seek out the lesser-known places.
One of the places I visited last summer was Slovenia. I knew very little about this tiny country along the eastern border of Italy that used to be part of Yugoslavia. Since I already had plans to spend time in Italy, I did some research about other adjacent countries that were within driving distance of my home base in Sacile. Once I decided Slovenia would be one of my destinations, I did some research and made contacts in planning my trip.
Through my research, I learned so much about the history and beauty of Slovenia. The Convention and Visitors Bureaus provided some great information, suggested itineraries, and made arrangements for stays in some very nice hotels and meals at some outstanding restaurants, including the restaurant inside Castle Bled with a fantastic view of the lake. I learned so much about the history of the castle and the area.
I saw the military museum in Kobarid, with exhibits displaying stories, photos, and artifacts from the war. I learned about the bloody battles that were fought in what is now Slovenia during World War I, with estimates of 1.7 million lives lost. I even got to see Hisa Franko, today a world class restaurant, where Earnest Hemingway is reported to have written “A Farewell to Arms” while he was recuperating from battle wounds. I found out they had one of the largest zip lines in Europe near Bovec, and had a chance to fly over rivers and gorges and some of the most beautiful areas imaginable.
Before my time as a travel writer, Slovenia was just another unknown country I knew almost nothing about. But through my advanced planning with my contacts, intense research, and asking for assistance, I was able to experience this fascinating country much more in depth.
I was educated about the Postojna Caves, which are the most visited caves in history. They even have a train that takes tourists deep into the darkness of the caverns. The CVB arranged for a personal tour guide who pointed out specific features and took me to some restricted areas where other tourists were not allowed. I learned about the story of the “Baby Dragons,” sightless salamanders who have adapted to living in the darkness of the caves. And I got to see fascinating Predjama Castle, built into the side of a solid rock cliff many years ago.
I now have Slovenia as a living memory. Without being a travel writer, I’m sure I would not have made this trip happen. Thanks to travel writing, I can add Slovenia to my memories of visiting Italy, Croatia, and many other wonderful destinations. And I can keep developing my skills to help me in all areas of my life.
Thank you, travel writing.