Alan Murphy
Australia AU

Alan is a travel writer and author of over 20 Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guides to Southern Africa and Zambia & Malawi.

Category: Alan Murphy's Column

In Alan’s latest blog he tries to bring readers into the world of a travel writer. Is it full of exotic lands and scintillating safaris - a life of debauchery, danger and derring-do? Or is it hellish hours, dastardly deadlines and devilishly dull?

A travel writer, travelling and writing...sound pretty good? I thought so when I snuck my way into the guidebook author ranks at Lonely Planet. Travel the world, get paid for it, get published, cruise around like a global nomad. Surely it doesn’t get better than that?

Over the years I specialised in Africa – southern Africa. I fell in love with the people, their cultures, the wildlife, the vast open spaces. I became spellbound by Africa’s ambient rhythm. But, let me tell ya...there is nothing ambient about researching and writing guidebooks. Oh, no.

The Golden Rules
Think of the content packed into the guidebook you may be using now or (hopefully) in the near future. So many safari companies, so many lodges, camps, hotels etc...and what about the places to eat? How do you visit all that and see/research everything, everywhere? Alan’s Golden Rules:

  1. Don’t freak out
  2. Really, don’t freak out – it doesn’t help
  3. Break it down, take it day by day
  4. Plan, plan, plan
  5. Don’t zip through all of it everyday without having fun on the way
  6. Travel with someone if you can. A beer buddy is priceless.

So, yes the deadlines are a bore but the safaris can be magic; the hours are looong, and it’s seven days a week but the chance to explore and get under the skin of a place is special; looking at room after room in accommodation places can get very dull but hey, I’m in Africa!!

So, it’s all a bit true really. Danger and derring-do ? Not really, I’m too busy watching wildlife, but I’ve heard stories...perhaps that’s another blog...

And the five most common questions I am asked about being a travel writer in Africa?

  1. Do you get paid?
  2. No, you get paid?
  3. Do you get to choose where you go?
  4. Can we swap jobs?
  5. What’s your favourite place?

Answers: Yes; seriously, yes; sometimes; what’s your job?; anything in Africa.

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