Inside Travel Writing: An interview with Victoria Trott

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Victoria Trott is an award-winning travel writer from Swansea who specialises in France. Here she talks about her life as a travel writer.

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

My specialist country is France. I studied French and Spanish at university, so French culture and history has always been of interest to me.

These days, as a result of work, I also know Belgium and the Netherlands quite well. I cover Wales too, where I live. I write for a variety of international press and guidebook publishers including The Australian, Rough Guides, Insight, Frommers and Fodors.

I began travel writing, initially for Living France and France Magazine, because I wanted to use my French and spend more time in France, which I wasn’t doing when I worked in PR.

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

My feature, 48 Hours in The Hague for The Independent (to coincide with the centenary of the De Stijl art movement), was named Best Print Article at the 2018 Holland Press Awards, which was a lovely surprise.

The judges told me that they learnt quite a bit from the article and it made them want to go there — which is what I try and do in all of my articles, so I’m pleased that it had the desired effect. I’m also proud of the Rough Guide Languedoc and Roussillon, for which I was the sole updater in 2016. I spent about two months in the region undertaking research and I’m really happy with the finished result as a lot of work went into it.

A De Stijl-inspired photo booth in The Hague, the Netherlands.
A De Stijl-inspired photo booth in The Hague, the Netherlands.

What do you enjoy most about travel writing?

I love exploring and researching, meeting lots of different people. There can be great perks too, such as getting personal guided tours of interesting sights that I’d go to even if I wasn’t a travel writer. Actually, there are lots of things I like about travel writing that I probably can’t remember. But it’s a challenging ‘career’ and not for the faint of heart.

Do you have a favourite destination?

I’ll always have a soft spot for The Camargue, where I worked as an au pair to improve my French before going to university. It’s like nowhere else and has a really Spanish feel. Lots of great memories: horse riding across the marshes at sunset, eating gardianne de taureau (bull meat stew) in a traditional thatched cabin by the lagoon, the annual gypsy festival in May with flamenco music in almost every café.

I spend quite a bit of time in Paris at the moment, so that’s pretty much my second home. I like to see how the city is evolving; there’s always a new place to discover and there’s always something interesting to do. And when I’m at home, you’ll often find me in a café in the seaside resort of Mumbles, near Swansea — because it makes me feel like I’m on holiday!

What would be a typical working day for you?

When I’m researching, I’m out all day visiting attractions, eating in restaurants, checking out bars and hotels and meeting with local tourist boards.

When I’m writing, I’m at my computer from about 9.30am to 4.30pm, with about 15 minutes for lunch. If I’m working on a writing project, I like to just get on with it and get it done.

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

Find a mentor. Read the publications you want to write for. Learn to pitch ideas to editors and make sure the idea is suitable for the publication. Be professional: meet your deadlines. Become an expert in something.

Obviously you’ll need good writing skills too and I think that you can learn to write decently. Maybe think of having a portfolio career, so that you’re not too dependent on the dwindling press and dwindling budgets

Which writers inspire you and why?

I started reading Christina Dodwell when I was a teenager, and a woman riding a horse on her own through Africa seemed incredibly exciting and glamorous to me. I’ve gone off travelling on my own since I was 18 when I took off to New York for the summer; if I’d been born in the 19th century I would have undoubtedly been one of the Victorian lady travellers!

I’m also a big fan of Martha Gellhorn because I love her reporting style of writing — and also her interesting life. I like to read anything that’s well written, that makes me want to go to the place and it doesn’t hurt if the writer has an interesting history as well.

What do you aspire to achieve as a writer?

To engage, inform and inspire the reader to travel. I think if you are super interested in a subject it comes across in your writing. I’d also quite like to write a non-fiction book.

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

How journalists can continue to make a living, with the press changing and budgets being cut. And so many PRs and brands seeming more interested in bloggers than print journalists.

Bottles of French wine in wooden cases.
Bottles of French wine in wooden cases.

What about its opportunities?

The media world is changing and I think new opportunities are opening up all the time. Just keep abreast of new outlets and new ways of working, which you can learn about via social media. Self-employment and turning yourself into an expert or brand is probably the way forward.

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

I’d like to spend more time in Spain.  I spent a term studying at Granada University and I’ve also studied in Barcelona. I’d particularly like to explore western Andalusia, especially Cadiz. I love an ancient city.

The facade of the Markthal in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
The Markthal in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, which Victoria has already written about.

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

Lecturer in French. Art historian. Yoga teacher. Dog groomer. Not necessarily in that order.

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

If there’s anything you want to achieve in life, just go for it. Don’t put it off.

Detail from a war memorial in France
Detail from a war memorial in France.

You can find out more about Victoria via her website, She tweets via @Trottaround and posts photos on the @TrottaroundSwansea Instagram account.

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