2021 July Featured Journalist of the Month: Donna Janke

I am a travel writer from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and the blogger behind Destinations Detours and Dreams. I love to explore wherever I am with a particular interest in culture, history, nature, art, architecture, and food. Every place is full of stories and I love to tell those stories.

1. What got you into travel writing?
When I retired from a career in information technology, I looked forward to having more time to travel and to devote to writing fiction, but it wasn’t long before travel competed with fiction for my writing time. I started a blog partly to document the steps my husband and I went through to prepare for and live a winter as “snowbirds.” I also posted articles about the places I visited in Arizona, where we spent a few winters, and the places I explored in other parts of the world as well as in my home province of Manitoba. My site Destinations Detours and Dreams took on more of an overview travel focus, especially after we ceased to be regular snowbirds. Over time I branched out to write travel articles for other publications. I still get back to fiction writing when I can (it’s gotten more attention during the pandemic), but travel writing has been a prime focus for the last several years.

2. What’s the most challenging part of being a travel journalist for you?
Pitching. I struggle with uncovering the angle most suited for a given publication, finding appropriate outlets for particular stories, and drafting the pitch itself. I’ve gotten better at this through practice and with what I’ve learned from seminars, conferences, and editor panel discussions, but it remains a challenge.

3. What is one thing [equipment or personal item] you can’t go without on the road?
My camera. Not only do I include a lot of photographs on my blog, but the photographs also trigger my memory when I’m writing articles after returning from travel. I also take pictures of explanatory signage to capture that information for later use. After my camera, my next two essentials are good walking shoes and my laptop.

4. What’s your most unusual and/or memorable travel experience?
It turns out I am unable to answer this question. There have been so many memorable moments I cannot pick one. I thought I might briefly list a handful of top experiences, but I still couldn’t narrow it down. I believe you can find memorable travel experiences everywhere (even sometimes close to home) if you are open and curious about what and who is around you.

5. How did you learn about NATJA and why did you join?
A colleague, Doreen Pendgracs, recommended NATJA to me. A big thank you to her for that. I’ve become a better travel journalist through the support of the organization and its members, seeing the excellent works of other journalists, and attending seminars and conferences. I’ve had the opportunity to connect with destinations. And I’ve met many wonderful people both in person at conferences and online through the Facebook page.

6. What is the best piece of advice you could give to a rookie travel journalist?
Take every opportunity you can to learn more about the craft. Courses offered by local continuing education departments or writing groups, books about travel writing, and webinars are all good options. Join an organization like NATJA and connect with other travel writers. Read travel stories. You can learn a lot about different types of stories, how to develop an angle, and how to structure a story from reading good travel stories.

Incorporate what you learn into your own style. Remain curious as you explore (be that in the far corners of the world or in your backyard) and be prepared to look beyond the surface. Follow your passion and your interests.

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