Butlins? The Great Barrier Reef? Auntie Nora’s place for a wet weekend in Scarborough?
It’s almost that time of year, when the holiday brochures flop through the letter box and the sickly Thomson adverts appear on the TV. But even if you’re not planning a holiday somewhere weird and wonderful (and, let’s face it, most of us aren’t), my advice is, wherever you go, be prepared to write about it!
There were plenty of categories for potentially non-exotic locations, such as ‘my family holiday’ or ‘my crap holiday’. I sent in a couple of entries but I wasn’t particularly hopeful because I was dredging up old memories. (And sure enough, I didn’t win).
I’ve realised something that’s pretty obvious, really: if you’re going to write about a holiday, you need to do it while you’re there – or at the very least, on the plane/bus/train home, while the sights, smells and interesting people are all still fresh in your mind.
If you read the winners of the Guardian competition, you’ll see that most of them read like fiction (they had ‘almost 2000 entries’ and, interestingly, all but one of the winners are men).
Gone are the days when travel articles sounded like travel guides. Travel pieces now have dialogue, interesting characters and they’re often humorous. And don’t think your holiday location won’t be interesting enough to make a travel piece. It really is all in the ‘angle’ – and the writing.
The Guardian will probably run another travel writing competition in October next year. Wouldn’t it be great to have a piece or two already written? (And some suitable photos to accompany it, should you be a winner?).
He suggests you research your destination before you go there and try to come up with an interesting angle – or, better still, ask the locals when you’re there.
The Telegraph runs a weekly travel writing competition, ‘Just Back’ and although a lot of the winners focus on faraway lands, I’ve also seen a winning piece about riding the ferry across the Mersey in Liverpool and another about a family splashing about in a Scottish loch.
So, wherever you find yourself next year, remember to take a pad and pen (like I need to remind you!) and try to capture the essence of the place, or find an unusual angle or person to write about.
All being well (I don’t like to tempt fate!) I’m going to Center Parcs in Sherwood Forest in February, to Milan for a weekend in May/June and La Manga in Spain for a tennis holiday in September.
All of those places have been written about a thousand times, so I’m going to have to try to think of a new angle, if I want to come up with something fresh and original. But I’m already starting to think about it…
Let me know where you’re going next year! And ‘Bon Voyage!’ (in advance!)