November 2017 Featured Journalist: Carrie Dow
Wednesday, November 08, 2017 12:00 AM

Carrie Dow is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in 5280.com, Islands, Artisan Spirit, Go World Travel, Go Nomad, International Living, and Interval World. When not traveling, she is the Local Editor of DrinkDenver.com, part of The Drink Nation, where she writes about Denver's best happy hours (not a bad gig, eh?). She uses her expertise on Colorado's beer, wine, and spirits industry to travel the world looking for unique craft breweries, distillers, vineyards, and cocktail bars, places where she can learn about a destination through food and drink. Believing Mahatma Gandhi,s statement that 'The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated,' she founded What's Pawsitive, a website that profiles animal-based travel, animal rescue organizations, and animal welfare advocates around the world. She has a degree in Language Arts from the University of Nebraska and when writing she is supervised by her editorial staff, a vocal Siamese cat and a contemplative Siberian husky. 

What got you into travel writing?

Oddly, my interest in travel writing began with P.J. O’Rourke, the well-known political writer. Back in the 1980s Rolling Stone magazine sent him around the world. Basically he was sent to what were considered the most miserable places on earth (at that time) and report back on what he found, places like still-Communist Warsaw, post-war Vietnam, and drug cartel-ruled El Salvador. Through his sense of humor, O’Rourke always found a connection with locals and showed a different side to these places, one you didn’t see on the evening news. This collection of stories was then put into an anthology called Holidays in Hell. It was this small-town girl’s first travel guide.

What's the most challenging part of travel writing for you?

Getting organized and focused on what’s important are the toughest parts of travel writing. The actual writing is easy. It’s narrowing a place down, often to its barest essentials, which make travel writing hard. You want to write about everything you experience, but you are never allowed the time or the space to do that. Besides, you shouldn’t. Putting everything into a piece doesn’t always make a cohesive and compelling story. Travel writing teaches me to focus.

What one thing [equipment or a personal item] can't you go without on the road?

The thing I can’t live without, let alone travel without, is my Galaxy S8 smartphone. I do everything through that phone. It’s my calendar, my alarm clock, my GPS map, my camera, and I use it to record interviews when I travel. I lost it recently at the Great American Beer Festival. Longest hour and a half of my life.

What was your most unusual and/or memorable travel experience?

My most unusual travel experience was while visiting a childhood friend in Bundaberg, Queensland, Australia. Her in-laws organized an antique car rally with their local car club “in honor of Leeona’s American friend” they said. I think it was more of an excuse to have a party. Fifteen cars and over 20 people showed up. I spent an entire afternoon as the passenger of a 1926 Aston with a top speed of 30 m/hr. It was owned by an elderly gentleman named Geoff who didn’t know me from Adam, but happily showed off his prized possession. My friend’s eight-year-old daughters rode with us and sang songs because the car didn’t have a radio. Bundaberg is near the ocean so after doing a “lap” around downtown, the string of cars headed out to the seaside highway driving through little coastal towns like Bennett and Bargara Beach. We stopped at a beachfront park called Elliot Heads where we had “tea” with homemade brownies and cookies. The literal and figurative summit of the trip was a drive up the Hummock, a hill that rose out of the flat farmland and overlooked the ocean. Although only a few hundred feet above sea level, it was the highest point in the district and the Aston’s tiny engine barely made it to the top. Afterward my friend’s husband asked if I was bored just sitting in a car all afternoon. I said, are you kidding? This was held just for me! I loved it!

What is the best piece of advice you could give to a rookie travel writer?

Rookies:  No matter how you record your travel experiences, whether jotting notes in a notepad, talking into your phone, or typing on your laptop, always include every single detail, leave nothing out. You would be surprised how the most mundane of things, the hat your tour guide wore, the weather, the breed of a shop owner’s dog, or the name of your Uber driver, can be the spark you need to get a story published or provide that extra insight into a destination.

Go to carrie-dow.squarespace.com to learn more about Carrie.

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