Category: Travel writing

Call for papers: Council on the Global Integration of Healthcare

I think I like that a volunteer non-profit (the Council on the Global Integration of Healthcare) is trying to do something to improve the quality of workers we get in the medical tourism sector. And I understand that volunteer organizations will often suffer from too few resources. In the case of the Council on the Global Integration of Healthcare that seems to mean that they don’t have anyone to design the courses they want to offer to professionals in the medical tourism business.

That’s where any professional travel planners might benefit:

In preparation for CGIH’s Medical Travel Facilitator I Certification, we are seeking the assistance of our travel planners community members to author the following study guides, pre-test and final exams for the following self-directed courses:

Course Description

TRA0010 Basic Travel Planning for Medical Travelers

TRA0200 Understanding Travel Service Terminology

TRA0020 Medical Travel Facilitators and Travel Agents: Role Differentiation

TRA0030 World Geography Refresher

TRA0100 Understanding Customs and Visa Requirements

TRA0110 Introduction to International Airline Reservations

TRA0120 Introduction to International Connections for Medical Travelers

TRA0130 Introduction to Hotel Accommodation Reservations

TRA0140 Introduction to Ground Transfer Arrangements

TRA0150 Counseling Clients about Trip Interruptions and Lost Baggage

TRA0160 Introduction to Destination Management Services

TRA0170 The Role of the Medical Concierge

TRA0180 Travel Planning for Clients with Special Dietary Restrictions

TRA0190 Travel Planning for Clients with Mobility Impairments

TRA0210 Travel Planning for Clients with Visual Impairments

TRA0220 Travel Planning for Clients with Hearing Impairments

So if you want to do some volunteer travel writing, specifically course design you should check out this opportunity. There are also sections on law and things less relevant to this blog than travel planning. Here is the open call for papers.

The one thing I’m not so sure about is how they’re going to end up with a good course – I mean this is supposed to lead to a “Medical Travel Facilitator I Certification” sort of a medical tourism travel agent I guess. I’m a little surprised that they don’t already have standards for each course’s evaluation and experts in mind to write each of these courses. I do hope their courses turn out to be excellent.

Interview with travel writer Candy Harrington

Here’s an interview with a travel writer — most of her work is on accessible vacations (vacations for people with disabilities).

Questions focus more on the writing side of things. Some samples include:

Do you recommend other writers find a niche or specialty? What have been the rewards for you?

How do you approach the work of writing?

Can you tell us how you found representation for your books? Did you pitch it to an agent, or query publishers who would most likely publish this type of book? Any rejections? Did you self-publish?

In the last year or so have you seen any changes in the way publishers publish and/or distribute books? Are there any emerging trends developing?

How have you used the Internet to boost your writing career?

A scene from Iraq

If you’re like me, you don’t plan on visiting Iraq any time soon. However, I’m sure most of us are curious so let me quote from a letter from a Navy officer stationed in Iraq (a “sand sailor” as they call themselves which I thought was kind of funny). And let me beg you not to get too political – the letter is pretty positive and said things are improving in Iraq but I won’t publish it in its entirety because I don’t want to talk politics.


Jammed roads, bustling markets, a mix of modernity and the Third World jumbled together. Driving through in our convoys, the local police clear the road for us– often requiring that we cross over into the oncoming traffic lane to avoid a jam. The locals shake their head in disgust as we hop the median or otherwise move past the traffic snarls, but it’s in neither of our interest for an American convoy to stop in a crowded area. A stopped convoy is a target, and given the level of armor we travel with, the people or vehicles next to us would be the most likely casualty should someone seize the opportunity to shoot at us. Baghdad is largely quiet at night due to a combination of curfews and vehicle bans, but during the day, in the context of this mix of modern and 3rd World, it has the general feel of a large city. Roads filled with cars, trucks and the occasional donkey cart, markets crowded with people, children carrying schoolbooks or waving at our vehicles, the noise and tempo of city life swirling in wafts of exhaust fumes, grilled lamb and raw sewage.

SATW travel writing courses, welcome news for domestic air travelers, old news for air travelers

Thank you to Jill for the following tip: the Society of American Travel Writers Institute for Travel Writing and Photography will hold a conference in Orlando In January.

The SATW Institute offers a weekend class that promises to teach you how to become a travel writer. So, if you’re free from January 25 to 27, 2008, and can make it to Orlando, Florida, I hope you let us know how well they do:

The one-weekend institute (Friday-Sunday) is for writers, travel writers and experienced travelers who want to learn travel writing for articles and guidebooks or who already are travel writers and want to improve their performance. This travel writing course teaches how to prepare article queries and book proposals, how to negotiate contracts, how to work with editors, how to organize your time, how to self-publish your own books, and how to publish your travel writing on the Internet.

I guess I could contribute a thing or two to publishing your stuff online. I’ve learned a lot about web site development and maintenance from running this blog…

By the way, another item of interest to most people who fly in the US is this article on how airlines are trying to improve on the terrible service they provided this summer.

And while we’re on the subject of US air travel, I may as well flirt with danger (meaning politics again) and share this article on how Clinton and Gore had a plan to overhaul the US air traffic control system. Like so many government projects, this one never materialized in any meaningful way. This issue should sound familiar…

And since the US system is so problematic, here’s some advice on how to avoid a few of the hassles waiting for you:

Avoid connecting flights altogether

Build longer layovers

Shun chronically late flights

Call your airline, frequently

Book the first flight of the day

Scout alternate flights

Line up, but call too

Prepare for the worst

Know your rights

This previous entry on avoiding delays may also be helpful.

Has anyone read any Barbara Sjoholm?

Hopefully someone noticed that I missed a blog entry yesterday. Well now that I’m on vacation (the semester ended, I calculated grades, I listened to myriad complaints about grades, etc.) I’m truly busy. Yesterday it was a sick dog and a drive to my In-Laws’ house. Plus I’m trying to bulk up which is harder than it sounds. It requires a lot of eating and a lot of exercise (I’m only interested in gaining muscle weight). It’s incredibly hard to eat 6 meals a day, go to the gym, and live a nornmal life.

Even with all that stuff, I might have been able to blog but my In-Laws’ internet connection was down…

But here I am today. I found an interesting interview with a writer I had never hreard of, Barbara Sjoholm. She talks about how traveling made her develop as a writer. It certainly doesn’t work that way for everyone. I meet tons of aspiring writers in Korea who have done absolutely nothing. I guess they majored in English literature, can’t handle working for a corporation (or just can’t get a job), and wind up teaching English in Korea.

I guess even I am an aspiring writer of sorts (though at least I’m published – not only on this blog but also in a few linguistics / language teaching type places).

But Barbara Sjoholm had the right blend of inspiration, talent, and luck. One of her books (not her newest book) sounds pretty interesting. Called, The Palace of the Snow Queen: Winter Travels in Lapland, a nonfiction account of several winters spent in northern Scandinavia, it’s about the ice hotel and other things up there in northern Scandinavia:

I took as my starting point the building of the Ice Hotel outside Kiruna Sweden. I watched the construction and went back to the hotel at various times over the winter months to observe it in all its touristy glory, until I finally watched it start to melt one April.

There are other things mentioned too, but that sounds really interesting. Of course I’ve thought about staying in the ice hotel, but I never considered wathing them build it. However that process is probably much more interesting than actually staying there…

Has anyone read any Barbara Sjoholm? From the interview, I’m guessing that her work is pretty interesting.

PhD programs for travel writers including creative writing

I don’t know why I’m considering a PhD (my Master of Applied Linguistics was hard enough), but here I am looking up various PhD programs. I figure if I study creative writing and / or travel writing (stuff I do anyway) the PhD would be bearable and practical. Still hard though…

Anyway, so far I’ve contacted:

Nottingham Trent University’s Nottingham Trent Centre for Travel Writing Studies – This British University has MA and PhD programs.

The University of the West of England, Bristol – their list of research degrees does not include travel writing, but Professor Robin Jarvis said that he welcomed inquiries on any of his research interests (which included travel writing).

And read about:

The University of Denver’s PhD in Creative Writing (because they mention travel writing and I did do my undergrad in creative writing – I love writing). To study there, you have to be a teaching fellow. As an Assistant Professor I know I can help students learn something so this is an interesting program for me.

The University of Pittsburgh has a 5-6 year program. I was planning to commit 3…

Ohio University has a PhD in Creative Writing where you can specialize in fiction or nonfiction. Travel writing ought to be included there.

I still have to look at journalism programs as some of them probably have concentrations in travel journalism.

I also accidentally found one tip for travel writers trying to get published (although you should really be submitting to this blog! Anyway novice travel writers should submit travel articles to major newspapers or small community papers because middle size newspapers tend to use syndicated pieces while magazines go for experienced writers.

Of course if I were smart I’d just spend my time traveling and writing but who knows? Maybe I’ll find a program that seems even better than saving my time and money for actually traveling…

Why are there so few good TV travel shows?

There are plenty of real-life travel and adventure books out there for those of us — like me – who are avid armchair travelers. But there seems to be a shortage of good quality travel shows on TV — the main networks, such as ABC, CBS and NBC seldom broadcast what I would describe as a travel show or documentary.

Of course, if you have cable or satellite, you have a lot more choice. Some of the channels such as Discovery, National Geographic and the History Channel offer some choice, although one problem with having all those channels accessible 24 hours a day, is that you have to hunt to see what’s on — and then figure out how to program your VCR. At least I do.

And if you have cable or satellite, you probably get the Travel Channel included in your line up of programming. The Travel Channel — as the name suggests — naturally shows travel, vacation and adventure type shows and documentaries. But they also seem to show a lot of programs that I wouldn’t consider being travel related — some recent offerings include “Professional Poker Tour” and “Most Haunted” (though haunted vacations are still fairly popular) as well as “Monster Trucks”. And “Epicurious” should really be on the Food Network.

One of my favorite Travel Channel shows is “Vacation Home Search” in which people with far too much money choose from a selection of three stylish and pricey vacation homes. On each episode, every house costs several times as much as my home — and these are just their vacation homes! I can’t help wonder what their regular home is like.

CBS does have an excellent travel-themed reality show — The Amazing Race which, if you haven’t seen it, is literally a race around the world, in which teams have to solve various clues and reach the next point as quickly as possible to avoid elimination. A recent episode of the current season had the teams flying from Warsaw to Hong Kong. Apparently, the contestants do eat and sleep, but you never really get to see them doing it.

The “Amazing Race” shows you the world, along with plenty of local atmosphere and sights – but part of the show’s appeal is that it tends to also show the less glamorous side of travel. Teams on the show are seen dealing with unhelpful taxi drivers, trying to change money and dealing with the language barrier. Contestants on the show also spend a lot of time standing in line to buy plane tickets, and dealing with today’s typically overcrowded airports. And not surprisingly, there’s plenty of arguing and bickering too — as befits any reality show.

But my favorite TV armchair traveler has to be Michael Palin, of “Monty Python” fame. Palin made a series of travel documentaries for Britain’s BBC network, in some of which he traveled around the world in 80 days, crossed the Sahara and traveled the entire length of the Himalayas. His shows appear on PBS and the Travel Channel periodically, and are also on DVD. Catch one of his documentaries and see how good TV travel can be when it’s done well.

Written by guest travel blogger, Mancunian

Santa Fe vacation experience

Since I was writing about northern New Mexico the other day, I thought this vacation in lights on Santa Fe was interesting:

We checked into La Fonda, our splurge hotel right on the Santa Fe Plaza (where buildings date back to 1610). In the evening’s high-altitude breeze, we sat on the plaza and ate ice cream…

The vacation in lights idea is also an interesting one; Washington Post readers write in about their vacation experiences. I love the idea of readers sharing their experience which is why I welcome comments on this blog and have the writing contest. I hope to get many more entries – please submit before November 15th!

2006-2007 winter vacation itinerary travel writing contest

$1,100.00 in prizes (US dollars).

The submissions to my 2006 summer vacation plan writing contest were so good that I was a little uncomfortable with one winner getting 500.00 while other plans of similar quality went unrewarded. This contest aims to change all that:

The first 150 travel itineraries that pass the initial screening and are published on this blog will receive 5.00 each. PayPal only because I refuse to write and mail 150 five-dollar checks.

In addition, one first place winner will receive $200.00. One 2nd place winner will receive $100.00. One third place winner will receive $50.00.

To enter, you must email a travel itinerary (send your PayPal ID as well so I can send the money if you pass the initial screening) to Travel itineraries will be judged on the following criteria:

1. The travel plan consists of a daily itinerary in the following format:

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3:

Etc. – 5 points

2. Itinerary is at least 5 days long – 1 point

3. Itinerary makes sense for December, January, or February – 4 points

4. Itinerary includes enough attractions to keep an average traveler busy each day and provides detailed information on attractions (such as when to go, cost of admission, and what to see/do at that attraction) – 15 points

5. Itinerary includes information on where to stay (the more details and options the better – personal recommendations are good too) – 10 points

6. Itinerary includes information on meals such as recommendations on where to eat and approximate cost – 5 points

For some example travel itineraries, check out the summer vacation plans submitted to our previous contest. Just keep in mind that the criteria are slightly changed.

Email submissions to and good luck!

Travel writing contest: summer 2006 vacation plans

1,000 US dollars in prizes! See below for contest rules:

First place: 500.00

Second place: 250.00

Third place: 150.00

Honorable mention: 50.00

Honorable mention: 50.00

Prize money will be sent via PayPal or US bank check.’s summer vacation plan travel writing contest guidelines:

Submissions must be sent to and received before May 17, 2006. Winners will be announced May 31, 2006.

Each contestant may submit any number of entries.

Submissions should be vacation plans for the summer of 2006.

Vacation plans should be itineraries for trips from 5-21 days in the following format:

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3:


Submissions should be vacation plans for June, July, or August 2006. Vacation plans that pass an initial screening will be published on and judged on the following criteria:

1. The vacation plan includes a daily itinerary: 0-10 points

2. The vacation plan discusses possible accommodations: 0-10 points

3. The vacation itinerary includes detailed information on activities (e.g. the attractions of a museum, the best hiking trail, the best restaurants, must see architecture, etc.): 0-20 points

4. The vacation itinerary estimates the cost of activities (e.g. museum admission price, cost for dinner in a recommended restaurant, etc.): 1-5 points

5. The vacation itinerary generated discussion on (readers left comments regarding the vacation plan): 1-5 points

See 2006 summer vacation plan travel writing contest entries to date.

Browsing through previously published vacation plans may give you some ideas for the contest. I recommend reading the German sausage tour part 1 and part 2, Rio de Janeiro and the Amazon vacation, the Nepal and Tibet travel plan, 14 day vacation to Northern France, and the 14 day vacation to ‘the Capitol States’ in the US. These don’t generally give hotel and restaurant recommendations but should give you some idea of what I expect from a travel plan. Contest winners will provide more detailed information to help readers use the vacation plan as a travel guide.

Summer 2006 vacation plan travel writing contest rules and fine print:

Entries that pass the initial screening will be published on and may not be published elsewhere. Author credit will be given. Winners will be announced on on May 31, 2006 and contacted via email. Prize amounts are in US dollars and prize money will only be awarded via PayPal or a US check. Submissions should be sent to and must arrive before May 17, 2006.