Friday, 13 December 2019

One Trip, Multiple Stories: A Travel Writer's Rail Journey through Europe

For the journey detailed below, I paid for my airfares and received on-the-ground assistance from local tourism authorities and hotels. Full disclosures are included with each linked article and blog post.

This is, believe it or not, post number 600 on this blog. A lot of water has flowed under the virtual bridge since I started it in 2008, and travel writing itself has become more challenging in terms of extracting an income from it.

However, for this post I'd like to reprise what I did for post 400 and post 500 - that is, to dissect a particular travel writing journey and show how my travels are converted into specific stories. At the end I'll add a summary of profit and expenses.

For this post I'm looking my 2016 trip to Europe, travelling through Germany, Denmark, Poland and Ukraine over four weeks in May-June that year.

Are we sitting comfortably? Then let's begin...

Sunday 8 May 2016

Fly from Melbourne to Hamburg via Dubai.

Monday 9 May 2016


Activity (from Monday to Wednesday): Visit the Speicherstadt Museum, Speicherstadt Kaffeerösterei and the Coffee Museum, as well as contemporary cafes, in Hamburg, Germany.
  1. Resulting story: An article about Hamburg's coffee history and culture for Lonely Planet's website.
Tuesday 10 May 2016

   
Activity: Join Hempel’s Beatles tour (in which the guide plays a ukulele!) through the St Pauli district of Hamburg.
  1. Resulting story: An article about the tour for Traveller.
  2. Blog Post: A post about the tour here at Aerohaveno.
Activity: Visit the historic Kaifu-bad baths in Hamburg.
  1. Resulting story: An article about Germany's spa culture for Traveller.
  2. Resulting story: An article about Germany's spa culture for Lonely Planet's website.
Thursday 12 May 2016

   
Activity: Visit Café Niederegger, famous for its locally-manufactured marzipan, in Lübeck, Germany.
  1. Resulting story: An article about Lubeck's marzipan for Lonely Planet's website.
Activity: Visit the Hanseatic Museum in Lübeck, Germany.
  1. Blog Post: A post about the museum here at Aerohaveno.
Friday 13 May 2016

Activity: Catch train from Lübeck to Copenhagen, Denmark (including ferry crossing).
  1. Blog Post: A post about the journey here at Aerohaveno.
Saturday 14 May 2016

   
Activity: Take Nordic Noir tour (featuring The Killing and The Bridge) in Copenhagen, Denmark.
  1. Resulting story:  A 'Postcard from Copenhagen' article for the Spectrum (culture) section of The Age newspaper in Melbourne.
Sunday 15 May 2016


Activity: Take a guided tour of the counter-culture enclave Christiania in Copenhagen.
  1. Resulting story: An article about the tour for Traveller.
Activity: Visit the Thorvaldsen Museum of classical statuary in Copenhagen.
  1. Blog Post: A post about the (surprisingly interesting) museum here at Aerohaveno.
Monday 16 May 2016


Activity: Visit Kronborg Castle (Shakespeare's Elsinore in Hamlet), in Helsingør, Denmark.
  1. Resulting story: An article about the castle for Traveller.
Tuesday 17 May 2016

Activity: Catch bus to Ystad, Sweden, then overnight ferry to Świnoujście, Poland (arriving Wednesday, connecting with train to Warsaw).
  1. Blog Post: A post about the journey here at Aerohaveno.
Thursday 19 May 2016


Activity: Day-trip to Łódź, Poland by train, to join a tour of the city's post-industrial and cinematic sights.
  1. Resulting story: An article about the city for Lonely Planet's website.
  2. Blog Post: A post about the city here at Aerohaveno.
Friday 20 May 2016


 Activity: Taking a tour focusing on Warsaw's architectural highlights.
  1. Resulting story: An item about the city in an article about less-crowded European destinations, for Traveller.
  2. Blog Post: A post about the city's architectural oddities here at Aerohaveno.
  3. Blog Post: A post about food highlights, including a Warsaw bar mleczny and other items from later in this visit to Poland, here at Aerohaveno.
Saturday 21 May 2016

   
Activity: Train to Gdańsk, visit the city's new Shakespeare Theatre.
  1. Resulting story: An item about the theatre in a list of Best Travel Finds of 2016, for Traveller.
  2. Blog Post: A post about food highlights, including a historic local restaurant and other items from elsewhere in this visit to Poland, here at Aerohaveno.
Sunday 22 May 2016


Activity: Tour of Malbork Castle, near Gdańsk.
  1. Resulting story: An article about the castle and its restaurant for Traveller.
  2. Blog Post: A post about food highlights, including the castle's restaurant and other items from elsewhere in this visit to Poland, here at Aerohaveno.
Activity: Visit the new European Solidarity Centre, in a historic former shipyard in Gdańsk.
  1. Resulting story: An article about walking the city's historic heart for Lonely Planet's website.
  2. Blog Post: A post about the centre here at Aerohaveno.
Monday 23 May 2016

   
Activity: Visit Wilczy Szaniec (Wolf's Lair), Hitler's Russian Front HQ during World War II.
  1. Resulting story: An article about the eerie site for Traveller.
  2. Blog Post: A post about the site here at Aerohaveno.
Tuesday 24 May 2016

   
Activity: Driving to Bohoniki and Kruszyniany in eastern Poland, to visit their historic mosques.
  1. Blog Post: A post about food highlights, including traditional Tatar cuisine of Kruszyniany and other items from elsewhere in this visit to Poland, here at Aerohaveno.
Wednesday 25 May 2016

 
Activity: Taking a tour of Białowieża National Park in eastern Poland (where bison still roam!).
  1. Resulting story: An article about the park for Lonely Planet's website.
  2. Blog Post: A post about the park here at Aerohaveno.
Thursday 26 May 2016

   
Activity: Overnight sleeper train from Kraków, Poland to Lviv, Ukraine.
  1. Resulting story: An article about the rail journey for Traveller.
Friday 27 to Monday 30 May 2016

   
Activity: Exploring cafes and other attractions of Lviv, Ukraine.
  1. Resulting story: An article about the city's cafe scene for Lonely Planet's website.
  2. Resulting story: An article about the saucy Masoch Cafe for Traveller.
  3. Blog Post: A post about the city's attractions here at Aerohaveno.
Tuesday 31 May 2016

   
Activity: Joining a tour of communist-era architecture and history in Kiev, Ukraine.
  1. Resulting story: An article about the tour for Lonely Planet's website.
  2. Spiked story: An article about the tour for an Australian magazine which was cancelled (for which I received a part-payment 'kill fee').
Wednesday 1 to Thursday 2 June 2016

   
Activity: Two-day tour of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, Ukraine (sleeping over in Chernobyl).
  1. Resulting story: An article about the tour for Lonely Planet's website.
  2. Resulting story: An article about the tour for Traveller.
  3. Resulting story: An article about how to visit Chernobyl for Lonely Planet's website (ahead of the Chernobyl TV series).
  4. Spiked story: An article about the tour for an Australian magazine (for which I received full payment).
  5. Blog Post: A post about the tour here at Aerohaveno.
Saturday 4 June 2016

   
Activity: Overnight sleeper train from Kiev, Ukraine to Warsaw, Poland.
  1. Blog Post: A post about the rail journey here at Aerohaveno.
And that's it! I flew from Warsaw back to Melbourne on Monday 6 June. I feel exhausted just typing all that. It was a great journey, full of variety. The visit to Chernobyl was the strangest thing I'd done yet on my travels, incredibly moving and memorable.

Writing output, financial income

By my count, the trip produced a total of 25 paid articles for various publications (include two spiked articles I received payment for), and 14 posts on this blog. I've also delivered (so far) two paid talks about my 2016 Europe trip to audiences at public libraries.

I calculate the paid articles earned a total of $12,905.52 (all figures here are in Australian dollars) for both words and photos, before adding any applicable sales tax. This includes the fees from the library talks.

The blog posts don't earn any direct income, but drive traffic to Aerohaveno and thus contribute to the occasional small payments I receive from the Google Ads running on my blog.

Expenses

The Polish government covered my flights and most expenses for my Poland stay, and the German National Tourist Board likewise hosted me in Germany. In Denmark I received a public transport and museum pass from Visit Denmark, but paid for my food and accommodation. In Ukraine I paid for everything except my hotel stay in Lviv (luckily Ukraine was breathtakingly cheap!).

I calculate my total expenses on this trip at $2,951.81, which leaves a profit of $9,953.71 (and whatever future income is derived from public talks about that trip).

Some trips have a greater return on outlay, others less so. What's worth noting is how long a particular journey can take to fully pay out. The first published of the 25 articles appeared on 22 June 2016, and the last on 31 July 2019 - quite a chronological spread!

Also, my Europe 2016 talk will continue to be delivered to library audiences throughout 2020 (I began delivering it in early 2019, and I generally change my headline public talk every two years).

It's not easy to make a living from travel writing; but my rule of thumb is to derive a published story per each day of travel on a particular trip. That quantity, if achieved, helps make it viable. That target was largely achieved on this occasion.

After this epic post, it's time for a break! Aerohaveno will be taking a rest over the holiday season, and will be back with you in early January. Have a great New Year!

Friday, 6 December 2019

Outback Patron of the Arts

In March 2018, I spent a few days in the remote Queensland town of Normanton, awaiting the weekly run of the Gulflander train.

One morning, killing time, I visited the Three Tribes art gallery, and for the first time the ferocious dogs near the old town well declined to bark at me.

Were they asleep on the job, or was I slowly becoming accepted as a local?

The front of the gallery was locked, so I walked around the back and found an open-air shed with a dozen or so Aboriginal women creating art at tables.

Shenane was the gallery manager, who I'd met briefly the day before at the town's Visitor Centre. She had a no-nonsense manner I associated with the aunts of PG Wodehouse books.

“I don’t have a staff member to run the shop at the moment,” she said, opening up the gallery for me. She explained the women were mostly making art as part of a work for the dole scheme.

“Better than doing something pointless like weeding,” I said.

It struck me as a good idea, the artists building skills and creating works to be proud of, as well as earning a commission from sales. And it provided another way for tourists to spend their dollars in the town, which was always a consideration for remote places with limited amusements.

There was an array of work on the walls, in both contemporary and traditional styles. One large portrait with a lot of black was painted by a woman who’d suffered from depression, said Shenane.

I turned over a small glazed bowl shaped like a gumleaf (see image at left). It was $3, so I decided to buy it.

Then I noticed a framed painting on the wall above the till, about 50 centimetres square, featuring brightly coloured handprints framed by dots (see image top right). It was only $30. I bought that too.

While I was encasing it in some bubble wrap Shenane had found, she ushered in a young woman. This was the artist, Stella. We had a chat about the work and how she had created its elements, and she went away beaming.

“That was her first sale,” said Shenane, dropping the aunt-like demeanour and smiling.

I rarely make impulse buys when travelling, obsessed as I am with travelling light. Now I had to work out how to get the art back to Melbourne.

The staff at Normanton's general store gave me an empty cardboard box to encase it, which I bound with a large amount of post office adhesive tape. I dispatched it to the mercies of Australia Post, feeling good about my impulsive role as patron of the arts.

I returned home safely two weeks later. So did the painting.


Three Tribes is located at 85 Landsborough Street, Normanton, Queensland. See more details at the Bynoe Arts Centre website.