Saturday, 31 March 2012

Reasons to Write Part 2: Press Trips

'I'm eating your tree - you cool with that?'
So what do you want to gain out of this writing gig then?  Money, fame, adulation?  We may not all get to be Hunter S Thompson, JK Rowling or Stephen King but if there is one thing that writing is near guaranteed to give you, it's new experiences.   I hadn't thought much about Victoria Falls before I went there last week.  Sure I liked travelling and getting to do some travel writing was one of the reasons I started hassling everyone I could for writing work a couple of years back.  But one of the many privileges of being a writer is that you can experience the world in a way that someone who chose a profession other than journalism would.  You can live like a King.  This was the thought that struck me as I sat on a small island of a bed looking down the lawn to the Zambezi in Zambia, just after I had been introduced to the butler I had been told to call on whenever I needed to.  I would think it again in a small gazebo as a masseur kneaded and pummelled relaxation into my body as the gurgles of the river tickled my ears.  A giraffe outside my room certainly made a nice change from pigeons scavenging discarded takeaways back home in London too.

Press trips can be good for more than boasting opportunities, they're pretty good for networking too.  I discussed one of the other titles that I write for with the PR that was with us in Africa and it's likely we'll be working together again later this year.  The more I meet other journalists, the more I find out how they can write for a living.  I discovered that working for a news organisation in the North West of England means you can afford a house with a garden; the guy who works for one down here is sharing a house with three of his mates in an area where it's increasingly likely he'll get mugged.

Lastly, press trips are good for getting some perspective.  While we were in Zambia, we visited an AIDS hospice, an orphanage and most inspiring of all, a farm worked by blind people.  However frustrated and stressed you might get with your own life, there will always be someone out there in the world who's having a much tougher time of it than you.   There's no way of saying this without sounding like a schmaltzy soundbite from an overly sentimental movie but I'm going with it: we all need reminding of that sometimes.

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