06 - Make your Work your Passion - Travel Writing
Helena Smith — Writer for Lonely Planet and Rough Guides and Author of Hackney Guides
Helena Smith is a travel writer and book author. She writes for the ‘Lonely Planet’ and ‘Rough Guides’ publications whilst exploring the world, and has self-published her own books ‘Inside Hackney’ and ‘Eat Hackney’ sharing her insights travelling just a few miles from her doorstep.
She shares her insights into travelling and how she worked her way into a dream job being paid to follow her passions.
Listen here now:
1. Pack minimally
The less stuff you have the better your trip will be. trust me. baggage drags you down, there is more stuff to lose, more stuff to carry. more stuff to unpack and repack every stop and it literally is a huge drain on your energy and attitude to do fun stuff and ties you down. having just a tiny backpack with everything you need is the most liberating thing you can do for a good travel experience! This can also be applied as a general life strategy to keep you freer and able to take new opportunities without being so entrenched in stuff
2. Want to have a job as a writer — Just start writing.
Actually pretty obvious in hindsight. to get good at writing you need to do it. By showing initiative and interest in writing about travel or local insights is the only way to get started in the world of travel writing. Just self-publish on a personal blog or submit to online magazines and grow from there. You can also review things on TripAdvisor and answer questions and give advice on Quora. In this modern age also things like an Instagram wouldn’t hurt…
3. Bananas are awesome
You can do lots of healthy alternatives to things with them and keep all your vegan friends happy. And you can basically buy them anywhere in the world cheaply. So no excuses.
If you’re in London or plan to visit the inside Hackney is a great resource beyond the average guidebook or using TripAdvisor. So many cool things she’s put in the book.
For culinary travellers, Eat Hackney is your chance to get hold of and recreate the best food available in Hackney from the comfort of your own home. I’m already keen to try the Mung-bean curry she mentions and excited to see what other gems she has inside.
Helena’s Favourite Books
True History of the Ned Kelly Gang by Peter Carey
Her absolute favourite book. It sounds pretty interesting and as I’m about to visit Australia I’m lining it up on my next books to read.
A great shop in London, it pairs travel books with novels about the country. So you can read a nice story about where you are going.
Sam’s Favourite Travel Book Pairings
‘The Shadow of the Wind’ — Carlos Ruiz Zafón — Barcelona, Spain
A beautiful captivating tale from early 20th century Barcelona, it’s one of my absolute favourite books also so a great read to lose yourself in.
The Caesar — Quadrilogy by Conn Iggulden — Rome, Italy, Europe
Just an epic account of the great man. All about Julius Caesar, Rome, Italy and also his conquests across Europe in general.
‘Tales of a Geisha’ by Arthur Golden. — Japan
A stunningly beautiful book all about the last true geisha’s of Japan that follows the story of a young girl who goes to Geisha school to try help her family in a troubled age and goes on to be a leading geisha but during a time when Japan was catching up with the modern world.
It’s just a really interesting book into a crazy country and a crazy life that doesn’t really exist anymore but with many poignant life lessons about how to succeed and stay relevant in a changing world around you.
‘Nothing To Envy’ by Barbara Demick, North Korea
This book blew my mind. I literally had no idea about what has been going on in North Korea and it is a truly fascinating and shocking book about the crazy world of an entire country ran in a big brother state. it follows the tale of several families and characters and the effects that politics, famine and desperation has on them and the amazing resilience of human beings and the shocking power or information and what can happen when it is withheld from us. Obviously, I haven’t been to North Korea (YET) but I’ll update you on any progress on that front as I’m totally looking into it!
You can find out more about Helena and her projects at:
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