This evening I was lucky enough to attend a seminar, How to write a Lonely Planet guide, hosted by Intrepid Travel and featuring acclaimed author, journalist and presenter, Frances Linzee Gordon.

What she said:

[true sentiments on ‘travel’]

“Travel is addictive because of the adventure, self discovery, serendipity, fun, opportunities and stimulation that every day brings.

Travel is like making a new friend – you always listen out for the place in the news, you want to return, and you care about what happens there.

To write about a place you need to be saturated in it – learn some of the language, speak to/interview everyone, understand general costs of living etc.

Keep an ‘as you go’ diary to note down fresh impressions so when you’re tired and go to write up a feature you don’t forget things. Include details, colour, a local feel. Use the writer’s muscle – the more you use it, the better you are.”

[writer / traveller action points]

  • Keep a Diary – for fresh impressions on the road.
  • If you don’t have writing experience, consider taking a course.
  • Photography course – a great idea because your stories are more marketable with images. Also, you can sell to image libraries (eg. Getty, Lonely Planet) for extra income (because a travel writer’s income is limited).
  • Learn a language(s).
  • Enjoy the moment (adhere to the concept of ‘mindfulness’)– it’s easy to worry about money, going home, terrorists etc. – but stop and take in the amazing things you have in the moment.
  • Choose to support local businesses and industry.
  • Try everything – dance, eat – go outside your personality.
  • Enjoy – be safe without being paranoid, don’t be budget obsessed, be inconspicuous and be open to everything.


[Keep in mind]

  • Beware: check local conditions before travel (eg. Disease, weather, crime).
  • Double check passport / copies accessible.
  • You’re more vulnerable to local threats if you look like a tourist. ‘When in Rome’… and be aware of what different clothes, or smoking / drinking in public may represent in some areas of the world.
  • Support is often not readily available so understand what emergency services etc are/aren’t available.
  • Arrange all relevant health vaccinations, dentist etc. 6 weeks prior to leaving.
  • Travel insurance – critical – but also check your insurance covers your proposed activities (eg. If you are going skiing, diving and so on, carefully check the terms because you can be caught out).
  • Research where you’re going.
  • Pack carefully – make a list then pack in ten minutes to avoid unnecessary extras.
  • Be aware of scams.
  • Always tell someone where you’re going.
  • Leave valuables behind, only carry money.
  • Stay in touch with home / leave an itinerary.
  • Make friends with the hotel manager – they are good for safety tips, local information and many other things.

[some final tips]

1. Especially in ‘hot’ places keep an eye on local press and talk regarding what’s going on – they’ll pick up on issues or uprisings etc.  before national or international press.

2. Visit local tourist organisations and introduce yourself, say where you’re going, what you’re doing and ask for a letter for introduction. It can come in handy in sticky situations or if you’re in trouble.

3. 3-second rule (trust your gut) – look someone in the eye for three seconds, make a character judgement – stick with that impression no matter what.

4. Be careful when taking photos – you’re often not concentrating on what’s happening around you in order to capture ‘the shot’, so in pairs keep an eye out for each other so that no one is being robbed while they are photographing something.

5. Photo tips – make people laugh, use alternative angles and look for different places to take photos of famous landmarks (i.e. alternative vantage points from where most tourists are directed to take shots). Always ask for permission before taking someone’s photo.

6. When in a restaurant write notes – you look like a food critic and are more likely to receive better service!

How to write a Lonely Planet guide

Serious about being an author for Lonely Planet? Their recruitment notes on how to write a Lonely Planet guide state:

  • All applications are read:
  • You must demonstrate passion for travel
  • You must demonstrate destination knowledge
  • Writing experience required
  • Evidence of ‘special expertise’ (eg. Language, rock climbing, diving, other special interests, e.g. Lived, travelled, written; any evidence of independent travel)
  • Always meet deadlines and word count
  • NB. LP publications use simple sentences and language – be mindful they’re usually translated.


[This is a re-post from the archives. Originally posted July 13 2011, London]