Category Archives: Travel writing

Loving Barcelona to death…

Streets of Barcelona

These days, whether it’s the oppressive heat of summer or the biting chill of winter, the streets of Barcelona are teeming with tourists.

I can’t help wondering how (or if) the locals preserve a sense of community – and how they find somewhere affordable to live, now our sharing economy has made holiday renting so simple and enticing for property owners.

There is so much to love about Barcelona, but are we loving this magical city to death?

It’s the local people, and the communities they build, that brings colour and life to Barcelona (or any world city). But if those people can’t get a place to rent at a rational price, then they’re going to be pushed out to the fringes.

Instead the wealthy move in, because they love the eclectic vibe of the city – and who can blame them? Meanwhile, tourists flock to soak up the history and culture for a brief time. But the people who gave the city its heart are leaving, and communities are fracturing.

Street art Barcelona

artist #bl2a

It happened in New York City. Many of the artists, musicians, writers, thinkers and dreamers who once gave New York its creative edge could no longer afford to live there.

So they moved out – and the very thing that drew people to the city slipped away with them. Read more in this Rolling Stones article.

As travellers, we need to look beyond the cheap deals and site-seeing opportunities. Let’s give more than a passing thought to the people who call Barcelona and other world cities home. Because community matters.


Weekly wisdom – it begins

Work finally begins
when the fear of doing
nothing at all
trumps the terror
of doing it badly

Alain de Botton

Copyright: Louise Ralph

…on the streets of Brooklyn NY


Tell me a story: travel writing tips

Yurt in Mongolia

A Yurt in the Mongolian Steppe (iStock image)

Have you ever eaten an eyeball? Me either. Dissecting one in biology class was enough. But I’ve done a bit of writing and read a lot of travel articles and blogs, so I thought I’d share some tips I’ve picked up along the way…

Beyond the daily grind

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start your travel story. Which makes it too easy to get caught up in an (endless) checklist of your day, from the time you open your eyes to the moment you fall into bed exhausted after visiting 24 churches and museums.

Avoid starting with ‘I woke up in the morning’, because that’s kind-of obvious, right? Unless you woke up in your hotel surrounded by water after torrential rains caused flash flooding.

And we don’t need to know that you ate breakfast before setting off – unless you’re in a Mongolian yurt eating pickled sheep eyeballs.

Find the hook

Remember as a kid telling a story? It went from ‘and then and then and then’ to the climax – while your parents developed the art of sleeping with their eyes open.

That was then… Now your online readers are gone in the click of a mouse, so you need to hook them into your story. Here’s a clue: start with the action.

Tell me you took a long haul flight from Australia, had a six hour stopover in Beijing, did some duty free shopping, and – I’m gone.

Start with those eyeballs and you’ve got me hooked. Then I want to know what you’re doing there, how you got there, and what you’re getting up to next.

How do you find the action? First write the whole blog, then do some serious editing, pulling the action up-front, and re-crafting the piece so it all works.

Finally, wrap it all up by bringing the focus (or action) back into your ending. You started eating eyeballs, now you’re ending with another meal around a fire. Maybe you spent the day with nomadic shepherds and shared a meal with them, serenaded by the quiet bleats of sleepy sheep – no pickled eyeballs in sight.

Old Mongolian man in national clothing, Central Mongolia

Old Mongolian man in Central Mongolia (iStock image)

Take me there

Tell me what it’s like to be there, and tell it with all your senses. Take me there through the smells, tastes, colour and movement around you – and don’t skip over the anxiety, the fear, the loathing, because those are what make you human.

It’s also what brings your story to life. Can’t you just feel that eyeball pop between your teeth and the warm jelly stuff inside squirting down your throat? But you can’t spit out this delicacy and offend your hosts, so you anxiously try not to gag while you work up the courage to swallow it. And you’re a vegetarian.

Keep it short

Applying the KISS principle (keep it simple for success) to writing is my life work, I’m sure. As a writer and editor, reading ‘brain dumps’ just feels like work. Hard work.

And that’s the writer’s job, not the reader’s.  And yes, it is definitely harder to write ‘short’ and keep it simple. It requires editing (read: slash and burn) and losing some parts you’re attached to because they don’t advance your story.

Earlier, I had a bit about walking out of Indira Gandhi International Airport into a wet wall of heat and being enveloped in the heavy rancid odour of rotting vegetation or something festy I didn’t want to think about. Gone. Well, it’s here, but you get my point. I stuck with the eyeballs, as you do.

Copyright: Louise Creely

A cheeky local in Vietnam – proof that a smile is the universal language

Tell me a story

Most of all, tell me a story. Talk to the locals, use interpretive dance if you have to. Find the funny side or the dark side.

Take me beyond the guide book, down the back alleys and side streets, away from the tick-off tourist sites and photo opportunities, and into your adventure.

Because travel is about living at the edge of your comfort zone. So go there, and tell me what it’s really like. You may inspire me to follow you…