Scottish-born, South African-trained newspaper journalist and photographer. Also has an extensive background in aviation. Retired Managing Editor.
Currently based in Western Canada with monthly travel columns in various online and print publications.
Even after decades of travel faraway places and people continue to fascinate me. Always ready to explore more of this old globe.
1. What got you into travel writing?
May I claim DNA? Toss in being a Scottish-born Aquarian and the die was cast. As the daughter of a freelance writer and marine engineer, I grew up armed with a passport and a portable typewriter – originally lugging mom’s Olivetti, later my own Underwood. Letters were the communication tools of the day, so writing, observations, and opinions (scenic and political) were instinctive and expected. In fact, when my mother died I discovered a Western Airlines bag jammed with travel letters I’d written her down the years. I was kind of stunned to realize how many forgotten memories and miles I’d logged.
After training and working for a few years as an Amalgamated Press news journalist in South Africa after graduation, I applied (on a bet) to fly for Central African Airways. To my shock, I got the job. From that day until this it has been writing, travel, and aviation all the way. I’ve never regretted it. I feel truly blessed. The world has been my oyster. In addition, my monthly columns for a variety of print and online publications continue to pay and roll along.
2. What’s the most challenging part of being a travel journalist for you?
Lack of time. Invariably I yearn to spend longer in a place – even just a few extra unstructured roaming research days. Having also founded, built, and sold my own still successful community newspaper I’m sad that newsprint is struggling. I complain about researching new markets until memories of written submissions and self-addressed envelopes spring to mind!
3. What is one thing [equipment or personal item] you can’t go without on the road?
Camera. From minuscule to major I snap (or ‘note’ record) ’em all.
When I started my newspaper I needed a photographer.
a) I couldn’t afford to pay one
b) what was submitted was awful
So, as the old saying goes: if needs must. I had to be my own photography department. Now I adore photography and admire/study the work of great shooters.
4. What’s your most unusual and/or memorable travel experience?
Tough question. Maybe sailing down the Zambezi African Queen-style with David Attenborough. Or, crash landing at YVR. Or, being stuck in Mombasa minus luggage armed with two beer mugs, four chopsticks, and a packet of Omo. Bomb scare onboard Pan Am ex Berlin? Define ‘memorable’.
5. How did you learn about NATJA and why did you join?
I was a TMAC and SATW member (still am), but your AGM was in Santa Fe! Hooked!
Also, I’ve always said you market your members and their work which the others tend to see as ‘too commercial’. Dinner with Maeve Binchey consolidated my views on that subject.
6. What is the best piece of advice you could give to a rookie travel journalist?
Keep your passport current and cabin bag packed. Double-check destination passport and inoculation regulations. Look. Listen. Read. Research. Ask questions. Keep your sense of humour. Be polite. Never give up. Enjoy yourself. Life is a cabaret!