Tag Archives: Writing
March 8, 2017

Celebrating the life and tragic times of Branwell Brontë

The Bronte Parsonage Haworth Yorkshire - by zoe dawes

Brontë Parsonage Museum

The ‘Pillar Portrait’, half way up the stairs of the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, says it all. The most famous sisters in the world gaze enigmatically into the distance, dressed in simple Victorian dresses, drab colours reflecting what might be perceived as their drab lives. They were ‘stuck’ in some remote Yorkshire village on wind-swept, rain-drenched moors, spending their days writing or travelling away to teach children in other people’s homes. In the painting, between two of the sisters is a paler, blurry column which, on closer inspection, shows the outline of a male figure. That ‘pillar’ is actually the artist Branwell Brontë, who painted himself and his sisters around 1833. For some reason, possibly composition, he then painted himself out of the portrait and, until recently, he’s been painted out of history too.

The Bronte Sisters - Pillar Portrait at Bronte Parsonage

The Brontë Sisters ‘Pillar Portrait’

The lives of these creative siblings were, in fact, highly creative; Charlotte, Emily and, to a lesser extent, Anne Brontë, are known to readers around the world today for the dramatic novels they wrote in their father’s parsonage in Haworth. The lowly governess got a make-over as a romantic heroine when troubled employer Rochester fell for his daughter’s teacher in Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë). The Yorkshire moors will forever be associated with moody Heathcliff and his doomed love in turbulent Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë). The trials of the abused wife of an alcoholic husband were tackled for the very first time in harrowing detail in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Anne Brontë). However, brother Branwell Brontë is notorious as the drunken, layabout brother who came to nothing and died an alcoholic’s death in his late-twenties. But there are many more layers to their story and the place to learn all about it is the Bronte Parsonage Museum.

Bronte Parsonage Dining Room Haworth Yorkshire - image zoe dawes

The Dining Room; costume from ‘To Walk Invisible’, Charlotte’s portrait and head of Branwell Brontë

I’ve been here many times over the years and each time am struck anew at the inspiring yet tragic story of this curious family who produced such creative talent and died such sad deaths. Last month I returned, this time to see a new exhibition which throws light on Branwell Brontë and adds a poetic note to his helter-skelter life.

Branwell Brontë

Born in June 1817, the fourth of six children, Branwell’s mother died when he was only four years old. He had five sisters, two of whom died within weeks of each other, aged 11 and 12 years. He showed some talent in literature and art and his adoring father, Patrick Bronte, had high expectations of his only son. Branwell’s self-destructive tendencies appeared relatively early; maybe paternal pressure and creative sisters contributed to this. Drug and alcohol addiction plus a possible affair with a married women were elements of his rackety adult life. He died on 24 September, 1848 at the parsonage, ‘… most likely due to tuberculosis aggravated by delirium tremens, alcoholism, and laudanum and opium addiction, despite the fact that his death certificate notes “chronic bronchitis-marasmus” as the cause.’ [Wikipedia]

Branwell's Room curated by Simon Armitage at the Bronte Parsonage Museum Haworth - image zoe dawes

Branwell’s Room

The Brontë Parsonage Museum celebrates his bicentenary with two significant works, Branwell’s Room and Mansions in the Sky, both curated by renowned Yorkshireman, Simon Armitage. “As a poet of this landscape and region I recognise Branwell’s creative impulse and inspirations. I also sympathise with his desire to have his voice heard by the wider world …” Branwell’s Room is a collaboration between Armitage and Grant Montgomery, production designer for the excellent BBC production To Walk Invisible which focuses on the last three years of Branwell’s life and his challenging relationship with his sisters and father. (Costumes from the TV programme are on display throughout the parsonage.) The room is an evocative representation of what it could have looked like at that time, with rumpled bedclothes, unfinished poems, a discarded laudanum bottle plus writing desk and sketches. It’s as if he’s just popped out the Black Bull pub and will be rolling drunkenly back up the hill at any minute.

The Black Bull, Branwell Bronte's local pub in Haworth Yorkshire - photo zoe dawes

The Black Bull

In the Bonnell Room is an exhibition entitled Mansions in the Sky. 11 objects relating to Branwell are on display, including his letter to William Wordsworth when he was 19 years old, from which the exhibition gets its title. There is also the macabre sketch A Parody showing death leaning over a bed and Branwell’s wallet. Lying alongside are poems by Armitage giving a personal response to each item. In an interview in the Huddersfield Daily Examiner he explained he was trying to imagine what Branwell would have been like today. “One of the objects in the exhibition is his wallet and I wanted to think about what it meant to him – it was always empty. In the poem it becomes a contemporary object; there’s a condom in there, his dealer’s phone number, a credit card with cocaine on the end of it.”

'Mansions in the Sky' Branwell Bronte exhibition Haworth - photo zoe dawes

‘Mansions in the Sky’ exhibition

The Brontë story unfolds throughout the Haworth parsonage via the rooms which hold many original items of furniture, clothing, footwear, art works, writing paraphernalia, first editions and much more. Fans of the sisters’ books and poetry come from all over the world to see the home where they produced such enduring works of literature. Their brother Branwell now gets the attention he deserves, in a unique and moving tribute to this sad figure who longed for recognition and is finally getting it in a little village on the edge of the Yorkshire moors.

Mr Bronte's Bedroom with Branwell and Emily Bronte costumes - Haworth Parsonage

Mr Brontë’s bedroom with Branwell and Emily Brontë costumes from BBC ‘To Walk Invisible’

The Rise and Fall of Branwell Bronte exhibition is on display until 1st of January 2018. Wordsworth’s letter is on loan from the Wordsworth Trust until August 2017. For more information contact the Bronte Parsonage Museum.

If you enjoyed this, you will probably like David Hockney at Saltaire, Yorkshire


July 13, 2016

‘Oh, the places you’ll go!’ Life’s adventure with Dr Seuss

Dr Seuss Oh the places you'll go

Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

The opening words of ‘Oh, the places you’ll go’, a delightful little book by Dr Seuss, are positive and life-affirming. They also epitomize the philosophy of many of us who choose to set off to Great Places as often as we possibly can. These places may be real; a holiday on a sun-kissed island like Menorca, a trek through the Australian Bush, a train journey through the Swiss Alps, a boat trip to watch bears in Canada or a meander beside an English lake. But they could equally be places we go metaphorically. The word ‘journey’ is hugely overused these days, but life really is a journey, with all the attendant ups and downs that any literal journey brings …

‘Oh, the places you’ll go’ is advice to a young boy who leaves home to explore the world. He’s told that he’s in charge of his own life and can make his own decisions on what direction to his journey will take.

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own.  And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

The book, written as a poem, takes the lad through highs and lows, assuring him that, ‘You’ll be on your way up, You’ll be seeing great sights, You’ll join the high fliers who soar to the heights.’  But then there are the lows and attendant problems.

You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…

We’re all familiar with the ‘Waiting Place’ where people are just,

Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting …

Escaping from this dreary place, the boy is told he’ll escape to find the, bright places where Boom Bands are playing’ and he’ll ride high. And so he will go on, becoming successful and seeming to have everything in life until one day, whether he likes it or not, ‘Alone will be something you’ll be quite a lot.’ It’s very unusual for a children’s book, for that is what ‘Oh, the places you’ll go’ was written as, to address loneliness. Yet that is something most of us will experience at some time in our lives, and some people are lonely a lot of the time.

All Alone from Oh the places you'll go by Dr Seuss

However, in the realistic but upbeat tone of the book, Dr Seuss says he will overcome the things that scare him right out of his pants, in spite of getting mixed up with ‘strange birds’ and the ‘frightening creek’. Through it all he’s counselled to, ‘Step with great care and great tact’, and to remember that ‘Life’s a Great Balancing Act’. The story ends with these positive words,


be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray

or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,

You’re off to Great Places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting.

So … get on your way!

Dr Seuss Oh the places you'll go - book

So, what are you waiting for? Today is YOUR day, your mountain is waiting … now get on your way 🙂

November 6, 2015

5 reasons NOT to be a Travel Blogger

Some time ago I wrote an article called 5 Reasons to be a Travel Blogger‘ It got a very enthusiastic response, understandably, given the nature of the role and the lure of travel for so many of us. Most people love to travel, if only for a holiday, and most people can write; ergo most people can be a travel blogger, right?  Wrong. Yes, it is easy to set up a blog and start blogging but to make a success of it takes a lot of hard work, time and effort.

When I use the term ‘travel blogger’ here, I am referring to those who want to blog on a regular basis and maybe eventually start to make an income from travel blogging. There are lots of reasons to start blogging, but here are some of the negatives …

The DISADVANTAGES of being a Travel Blogger

  1. You spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen

Asus Tablet in bed

Some people imagine travel bloggers spend all their time gadding about the globe on exotic trips. We actually spend long hours at the pc/laptop/tablet/mobile, not only writing articles but creating content to share across various Social Media platforms. If you want to be a travel blogger you need to keep up with the latest trends in digital marketing and be able to assess where to put your time and energy. Before, during and after a blog trip, you’ll often be required to write/produce a number of posts/videos/podcasts and share with your audience. The more successful you are, the more emails/comments/requests you will get and they all need to be dealt with. All of this has to be done online and is very time-consuming – and not good for your back …

2. Writing a readable blog post takes skill and craft

Blogging cloud

Blogging cloud

Crafting a readable blog post can often take ages. You need to pull together your material, do research, write a decent piece then edit your writing and proof read. If you’re serious about the craft of blogging you should consider going on a blog training course or travel writing workshop to learn how to do it better. These cost money – at least the good ones do. Of course there are plenty of free online tips and courses but they also have a cost in hours. Choosing and editing photos to go with your blog post and support your social media marketing is a skill in itself and again time-consuming.

3. You need a broad range of business skills to be successful

Blogging for Business workshop zoedawes

When I started blogging about 10 years ago, hardly anyone knew what it was, Facebook was just for students and Twitter a mere fledgling. It’s a highly competitive digitital world now and to be noticed in amongst the racket online is increasingly difficult. At a talk I gave at Blogstock So You Want To Be A Travel Blogger? I emphasised to a very enthusiastic audience of (mainly young) wannabee travel bloggers, that to succeed you need to think of your blog as magazine, and yourself as the owner, chief editor, finance director, HR specialist, project manager, marketing manager and general dogsbody. You’ll be dealing with PR companies, Tourist Boards, DMOs, travel companies, media specialists, brands, journalists, fellow bloggers and many others, so you need excellent people skills as well a good communication. There has been an on-going debate about the difference between a travel writer and a travel blogger; many travel writers are bloggers, and I think it is in the skill of running a blog that the main difference lies.

4. Making money is NOT easy


One of the questions I get asked most, is how do you make money from blogging? Travel bloggers make money in a number of ways. These may include publishing ‘sponsor posts’ to be hosted on the blog, writing blog posts for other clients’ websites, becoming a brand ambassador (though the blogger may be ‘paid in kind’ ie product), taking adverts in the form of ‘buttons’ or banners on the blog, e-books, affiliate programmes, being paid to post social media updates (yes some people do that), host a ‘Twitterchat’ or maybe take part in some form of media event. Each country has its own advertising code and it is important that bloggers abide by this.

Marienburg Castle Way of the Crown poster

Marienburg Castle Germany

Sometimes a client will pay the blogger a daily/campaign rate to go on a visit and/or produce content. As bloggers are required to do more and more both during and after the trip, many are now negotiating payment, which recognises the blogger’s time and work for the client. I take occasional ‘sponsor posts’, write for other travel companies including Laterooms and am occasionally a Brand Ambassador. I don’t tweet or post on Facebook for money though some of my posts are paid for. I am paid for some of my trips, especially in Travelator Media campaigns. Up to now I haven’t taken adverts but am considering it if the right client comes along. However, I don’t make enough to survive solely on blogging and have a separate Training and Coaching business that supports my blogging. if you ask most bloggers for an honest opinion, they often don’t make significant amounts in a year and very many have full or part-time jobs (often tourism-related) and blogging is what they do in their spare time.

5. Travelling for work is tiring and not always enjoyable

Kempinski Ishtar Hotel Dead Sea Jordan

Oh, I can hear you saying, she can’t be complaining about the travel, surely? Well, no, I’m not but you are working when you go on a blog trip and the working day can be a long one. It may start at 4am (at Uluru we were up at that time 3 days’ running but it was to see the MOST magical sunrise each time) and not end until the early hours of the morning. You’ll stay in amazing places but often only for a night and you won’t have time to really relax. You’ll be wined and dined, which is lovely, but you do have be able to make polite conversation with your hosts and fellow travellers, however tired you may be. You have to try to stay sober(ish) when being plied with excellent wines and not make a fool of yourself if possible! There are some who think that a blog trip is a freebie and that they can abuse their hosts’ hospitality. The industry soon gets to hear of them and unsurprisingly, they are often not invited on other trips.


You’ll often be asked to tweet/instagram/facebook/periscope whilst you are on the trip, all of which can detract from your enjoyment of the sight, experience or meal that you are there to promote. In the early days of my blogging career I used to write blog posts DURING the trip. The most memorable was on a Cunard cruise to Norway aboard Queen Elizabeth. I was going to my cabin after a lovely evening and working until the early hours trying to write a decent article, edit photos and post; all with dodgy internet connection at sea. Very tiring – I don’t do that now. It’s important to clarify eactly what you and the client expect. You are being invited on a trip by a client who is hosting you to promote their ‘product’ and it is important that both sides recognise that and are happy with the ‘deal’.

Zoe Dawes travel blogger

I look upon travel blogging as a job. It’s a very enjoyable one and I wouldn’t swap it for the world, but there is a downside. Every job has its negative side and if, having read all this, you want to make a go of travel blogging, good for you. It’s incredibly rewarding and you’ll have some memorable, magical, marvellous experiences that you’ll never forget … What do you think?

January 1, 2015

New Year Reflections: highs (and a few lows) of quirky travel blogging

London fireworks Big Ben

London fireworks Big Ben

It's raining in Carnforth. Yes, it's New Year's Day, the fireworks are over and it's tipping down, it's bucketing, it's raining cats and dogs, it's p*****g down, there's a heavy shower, downpour, rainstorm … take your pick from our well-endowed English language. It's been raining since early morning, in stair-rods. There's no wind and the sky's a flat grey making the world appear a shiny monochrome picture. And somehow it seems appropriate as January 1st is a sort of colourless limbo time as we start to adjust to a potential new beginning, however spurious the date may be.

Rainy Day - RainyMood.com

Image RainyMood.com

 Today is a time when many look back on the past year and reflect on how it has gone, before maybe setting some New Year Resolutions to make a difference in the days ahead. And that's what I've been doing, with the focus on travel and what it has brought, the highs and the lows and small learnings …

Zoe Dawes aka The Quirky Traveller in Milan

Zoë in Milan

The year started with a serious look at what it means to be a travel blogger. At the Traverse Travel Blogging Conference in Gateshead, experts from all areas of the travel industry shared their thoughts and tips on this growing craft. I have been blogging for quite a while and have some wonderful travel experiences as a result, but it was proving difficult to make a living from blogging. The conference helped me to face some serious decisions, which included reducing the number of trips abroad and redefining my reasons for going,

It was during a very moving visit to the burial place of WW1 poet Wilfred Owen in a little war cemetery in a tiny village in northern France that I remembered just what travel means to me.

Wilfred Owen's grave at Ors France - image Zoe Dawes

Wilfred Owen’s grave at Ors

 It's not all about vacations, tick boxes, following the sun, or even new experiences. It's about how it makes a difference to feelings about life, other people and the world we live in. Seeing that simple white gravestone, one amongst many commemorating lives lost in foreign lands, was a powerful reminder that travel can have a real purpose and benefit, well beyond the many that come from a relaxing holiday.

Norway Arctic coast from Hurtigruten ferry - image Zoe Dawes

Norway Arctic coast from Hurtigruten ferry

On a totally different voyage I saw the majestic power and might of nature along the Arctic coast of Norway. The Hurtigruten ferry provides a vital postal service from Bergen to the very tip of Europe and during the winter months the scenery is both visually stunning and viscerally impressive.

Valletta street view Malta - image Zoe Dawes

Valletta street view Malta

I spent an enjoyable few days on the fascinating Mediterranean island of Malta, which manages to combine sun AND history in a very alluring mix. The highlight was a day-trip on an open top bus around the island. I loved finding out more about the intriguing and at times Machiavellian Knights of St John, sailing to the Blue Grotto in a traditional fishing boat and feeling the ruckled butter-yellow walls of medieval Mdina.

One trip it was easy to say yes to, was St Kitts, a tiny island between popular Antigua and exclusive Nevis. I'd never been to the Caribbean.

St Kitts prehistoric images

St Kitts prehistoric images

To be honest, it had never appealed. I'd an image of very wealthy types swanning around ‘all-inclusive' resorts or at expensive beach-side villas in brightly-coloured garb, quaffing cocktails and nibbling lobster tails whilst the locals wished they had their money and life-style. I was persuaded that St Kitts didn't fit that image (though it most definitely has elements of that).I discovered this relatively unspoilt island has its own intriguing story of occupation and slavery, with an optimistic outlook and an exciting future. The most memorable part of this trip was a walk through St Kitts lush, tropical rainforest with knowledgeable local guide O'Neil. (This article was winner of the Caribbean Tourism Organization ‘Best Blog Feature’ Award 2014, which was a lovely surprise.)

O'Neil in St Kitts rainforest

O’Neil in St Kitts rainforest

During a very enjoyable weekend at Blogstock, the world's first blogging festival I gave a talk to a group of wannabee travel bloggers ‘So you want to be a Travel Blogger?' I tried to flag up the perils as well as the pleasures of travel blogging,  the crowded market and need to find a strong niche to focus on. It was also a personal reminder to keep on track in my own writing, concentrating on a personal view that hopefully brings another perspective to the familiar and unfamiliar.

The summer was a period of reflection and reality checking. I set up a TQT Training Services with a group of associates to provide bespoke training and coaching for the Tourism but had to accept that I had far less energy now and had to be realistic about what I could achieve at this stage in my working life.

Travelator Media

I'd also become a part of Travelator Media, a commercial alliance of established online multimedia travel publishers who target the UK quality traveller at home and abroad. In the autumn we did a campaign for South Tyrol in which I concentrated on the culture and delicious Alpine food of this mountainous region of north Italy. Working closely with clients who appreciate the value of travel blogging was very rewarding and reassuring for the future.

Bolzano / Bozen in South Tyrol

Bolzano / Bozen in South Tyrol

My final overseas trip of 2014 was to Ecuador; its quirky capital Quito, the evocative cloud forest at Mashpi and the best place I have ever visited. ‘Best' is a small, subjective word that can't convey the simple delight that exploring the Galapagos Islands brings. And swimming with sea lions was the best wildlife experience ever. I'd been feeling rather emotionally fragile during that trip – nothing to do with the place, more a ‘time-of-life' thing. Snorkelling with a friendly, bewhiskered animal was the perfect healing remedy and another reason to embrace travel and its empowering experiences.

Sea lion Gardner Bay Galapagos Islands - image Zoe Dawes

Sea lion Gardner Bay

In December I talked to a number of people passionate about art and culture during a week-long series of Anchorhold Conversations at Abbot Hall in Kendal, Cumbria. Tourism, history and cultural exploration are closely intertwined and they tick a lot of boxes for a lot of us.

Anchorhold Abbot Hall, Kendal Cumbria

Anchorhold at Abbot Hall

The rain is still falling but it's dark now. The first day of 2015 is coming to a close as I finish these New Year reflections. What will this newly born year bring? I am sure it will be a mix of good and bad, highs and lows for most of us. In amongst it all, will hopefully be a few diamond bright travel gems that will give new meaning to our lives and create very special memories for years to come.

New Year Fireworks around the world - Image adapted from happynewyear-cards.com

Image happynewyear-cards.com

Have a splendid New Year and travel quirkily …

September 6, 2014

5 reasons why Blogstock, the world’s first blogging festival, was such fun

“Start your blog post with a really catchy opener. In the easily-distracted world of online communication, if you’ve not got your reader’s attention within the first few seconds, you may as well not bother to write the rest of the article.” A top tip for aspiring bloggers – and one that is made to be flouted … Another is to “have a catchy title, which engages but also helps with SEO if that’s your thing.”  Well, the title may not be catchy but you get the point.

Blogstock Blogging festival in Elstree, England

Assuming you have taken the trouble to get this far (avoid procrastination and waffly sentences – flout, flout) here are 5 reasons why I thought Traverse’s Blogstock, the world’s first blogging festival held in August 2014, was such fun.

1. It rained

Blogstock in the rain

It poured down. Torrential rain, monsoon-like rain, which went on all Friday evening and through the night. This was my first festival (yes, some things just take a long time to get round to) and I wanted to have the full festival experience and an opportunity to wear my natty spotty wellies. Of course it was definitely NOT fun for those in the flimsy tents who got flooded out, but us lucky few who were in the beautiful bell-tents provided by sponsor Hertz, were dry as the Sahara desert and able to luxuriate in our lovely camping accommodation.

Blogstock Hertz luxury tent

AND the great guys from event organisers Traverse very kindly laid on free drinks when it rained which was jolly sporting of them.

2. The sun shone

Blogstock Pinterest Breakfast talk

Pinterest Breakfast talk

Saturday morning, the main day of the festival, dawned dry and sunny and the weather was fine all day. This was great for all the participants, speakers, sponsors and organisers because it meant we could all really enjoy the event.  Some of us kicked off the day with a breakfast talk from Pinterest, which was extremely informative. There were four areas for talks on blogging; the Marquee, Tipi, Debate Tent and Fashion Galleries Tent and they were all fully used throughout the festival.

Stay Calm and Eat Ice Cream - at Blogstock

Stay Calm and Eat Ice Cream

But it was mainly fun in the sun because we could lounge about on the deckchairs, have a go on the coconut shy, bounce on the castle, zoom around the go-cart track, try on fancy dress and eat ice-cream.

3. Caught up with old friends and made new ones

Kathryn, Heather and Zoe at Blogstock

Kathryn, Heather and Zoe

The world of blogging is relatively small still, though growing very fast. It really was fun to catch up with (relatively) old friends and fellow travel writers like Andy Jarosz, Alastair McKenzie and Steve Keenan plus fellow Travelator Media mates, Kathryn Burrington and Heather Cowper. But it was even more fun to put names to faces from Twitter and meeting new people. Blogstock featured talks from bloggers across a number of different sectors including food, lifestyle, video, fashion, photography and travel; the mix made for a dynamic and vibrant atmosphere. Great to finally meet quirkilicious Reeree Rockette and see how Sarah Andrews is now following her heart with The Fashion Galleries.

4.  Learnt loads and shared blogging tips

Cook Sister Food Photography tips Blogstock

Cook Sister Food Photography tips

The diversity of topics and speakers was really enticing. Jeanne Horak-Druiff Cook Sister gave some practical advice on food photography whilst Niamh Shields Eat like a Girl‘ shared tips on writing a food blog. There were times when I was really torn … ‘How to get the most from your smart phone’ vs ‘Improving your writing skills’? ‘Getting noticed by travel brands’ or the ‘Blogging Debate’? I gave a talk called ‘So you want to be a travel blogger?‘ where I shared some learning from the past 5 years of travel blogging, including just how difficult it is to make a living from it!

The Quirky Traveller at Blogstock

So You Want to be a Travel Blogger?

Sitting cross-legged on the floor in the (very hot) Tipi with a young, enthusiastic audience felt very ‘festival’ and fun – though trying to get up afterwards wasn’t …

5. Everyone enjoyed themselves

Blogstock 2014

Blogstock 2014

Well, of course I can’t speak for EVERYONE but the general consensus was that the world’s first blogging festival was a roaring success.  The sponsors all contributed to making it extra special and the organisers all went out of their way to cope with the weather and the complex arrangements that an event like this entails. One of the best things about Blogstock was meeting other bloggers from around Europe, not just travel but many different niches and being able to share ideas, get re-inspired and just chill out with like-minded folk.

Future of blogging Blogstock

Blogstock – the future

The final debate was on the future of blogging, which concluded that it’s not clear but looks positive. No-one can really tell where online communication and social media are heading but one things for sure. Blogstock 2014 was a huge success and hopefully there’ll be another one next year and maybe you can try it for yourself.

Oh yes, there’s a 6th reason I loved Blogstock – our team won the ‘Pub Quiz’ and we got to share a bottle of bubbly 🙂

You can watch the rain fall and sun shine on this video …

I used my brand new Millican weekend bag – he’s called Harry the Gladstone Bag and is a great companion to Mark the Courier Bag. Both stood up to the variable weather and the huge amount of kit I had to take – a blogger needs a lot of ‘stuff’!

Home of Millican - Mark the Courier Bag and Harry the Gladstone bag at Blogstock

A big thank to sponsor Hertz UK, who not only provided the very luxurious VIP tents but also a hire car for me to get down to the festival from the wilds of north west England.

Hertz UK car hire

Hertz UK 

Thanks to Traverse Events for inviting me – you can find out more about Traverse Events Traverse Events here.

March 10, 2014

Top tips from Traverse Travel Blogging Conference

Traverse 14 in the Sage Newcastle Gateshead

Traverse 14 at the Sage – Newcastle Gateshead

“So, who's your audience? What's the hook? What's your angle? What story are you telling? How will you add colour? And how will it all end?”

Renowned Aussie writerMichael Turtle Time Travel Turtle hurled question after question to a room full of travel bloggers, journalists, PR people and sundry others, all there to find out more about ‘Thinking like a journalist to bring your posts to life'. In less than an hour he engaged the audience at Traverse 14 with quirky anecdotes, snippets from his radio days, interactive updates on pc, handy tips and a selection of photos highlighting his progressive hair loss. The main messages I took away were to keep returning to the main point of the article, to keep the reader engaged because they get bored easily in this age of gnat's attention span, and that good writing appeals to ALL the senses.

The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts - Newcastle Gateshead - by Zoe Dawes

The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts

The previous night I'd arrived in Gateshead for the second Traverse Conference, attracting travel bloggers from all over the UK and further afield.  The pre-conference gathering was at the Baltic Centre for the Arts. This beautiful building, with its Art Deco influenced lines was originally a 1950s Flour Mill.  Saved from destruction, it was opened as a contemporary Arts Centre in 2002. Traverse had got a peach of a venue to kick of the event.

Keith Jenkins and Sarah Lee at Baltic Centre Newcastle Gateshead

Keith Jenkins and Sarah Lee at Baltic Centre

One of the fun things about this kind of gathering is catching up with old friends and meeting new ones.  “Oh hi, I recognise you. What's your Twitter name?” was a common cry – we spend a lot of time relating to social media avatars in the world of blogging.

At a 1-1 Pro-Bar Jennifer Howze, award winning co-founder of Brit Mums, was very open about the challenges of helping travel businesses and PR companies to recognise the need to pay bloggers for their writing and promotion of client's destinations. With the whole world of blogging and journalism in a state of flux, we're all learning together.

“Make sure you have a comprehensive blog strategy that really showcases exactly what you can do for the client. Approach the right person and have a professional deck [presentation] that has your statistics, measurement tools and case studies clearly laid out.  Remember it's all about the quality of your content and the unique relationship you have with your audience.”

Danish cakes at Traverse 14 - photo by Zoe Dawes

Proving the Danish don’t just make great pastries …

Over coffee (scrumptious cakes shipped over from Denmark by DFDS Ferries) I had a chat with Pierce, representing the Netflights, the ‘cheap flight comparison’ website.  Many thanks to them for the invitation to attend Traverse 14, along with fellow travel bloggers Lucy and Jan and find out what’s happening in the world of travel blogging today.

Netflights team at Traverse 14

Netflights team at Traverse 14

Outside in the mirrored walls of Sage Building, looking like something from the sci-fi film ‘Dune', a brisk breeze whistled up the Tyne.  We were having a video-making session from Greg Brand, founder of Trevizeo, a travel video production company.  He gave us lots of tips on using ‘proper' equipment; spend the most on a good lens, get a decent tripod, create shots that replicate what the eye sees ie don't zoom in and out or pan too fast and make sure the video informs as well as entertains.  Apparently ‘Composition is a mistress' – not sure what that meant; demanding and high maintenance maybe?!

Greg Brand Video session Newcastle Gateshead Traverse

Greg Brand shows how to make a video

Another benefit of being at Traverse was catching up with business contacts.  At lunchtime I met with Heather Cowper of Heather on her Travels and Sarah and Terry Lee of Live, Share, Travel. Along with three other bloggers, Kathryn Burrington, Gary Bembridge and Abigail King, we've formed Travelator Media to provide a one-stop solution for high quality multimedia content and engaging social media campaigns that promote a destination or brand.

Travelator Media www.travelatormedia.com

Travelator Media – What we offer

We work with clients to createinspiring travel campaigns targeted at the 40+ UK quality traveller interested in arts, culture, food and finding new travel experiences.'  We then had a meeting with a leading luxury tour company and PR representatives from various other travel companies attending the conference.  All very positive and useful – an added bonus to the weekend.

Traverse 14 organiser Michael Ball in the final Q&A session

Traverse 14 organiser Michael Ball in the final Q&A session

The conference ended with a Q&A session to a panel of bloggers and PR reps, hosted by journalist Alastair Mackenzie. To be honest, I can't remember the questions  OR answers. It had been a long day and I was more taken by the ‘Twitter Bar' – post a tweet incl #Traverse14 with your seat row plus drinks option (red/white wine/beer/softdrink and it was delivered to you seconds later.  And of course the live ‘Tweets' were entertaining distraction – possibly more so than the organisers had imagined!

I came away from the weekend fired up with renewed enthusiasm for travel blogging, with useful tips and hints to improve my content, renewed friendships and made some new friends.  Traverse 14 was really well-organised, the venue was excellent and Newcastle Gateshead put on a great show.

The Baltic Centre and Milennium Bridge - Newcastle Gateshead

The Baltic Centre and Milennium Bridge

Returning to Michael’s key messages at the start of this post – how should it end? My top tip to travel bloggers is; Make sure you attend at least one Travel Blogging event each year. You’ll learn a lot and connect with some very interesting people.

PS If you haven’t yet been to the North East, add it to your list – it’s a genuine quirky travel  gem. And keep your eyes peeled for the Angel of the North, Anthony Gormley’s awe-inspiring sculpture.


December 31, 2013

10 quirky quotes for the New Year

New Year Quotes

New Year is a time to look back and forwards, reflecting and reviewing. It’s also a time of celebration, frolics, fireworks and maybe some New Year Resolutions.  Here are 10 of my favourite quirky quotes for the New Year – funny, inspiring and true!

Quirky Quotes for New Year

1. “Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up late on New Year’s Eve. Middle age is when you’re forced to.” – Bill Vaughan

2.  “An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the Old Year leaves.” – Billy Vaughn

3. “The proper behavior all through the holiday season is to be drunk. This drunkenness culminates on New Year’s Eve, when you get so drunk you kiss the person you’re married to.” – P. J. O’Rourke

4. “A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.” – Anonymous

5. “It wouldn’t be New Year’s if I didn’t have regrets.” – William Thomas

6. “New Year’s Day now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.” – Mark Twain

7. “I would say Happy New Year but it’s not happy; it’s exactly the same as last year except colder.” – Robert Clark

8. “Now there are more overweight people in America than average-weight people. So overweight people are now average, which means you’ve already met your New Year’s resolution.” – Jay Leno

9. “We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.” – Edith Lovejoy Pierce

and this is my favourite …

10. “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” –  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Happy New Year

For travel inspiration for the New Year see:

Top Quirky Travel Tips of the Year

Top Travel Experiences of the Year 

and finally my New Year thoughts on the Highs and Lows of Travel Blogging