Aaron Millar – travel writer and photographer

Aaron Millar – travel writer and photographer

This months interview is with Aaron Millar.

Describe yourself in no more than 3 words.
Not usually still.

What real or fictitious tribe would you be a member of?
The beatnik writers of 1950’s, just because they were so free in their style and had something to say.  They also drank a lot of whisky apparently, which would have been OK by me too.

How and when did the travel bug bite you?
At the turn of the millennium I spent 3 months travelling across Brazil with my best friend.  We were 22 years old, crazy and it’s a miracle we survived.  But, somewhere in between the parties of Bahia and the forests of Lencois, I fell in love with exploring the world.  For me it’s about connecting with that travelling state of mind, which – at its best – is open and fearless, and I think has the capacity to change us in surprising and positive ways.  It’s something I write a lot about on my blog The Blue Dot Perspective

Being a travel writer sounds like the perfect job.  Is it?
If you don’t care about money or jet lag, it’s pretty close. Trying to capture the essence of a place, or experience, is a huge creative buzz.  But a challenge too. It demands that you be absolutely present in the moment and take in all the elements of the experience – the sounds, smells, the particular look in someone’s eyes – while at the same time piecing these things together, like a mosaic, and deciding which elements will best recreate those feelings and emotions in the mind of the reader.  But more then that still, writing about travel forces me to go outside of my comfort zone and seek new experiences and new kinds of people.  It’s the ultimate form of personal growth – without a workshop or self-help book in sight – just you and the world, and that’s why I love it.

Which piece of your writing are you most proud of?
The piece of writing I am most proud of from last year was a relatively small article for Positive News, a niche newspaper that reports on the people and initiatives that are helping to create a just and fulfilling world.  I love writing for them.  The article is about the remarkable Kogi Indians of Columbia: 20 years ago they came out of centuries of complete isolation to warn humanity that we are destroying the world.  We didn’t heed their warning, so they decided to team up with a BBC director to make a film, called Aluna, to try and get our attention again.  It hasn’t hit the mainstream yet, but I hope in 2014 everyone will get a chance to see it. The article was based on an interview with the director, Alan Ereira, about his experiences with them.

Other than home, is there one place which keeps drawing you back?
I like exploring new places, so tend to move around … this year I’m really excited to see more of the Americas, north and south.  I’d also love to go back to Africa, there’s nothing comparable to the feeling of being close to animals in the wild.  I miss it, and my camera does too.

If you weren’t a travel writer, what would you be?
If I had the brains, I’d be an astrophysicist: Richard Feynman, one of the greatest minds of the last century, said that he felt sorry for people who don’t understand mathematics because they don’t know how beautiful the world really is.

If I had the talent, I’d be a musician: I think music is, perhaps, the ultimate form of creative expression on the planet.

But probably, and hopefully, I’d be working to promote sustainable tourism and/or environmental causes.  And, no doubt, writing still – even if only in my journal, as I did for many, many years before getting paid to do it.

arron-miller

Describe the most poignant, funny or scary moment on your travels.
I have two recent poignant moments that changed the way I look at life, the world and everything: taking part in a Navajo Medicine Man ceremony and an interview with a Japanese Shugendo Monk.  Although very different traditions, both believe in the power of the natural world to inspire, heal and enlighten people.  And now, so do I.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. (Jack Kerouac)

Do you support a cause?
I’ve supported Greenpeace and Amnesty for a number of years.  But this year I plan to get more involved with Native American charities: their traditional beliefs and way of life is absolutely beautiful, but under threat from a dominant American ideology that isn’t doing nearly enough to protect, and preserve, the culture of its First People.

ABOUT AARON MILLER

Aaron Millar is a freelance journalist specialising in travel. His work has been seen in the Guardian, Financial Times, Independent and more.  He is also the travel editor of Positive News, the world’s leading positive newspaper, where authentic sustainable travel is promoted.  Aaron writes an interesting blog called thebluedotperspective.com, and he is also an accomplished photographer.

 

Mike Gerrard – Travel Writer

Mike Gerrard – Travel Writer

The month’s interview is with Mike Gerrard, a freelance Travel writer

Describe yourself in no more than 3 words.

Travel writer.

What real or fictitious tribe would you be a member of?

I love the south-west USA, where I live for half the year, so I’d opt to be a Navajo but it would have to be several generations before the white man turned up.

How and when did the travel bug bite you?

Following on from the previous question, I was an avid reader of cowboy books when I was still at primary school, and always wanted to go to the USA. Instead we used to go to Blackpool or Prestatyn for summer holidays. My first overseas trip was with the school when I was about 12 or 13. We went to Germany, along the Rhine, and I loved it despite spending most of the ferry crossing throwing up in the toilet.

Being a travel writer sounds like the perfect job.  Is it?

No, the perfect job would be a travel writer who earns lots of money too, but I’ll settle for being a travel writer over the money-earning. If you do have the travel bug it’s wonderful to be able to see the world, and to try to convey what you see to other people. People often forget about the ‘writer’ side of being a travel writer. It isn’t just about swanning off to wherever you fancy. You not only have to be able to write about your experiences but also somehow earn a living.

Which piece of your writing are you most proud of?

I hope it doesn’t sound arrogant to say that it’s hard to choose, but I’ve been travel writing a long time and had some fabulous experiences – some of them funny, some incredibly moving. You can’t always capture things in words to your own satisfaction, but sometimes you’re pleased with what you write. I’d like to cheat and have two choices, one of them in Jamaica that was great fun with some amusing moments, and the other, more recent, which was really sobering – touring the war cemeteries around Ypres:

http://www.mikegerrard.net/features/general-features/fatty-fatty-bum-bum/

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/mike-gerrard/flanders-field-poppies-blow_b_4048562.html

Other than home, is there one place which keeps drawing you back?

As I said, I now spend half the year in the USA, in Arizona, and I love the opportunity it gives us to explore the USA. Even if I didn’t have a home there, the USA would keep drawing me back as it’s so vast, with jaw-dropping landscapes ranging from Alaska to the Deep South, the Rockies, deserts, and also great cities like New York, Chicago, Denver and San Francisco.

If you weren’t a travel writer, what would you be?

In my dreams I’d have been a musician, but in reality I would still be a writer, writing fiction or journalism.

Describe the most poignant, funny or scary moment on your travels.

That’s another tough one because there have been so many. Not so many scary ones, though I do remember waking up in a cheap hotel in Yangshuo in China and realising the door to the room was open, and someone was lurking in the shadows. I chased him off but unfortunately he’d already stolen a few hundred dollars from some women in the room next door.

It was also both scary and thrilling to be lying in a tent at about 2am on my first night in Tanzania and hearing lions roaring very close by. I think the experiences that touch me the most are the ones involving wildlife – seeing orang-utans in the wild in Sumatra (even though they pee and shit on you to scare you off), elephant seals in California, whale-watching trips, seeing an osprey take a fish from the water on a bird-watching trip to Menorca.

mike gerrard

One nervy moment was when we were out walking in the Saguaro National Park near our home in Arizona, when I heard a rattle and looked down to see a rattlesnake sliding along the path a few inches from my foot. It was just warning me that it was there, as it went about its business.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Just do it.

Do you support a cause?

No one particular cause.

ABOUT MIKE GERRARD

Mike Gerrard is a freelance travel writer. He writes for several travel content websites, and divides his time between homes in Cambridgeshire in the UK and near Tucson in Arizona. You can see some of his work at www.mikegerrard.contently.com, and www.mikegerrard.net. Also he regularly blogs on the Huffington Post Travel site.

Google +:  https://plus.google.com/+MikeGerrard/posts

Amar Grover – Travel Writer

Amar Grover – Travel Writer

Tribes is delighted to present an interview with Amar Grover who is a freelance travel writer and photographer.

Describe yourself in no more than 3 words.

Amiable

What real or fictitious tribe would you be a member of?

I’d probably be some kind of Silk Road merchant-adventurer.

How and when did the travel bug bite you?

The seeds were sown growing up in Hong Kong. Along with a pal, I set off one day for the ‘closed area’ (as it was then called) which ran alongside much of the New Territories’ border with China. Armed with a basic map, we first caught a train, then walked beyond a few hamlets up through a hillside cemetery and eventually gazed down across a small stream or canal at….forbidden China! It was very much a schoolboy lark but there was a definite sense of a journey coupled to ‘adventure’ and a mysterious place. A few years later I was InterRailing across Europe and met a couple of guys riding motorbikes to Kathmandu – I couldn’t join them but that encounter fed more ideas. So one small trip simply led to a six-month jaunt, and then another…..and so on.

Being a travel writer sounds like the perfect job.  Is it?

It is…and it isn’t! There’s no denying the travel is usually wonderful and I’m lucky to have the opportunity to visit such varied and unusual parts of the world. Yet to do it well does require real commitment and drive from the moment you start chasing assignments from editors to reaching your destination and, senses sharpened, sniffing out its quirks and oddities, nooks and crannies. It’s a job that certainly looks easier than it is – and being freelance is often a somewhat precarious existence.

Which piece of your writing are you most proud of?

Village Ways inn © Amra Grover

The Village Ways inn occupies a berklay in Supi village in the Saryu Valley – by Amar Grover

Recently I wrote about Village Ways’ (www.villageways.com) rural tourism project in Uttarakhand in the Indian Himalaya for the Financial Times. That piece – ‘At home in the Himalayas’ – featured in the top five entries for AITO’s Travel Writer of the Year 2013. A laudable project further publicised with well-regarded writing: now that’s a perfect fit.

Other than home, is there one place which keeps drawing you back?

I’m no mountaineer but the Himalayas keeping drawing me back. It’s not just the mountain peaks themselves but the fascinating life and culture in their valleys and villages, the stunning contrast between lush fields and plentiful orchards, and the beautiful yet harsh terrain beyond. The region’s colonial-era explorers had their work cut out for them and they left a rich and engaging seam of literature. I still find the whole region – from Pakistan through India and Nepal to Bhutan and the fringes of China – as captivating now as on my first ever visit back in 1987.

If you weren’t a travel writer, what would you be?

I’d probably be an operator arranging rather off-beat tours to India – there’d be quite a bit of walking and some great photography.

Describe the most poignant, funny or scary moment on your travels.

The most surreally scary moment on my travels occurred in Georgia (the former Soviet republic). I was up in Svaneti in the Caucasus Mountains, a region even most lowland Georgians regard with a mix of awe and caution for the Svans are, traditionally, a fairly wild and independent-minded bunch. Actually, they were all very kind to us but during my visit a Georgian TV crew and flown in by helicopter, possibly to make a documentary on the region and its distinctive tower houses. While sitting in our car nearby, the helicopter took off sluggishly and immediately drifted straight toward us. It felt like a slo-mo movie moment – as we froze, the craft kept coming, barely cleared our car’s roof and then flew off. Our driver winced and swore. I’ll never know if that pilot was careless, showing off and just incompetent.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Do you support a cause?

To be honest my sympathies and empathy have not (yet) evolved into a supported cause.

ABOUT AMAR GROVER

Amar Grover is a freelance travel writer and photographer. He has travelled widely across the Indian subcontinent and China, Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. You can see some of his work at pictographical.co.uk, blogs at https://pictographical.wordpress.com/ and occasional tweets @samarkandHK

 

Catherine Mack – TRAVEL WRITER

Catherine Mack – TRAVEL WRITER

To start our new series of interviews with people involved with the travel industry, Tribes is delighted to present an interview with one of the UK’s leading writers on responsible and sustainable travel, Catherine Mack. 

[Photo above by Vic Tannenburg]

Describe yourself in no more than 3 words.

Green, white & gold

What real or fictitious tribe would you be a member of?

An Irish one. I grew up in Northern Ireland where tribal warfare ran through every vein of my childhood landscape. It was toxic and tragic, and traces of it still hover there. It is complex and riddled with years of politics, and I have spent years trying to get to grips with all sides. I am not a card holding republican by any means, and in fact I grew up very much on the other side of that stupid divide, but I do still dream of a homeland which is united and reconciled in my lifetime and where we can all feel safe, proud and at peace with calling ourselves Irish.

How and when did the travel bug bite you?

I was scared to travel alone until I was about 25, when I took a year out to go to Australia on my own. Before then, I was wary of choosing a different bus route, never mind a new country. Discovering that it is actually easy to explore, to ask questions, to choose my own journey was a revelation. It was my first flirtation with freedom and it was love at first sight.

Being a travel writer sounds like the perfect job. Is it?

It is an incredible job, but far from perfect. The perks are peachy though. And I don’t just mean the travel. I mean the people. The responsible tourism world that I write about is crammed with so many giving, open-minded people who think outside the box. This is what helps me get out of bed in the morning, when I get a chance to give them a voice. That and the kayaking, hiking, cycling, swimming, drinking, eating…….

Which piece of your writing are you most proud of?

My article on the exploitation of the Maasai in Kenya, written for The Observer. I had just started writing really, and gaining access to the wonderful work happening in Kenya to help put a stop to the unethical treatment of the Maasai in the Mara was an honour. It was edited a little to rein in my emotions on the subject, but still….I was over the moon to get this exposure for the Maasai.
To get an update on this project since I first wrote about it, see Tribal Voice Communications.

Catherine chatting with two Maasai eldersin Enkereri village Kenya

Catherine chatting with two Maasai eldersin Enkereri village Kenya

Other than home, is there one place which keeps drawing you back?

I haven’t been writing long enough really to say that one place keeps drawing me back, but of course I am drawn back to Africa. I lived in France for several years and think often about spreading the voices of responsible tourism practitioners to the French, who still limit their travels to French speaking destinations for the main part. So, Mauritius and Togo for starters and of course, off the coast, Madagascar.

If you weren’t a travel writer, what would you be?

A human rights lawyer – I wish I had known Mary Robinson earlier in my life, and gone to a school where you weren’t just expected to become a nurse or get a good job in a bank. Change makers like this just blow my mind really.

Describe the most poignant, funny or scary moment on your travels.

Something that has always stayed with me was on a trip to Crete. I was writing about village tourism there, as opposed to the mass tourist resort style stuff and I was lucky enough to be travelling with my family. The owner of the villa, Stelios Botanakis, arrived with a bottle of his homemade wine as a welcome gift on the day we arrived. We insisted he bring his family back over to drink it with us and we quickly threw together a few supermarket snacks we had bought earlier. However there was no need as, one by one, members of the Botonakis family arrived donning gifts of cake, wine, and the local delicacy of cheese pastries, or kaltsounia. We had a spectacular evening, telling stories, singing songs, the kids being passed from lap to lap – all with very little shared language. At the end of the trip he told me that we were welcome back anytime, out of season (as he rents it through a UK agency in peak season) as his guests. I said that was too generous and couldn’t possibly accept. But he insisted, telling me that we were the first family to invite him, and his family, in to socialise in twenty years, and that this was why we were always welcome back. Words failed me.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Don’t be afraid to ask

Do you support a cause?

Two really. One for human rights in tourism, Tourism Concern, and The High Five Club in Africa, as it is run by the people who facilitated all the amazing work I wrote about in Kenya, so I know exactly where the money is going, and some day will get to go back to write about the outcomes of their ongoing work.

 

ABOUT CATHERINE MACK

Catherine Mack writes about responsible, sustainable, green, ethical, eco tourism. Call it what you will. Her most recent work was a responsible tourism guide to New York State for responsibletravel.com. You can read more about her work at www.ethicaltraveller.co.uk, or follow her travels @catherinemack on Twitter , Catherine Mack and Ethical Traveller on Facebook. You can also buy her app, Ireland Green Travel on iTunes and Google.

 

ENDS