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Interview with travel writer Scott Brills

BONNIE: Scott — you made a very, very long road trip. Where did you go, and what was your trip like?

SCOTT: My friend and I traveled in a 2001 Geo Metro from my hometown of Detroit, Michigan to New York, then shipped the car to London, flew over and picked it up there, and continued overland to Mongolia. We traveled a total of 10,000 miles through 17 countries.

It was an amazing trip, even though I finally arrived at Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia, six weeks later without partner or automobile.

All the money we raised pre-trip was donated toward building a kindergarten in a very remote area of Mongolia. It opened on Christmas Eve day, so I would count that as a successful journey.

BONNIE: Wow. Were you planning to write a story about your trip along the way? How did that come about?

SCOTT: While I was fundraising prior to leaving the U.S., one of the senior editors at the Rotarian — Rotary International’s magazine — caught wind of what we were planning to do and contacted me.

She asked that we try to chronicle the trip as best we could through photos, journal entries, picking up mementos, etc., so that she could publish our story when we got back. We were already planning on doing a blog throughout the journey, so this wasn’t too difficult for us.

BONNIE: What was your article about?

SCOTT: My article covered all aspects of our trip, from the planning stages through to completion. It was the cover story for the May 2010 issue of the Rotarian and was the longest article on one subject ever featured in the 99-year history of the publication (18 pages, plus cover, plus author bio).

I didn’t get paid, as Rotary International is a non-profit entity. But I was elated to have my story featured on the cover immediately following the April 2010 issue, where Greg Mortenson (of Three Cups of Tea fame) was featured, as I am very interested in the feats he has accomplished regarding educating girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I also had an interview on NPR following the article.

BONNIE: Do you have any tips for writing a story on a long journey like yours?

SCOTT: Yes, I learned a lot from this trip and would recommend the following to other writers:

  1. Bring a simple voice recorder — there are many days where you’ll be too tired to get your laptop out, so it’s important to have something ready to take notes before going to bed for the night.
  2. Take pictures of anything and everything, even if they’re not the most aesthetically pleasing shots. Looking back through your photos in chronological order post-trip can help jog memories of places and occurrences when you try and recall details of your trip.
  3. There are tons of blogs and other resources online that would love to publish your work — and some will even pay for it! Use these opportunities to practice your writing and to get feedback from readers which you can use to hone your style.

BONNIE: What’s next?

SCOTT: I’m off to Tanzania for five weeks in August where I plan to go on a safari and then climb Kilimanjaro. The next big adventure will be a charity rally much like the one to Mongolia, except this time around I’ll be going from Detroit to Alaska and then all the way down to Tierra del Fuego, the southern-most tip of Argentina, on the Trans-American Highway. I’ll definitely be chronicling that trip in detail.

I am also currently working on writing a book detailing my journey to Mongolia.

BONNIE: Thanks, Scott!

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]

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