Inside Travel Writing: an interview with Solange Hando

Travel writer Solange Hando writes for a range of print and online media outlets. The People’s Friend, Woman’s Own and Living France are just three of many publications that have carried Solange’s work.

The author of Be a Travel Writer, Live Your Dreams, Sell Your Features: Travel Writing Step By Step takes time to answer questions posed by Stuart Forster.

What kind of travel related niche do you specialise in and what drew you to it?

First person adventure with a touch of humour. That suits my personality and the kind of travel I enjoy.

I do however tackle anything and everything, from reviews to craft, food and real life stories. I’ll also cover city breaks, culture stories, spa and spiritual travel, plus family and senior travel.

Flaming the passion for travel?

Flaming the passion for travel? A fire blessing in Bhutan

Which piece of writing are you most proud of and why?

I did win St Lucia Best Travel Writer but there are two pieces of writing I’m truly proud of, because of their originality, I guess: my accounts of the coronation in Bhutan and the 36-hour journey on the world’s highest railway. from Xian to Lhasa.

What do you enjoy most about travel writing?

I love travelling, discovering new cultures and meeting new people. Writing about it is like reliving the experience and sharing it with others who may not be as privileged as I am.

I have always been a compulsive writer, including short stories, but travel writing is definitely my passion.

I also get involved in related activities, such as talks, workshops and judging competitions.

On the road

On the road. Females in Swaziland perform a reed festival for the king.

Do you have a favourite destination?

Bhutan, which I’ve visited four times, definitely. It’s changing fast but still the land of Gross National Happiness (GNH) based on respect for all living things, including the natural world. And I do love mountains!

Nepal, which I’ve visited 16 times, is a close second for the scenery and spiritual vibes.

Having said that, I do get out of my comfort zone several times a year to explore other continents.

What would be a typical working day for you, if there is such a thing?

There is a chapter in Be a Travel Writer, Live Your Dreams, Sell Your Features: Travel Writing Step By Step about a typical day on the road. Basically, I’m on the go from dawn until late evening.

At home, I’m usually at my desk between 8am and 9am then work until dinner, except for a quick lunch break followed by an hour’s walk. I undertake administration in the evening.

My best writing time is morning and I have no problem getting up at 5.30am if the pressure is on.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?

No, I don’t. I have a busy schedule so I plan the work in advance. As I work on one piece, I’m already thinking about the next.

I cannot write from cold so I always go to sleep thinking about the next day’s work.

I plan before I write but I never start until I have the intro ready in my head.

What tip or tips would you offer to anyone entering the industry?

Study the market before you write, choose the publication most suited to your idea, pitch to the relevant editor then write for the readers not for yourself.

Hard work, networking and perseverance are essential.

An encounter on a street.

An encounter on a street. Novice monks blow bubbles to strengthen their lungs for horn blowing.

What do you aspire to achieve as a writer?

To keep on doing what I love and share my experiences with others, maybe get a few awards along the way.

I’d love to get into the Guardian, the Observer or Wanderlust.

It’s a tough industry, what do you see as its biggest challenges?

Dare I say it? Brexit, making travel more expensive and possibly more difficult, also encouraging a narrow-minded attitude, of ‘we’re best, why go abroad’.

What about its opportunities?

Writing about the UK. Personally, that would be Wales and Scotland for the culture and scenery.

Are there a destination you are particularly keen to visit and write about?

Madagascar for the nature (I’m going there in September), Mongolia for the wilderness, Kyrgyzstan (and all the –stans) because it would be entirely new territory for me.

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

Maybe a charity worker in Nepal or other needy country.

Is there anything else you’d like to say to Manned Up readers?

Research your trip. Prepare and plan so you don’t miss anything essential, but when you’re there be flexible and go with the flow — it’s okay to change your mind.

Take loads of pictures, you never know what you might need!

 

Photos illustrating this feature are all by Solange Hando.

 

You can see more of Solange Hando’s work on her blog, Travel With Solange. Her new book, the Berlitz Bhutan Pocket Guide is available from Amazon (the publication date is 1 July 2017).

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