Seminar Title:Find a travel story – a backpacking blogger’s guide

Speaker: Dylan Lowe & Kate McCulley

Why do you love to travel?
The beauty, and power, of unpredictability: the serendipitous encounters, the chance sightings, the unplanned escapades. I love being dosed with adrenaline by getting out of my comfort zone – and getting out of my own bedroom.

Who would be your ideal travel partner and why?
Someone willing to take risks, slightly mischievous and independent – yet caring, empathetic and has a strong sense of loyalty. Quite often how good a trip turns out to be depends much on who I was travelling with – imperfect as I am, I frequently need to rub off the positive qualities and traits of a travel companion in order to bring out my better side and be a nicer person – not only for the sake of my own experiences, but for those I encounter and interact along the road.

What was your favourite destination this year and why?
I went to Aarhus, Denmark in the summer. I was there to check out the city’s annual festival, which has been running for the past 50 years; each instalment introduces a theme and brings in concepts and temporary structures – it’s the people of Aarhus’s way of demonstrating to local politicians the potentials of these temporary fixtures and persuading legislators to make them permanent policies. This time they’ve blocked off the busiest street, paved it with grass matts and transformed it into one big urban green space. It’s a quaint student town, with an art scene as vibrant as Your Rainbow Panorama, a spectacular coloured-glass circular platform atop the Kuntsmusem that is an icon of Aarhus.

Name two up-­and-­coming destinations for 2012 and why?
South Korea has been upstaging Japan as a prime destination for English teaching – quite rightfully so. You’ll probably want to visit South Korea because it’s cheaper than Japan, equally rich and exotic in culture and history, boasts tasty food – and probably because your mate is living there in a primary school.

Scandinavia, while still bloody expensive, is gradually getting the attention it deserves. Nature’s greatest light show, the aurora borealis or Northern Lights, is peaking in magnificence this coming winter and best enjoyed in Norway. Denmark, currently holder of the best restaurant in the world and leading the Nordic gastronomic revolution, will capture more foodies’ hearts in the coming year. Failing that, they have Carlsberg. And bacon.

If you could return to any country you’ve been, where would it be and why?
Vanuatu, in a heartbeat. It’s a South Pacific archipelago country consisting of hundreds of islands, each with a distinctive culture or kastom, as it is called in Bislama, the national language. It’s still relatively untouched by tourism so it’s wonderful to witness places, though steeped in foreign influences, boasting their rawest form. In between the peculiarities and wonders – tribal dances in vibrant costumes, erupting volcanoes and black sand beaches, land-diving and a cult that worships Prince Philip as a deity – is a kind hospitable people; some of my most genuine encounters happened there.

Give an overview of your talk.
Finding stories is a constant quest for any travel blogger. In this talk, Kate and I will be explaining how we turn our experiences and anecdotes from on the road into literature – from the methods of identifying stories in interactions with other people, fellow travellers and locals alike, down to using these experiences to reflect on ourselves and our personal history, to how to commit narratives to words and engage with our audiences on our blogs and other platforms.

Who will find it relevant?
Not just anyone who’s into travel writing but everyone who loves travelling and seeking meaning in such. The talk will be a mixture of the technicalities of travel blogging and simply finding a good travel story, whether for blogging purposes or telling your mates what you’ve been up to in your gap year or weekend escape. This talk is where you can come to grips with becoming a better storyteller.

Speaker: Kate McCulley

Why do you love to travel?
I travel because I live for new experiences — as well as the dreamy sensation of being immersed in a completely different landscape and culture. I will never stop traveling for that reason!

Who would your ideal travel partner and why?
More than anything, someone with a great sense of humor! Being on the road leads to plenty of mishaps, and you need to be able to laugh at yourself in order to keep going.

Steve Martin would be fun.

What was your favourite destination this year and why?
The Faroe Islands. These islands, adrift in the North Atlantic, are so exquisitely beautiful and home to a unique culture. Their extreme isolation ensures that they will remain free of tourist crowds for the long term, keeping them an environmental  paradise.

Name two up and coming destinations for 2013 and why?
Brazil, hands-down. With the upcoming 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, as well as its growing status as one of the world’s economic superpowers, Brazil is going to be THE “it country” for the next few years.

Also, Jordan. The Middle East is making a lot of would-be travelers skittish, but the Jordan Tourism Board has been doing a fabulous job of showing people that Jordan is an extraordinary destination — as well as a very safe one. Jordan has something for everyone and perhaps the world’s best hospitality, so I expect to see much more about Jordan in the future.

If you could return to any country you’ve been to, where would it be and why?
Thailand. The quality of life in Thailand is amazing — the delicious, healthy and cheap street food, the massages, the gorgeous beaches and beautiful mountain villages. And the wonderful, kind people. Thailand puts a smile on my face.