Friday 8 December 2017

One Trip, Multiple Stories: A Travel Writer's Rail Journey in West Coast USA

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, remarkably, my 500th post at Aerohaveno. I started the blog way back in 2008, during the golden age of blogs, when social media outlets such as Facebook were new and yet to be adopted by the masses.

In that era, a blog was the prime means for an individual to put their views online, whether on a topic of expertise or simply as personal reflection.

Now we have the noise and colour of social media, and perhaps wonder if things are better.

In any case, for post number 500 I'd like to repeat what I did for post 400 - draw back the curtain on how travel writing works, at least for a freelancer like me.

In post 400 I looked at a trip I undertook around the world. This time I'll focus on the west coast of the USA.

In October 2015 I flew into Los Angeles, then caught Amtrak trains up the west coast with visits to San Francisco, Portland and Seattle along the way.

I've chosen this 2015 trip because the period elapsed since then has been long enough for almost everything I wrote about it to be published.

Below I'll outline how each activity led to a specific piece of writing - with a link to the published article or blog post.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin.

Monday 12 October 2015

Activity: Fly Qantas from Melbourne to Los Angeles.
  1. Resulting story: A review of Qantas' Premium Economy class for Fairfax Media's Traveller website in Australia.
  2. Blog Post: Catching public transport from LAX to Downtown LA.
Activity: Check out the renovated and reopened Clifton's Cafeteria in LA's Downtown.
  1. Resulting story: A short item about Clifton's in a round-up of 2015 travel finds for Fairfax Media's Traveller website and print section in Australia. 
  2. Second resulting story: An article about Downtown LA highlights for [story not currently online].
Tuesday 13 October to Wednesday 14 October 2015

Activity: Take the guided studio tours at Warner Brothers, Universal Studios and Paramount Pictures.
Resulting story: An article about LA movie studio tours for Lonely Planet's website.

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Activity: Visit new Australian-owned café, Paramount Coffee Project.
Resulting story: An article about Aussie-owned food and coffee outlets in LA, for Fairfax Media's Good Food website in Australia.

Thursday 15 October 2015

Activity: Explore new contemporary art gallery, The Broad, in LA's Bunker Hill.
  1. Resulting story: A short item about The Broad in a round-up of 2015 travel finds for Fairfax Media's Traveller website and print section in Australia.
  2. Blog Post: My visit to The Broad.
Activity: Visit the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City.
  1. Resulting story: An article listing six quirky attractions of LA, including the Museum of Jurassic Technology, for Lonely Planet's website.
  2. Second resulting story: Commissioned for an Australian media outlet, but yet to be published.
Friday 16 October 2015

Activity: Catch the Coast Starlight sleeper train north from LA to Oakland (for San Francisco); then later onward to Portland and Seattle.
  1. Resulting story: An article about the entire rail trip for the magazine Get Up & Go in Australia.
  2. Second resulting story: An article about the sleeper train experience for Fairfax Media's Traveller website and print section in Australia.
Saturday 17 October 2015

Activity: Join the eccentric Emperor Norton's Fantastic San Francisco Time Machine tour.
Resulting story: An article about the tour's highlights for Fairfax Media's Traveller website in Australia.

Sunday 18 October 2015

Blog Post: Review of the long-running musical revue Beach Blanket Babylon.

Monday 19 October 2015

Activity: Attend the North Beach Underground tour of San Francisco, focusing on the Beat Generation.
  1. Resulting story: A 'Postcard from San Francisco' article for the Spectrum (culture) section of The Age newspaper in Melbourne.
  2. Blog Post: Profile of six memorable tours of San Francisco.
Blog Post: San Francisco's retro public transport.

Thursday 22 October to Sunday 25 October 2015

Activity: Visit Voodoo Doughnuts, Stark's Vacuum Cleaner Museum, Powell's City of Books and other offbeat attractions in Portland, Oregon.
Resulting story: A list of 'Ten attractions keeping Portland weird' for Fairfax Media's Traveller website in Australia.

Blog Post: Memorable street art of Portland.

Saturday 24 October 2015

Activity: Join a food walking tour of North Mississippi Avenue, Portland.
Resulting story: An article about highlights of the tour, for Fairfax Media's Good Food website in Australia.

Blog Post: A visit to Stark's Vacuum Cleaner Museum, Portland.

Sunday 25 October 2015

Blog Post: A tour of Portland's coffee culture.

Monday 26 October 2015

Activity: Take a coffee walking tour of Seattle, Washington.
Resulting story: An article about the city's coffee highlights for Fairfax Media's Traveller website in Australia.

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Blog Post: Visiting Seattle's Living Computer Museum.

Thursday 29 October 2015

Activity: Travel to Snoqualmie and North Bend, to visit locations from the TV series Twin Peaks.
  1. Resulting story: A 'Postcard from Twin Peaks' article for the Spectrum (culture) section of The Age newspaper in Melbourne.
  2. Second resulting story: An article about Twin Peaks locations for Lonely Planet's website.
  3. Blog Post: My visit to Twin Peaks locations.
Sunday 1 November 2015

Blog Post: Taking a tour of Underground Seattle.

Monday 2 November 2015

Activity: Fly from Seattle to Los Angeles via Alaska Airlines.
Resulting story: A review of Alaska Airlines' domestic Economy class for Fairfax Media's Traveller website in Australia.

Activity: Fly Qantas from Los Angeles to Melbourne.
  1. Resulting story: A review of facilities at LAX for [story not currently online]. 
  2. Blog Post: Review of the new Qantas International Business Lounge.
And that's that! I arrived back home on Wednesday 4 November, courtesy of the International Dateline.

Writing output, financial income

By my count, the trip produced a total of 18 paid articles for outside publications (with a 19th yet to be published and paid for), and 12 posts on this blog.

I calculate the paid articles earned a total of $8850.72 (all figures here are in Australian dollars) for both words and photos, before adding any applicable sales tax.

About another $500 should come in from the final article. And there was additional research undertaken on the trip which I may yet write about, as well as revisiting its attractions in new ways.

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.


I had significant expenses on this journey, especially since I was paying my own airfares on this occasion.

Including airfares, I estimate my total expenses on this trip at $3028.26, which leaves a profit of $5822.46 (plus $500 from the unpublished article, and possible income from future stories derived from the same research material).

Some trips have a greater return on outlay, others less so. Quite aside from the profit, however, this west coast USA trek turned out to be one of my favourite journeys ever, and I was very glad I'd taken it.

It's not easy to make a living from travel writing; but if you can derive a published story per day from a particular trip, you're off to a decent start.

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

Friday 1 December 2017

2017: My Year in Travel

I was hosted on the trips mentioned below by the relevant local tourism authorities.

Everyone else in the media publishes 'year in review' round-ups at this time of the year, so I'm jumping on the bandwagon. Here are personal highlights from my travels over the past twelve months...

1. Admiring the Asian-European 'fusion architecture' of Macau.

I didn't know much about this former Portuguese territory before visiting it in February, but I quickly learned its European connection had lasted much longer than that of Hong Kong. The Portuguese were in Macau for over four centuries, from 1557 to 1999; by comparison, Hong Kong was under British rule for just over 150 years.

As a result, there's quite a mix of Asian and European influences in Macau's architecture, with striking contrasts. The best example I saw was a former covered marketplace in Taipa Village (pictured above), which has Greek pillars and a Chinese roof.

For more, read my blog post about about my favourite place in Macau.

2. Riding the narrow trams of Hong Kong.

I enjoyed lots about Hong Kong on my first visit there - the food, its cultural attractions, the busy urban streets. One thing that stood out was the city's tram system, which runs along the north side of Hong Kong Island.

I love trams, and these ones are particularly atmospheric. In addition to being double-decker, they're rather narrow, lending them a charmingly improbable fairytale look. It can be hard to get a seat on them sometimes, but they're hands-down more fun than catching the MTR underground railway.

3. Visiting Ballarat on a White Night.

Having missed Melbourne's annual White Night arts event while I was in Hong Kong, I took the chance to attend the first regional staging of it in Ballarat. It was loads of fun, being out until 4am on busy streets full of happy locals ogling illuminations which drew on the city's rich gold rush and Aboriginal history.

I wrote about the experience here.

4. Discovering First Nations culture in Vancouver.

I was impressed by Vancouver's Museum of Anthropology when I visited the Canadian city in July. It houses a wonderful collection of Indigenous art from the past two centuries, with an impressive new gallery in which modern-day First Nations artists comment on the cultural underpinnings of the art of their forebears.

Read my post about the museum here.

5. Cruising the Alaska Marine Highway.

Not all Alaskan cruises are on huge luxury cruise ships. Embarking at Prince Rupert, Canada, I took the MV Matanuska to the Alaskan state capital Juneau, then on to former gold rush town Skagway.

These car ferries (with cabins) are used by locals as much as visitors, providing a great way to see the beautiful scenery on the Inside Passage while not being tied to a cruise itinerary.

I wrote about cruising the Alaska Marine Highway in this article for Lonely Planet.

6. Taking the train to Yukon.

There had to be a train in this list, right? You know how much I like rail travel. And a ride along the White Pass & Yukon Route railway is spectacular, with the narrow-gauge train chugging up from the Alaskan coast at Skagway through the mountains across the Canadian border to Carcross, Yukon. It's a brilliant journey, with magnificent scenery.

7. Meeting a crocodile on the Sunshine Coast.

While attending the annual Australian Society of Travel Writers conference in Queensland in August, I was able to explore the late Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo.

It's a lovely place to visit, with plenty of interesting animals, but the highlight for me was the arena show in which a couple of staff members (and a foolhardy white bird) hung around very close to a big saltwater crocodile - see my video clip above.

You can read more about my Australia Zoo visit here.

8. Walking Hadrian's Wall in the UK.

I like a bit of walking, but I'm not one for multi-day treks. So when I learned about the hop-on, hop-off bus which serves key points along what was once the Roman Empire's border wall, I realised it'd be possible to do a shorter hike between bus stops.

So Narrelle and I spend over two hours strolling west of the former Roman fort at Housesteads - then transferred to the bus and headed off for lunch.

Walking the undulating trail next to Hadrian's Wall was harder than I'd expected, but I'm glad we did it. Not only was it good to get out of my urban comfort zone, I felt I'd become closer to the inhabitants of the Roman era, otherwise so distant in time.

I wrote about our Hadrian's Wall visit for the Globe & Mail newspaper in Canada; read it here.

So... how was your year in travel?