This week we’re going to take a short detour from the south of France and spend some time in Italy with my friend, travel writer Barb Conelli, whose book launch we are celebrating! Cue the fireworks, brass band, and bring on the vino! Va bene!
The author of Chique Secrets of La Dolce Vita, Barbara has just published the equally intriguing Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore. This new book focuses exclusively on the intimate and seductive knowledge of the magnificent city of Milan as only this author knows it. If you want to read about the main tourist attractions in Milan, buy an ordinary guidebook. But if you want to know about hidden alleyways where you will find special family-run shops and restaurants with fascinating histories and secrets known only to locals, read this author’s books.
You know how much of a travel junkie I am and I find her books absolutely delightful. The next time I have the chance to visit Milan, you can be sure her books will be with me. Just to make us even more excited for her, guess where she is spending the summer … Rome! You can follow along vicariously with her daily posts on her blog.
Today she is going to share some of her thoughts on being a travel writer. In my next life, that’s definitely on my list of career choices! Take it away, Barb!
What Makes A Good Travel Writer?
People usually think that travel writers live a glamorous life: they enjoy wonderful trips, exciting experiences, exotic food, luxurious spas, and they have friends (and sometimes even lovers) all around the globe. Let me tell you the truth: It’s exactly what you think it is. It’s a dream come true and the most amazing lifestyle I can think of. Yes, basically it’s just gumdrops and unicorns.
However, most travel writers who make a living by writing about their adventures don’t work for National Geographic or another famous publication. Take me, for example. I’ve been a nomad since I was a toddler, thanks to my nomadic parents. (It’s not like we lived in a tent in the desert; we just loved to travel.) I spent years paying for my own trips, and occasionally writing about them, just because I loved it.
When I published my first Chique Travel Book (Chique Secrets of Dolce Vita), I thought it would be a great Christmas gift for my friends and family, and I had no idea what a whirlwind it would cause. I became a travel writer practically overnight, and only then did I realize that it had been my dream all along. Sometimes life needs to give you a major nudge so that you finally understand why you’re here on this beautiful planet and what you’re supposed to do with your precious life.
The morning I was leaving for Rome a couple of weeks ago, to start my annual Italian adventure, I got a lovely check from Amazon and realized that it would cover all my travel expenses and some more, for the first time in my life. I was sitting at the door on my red suitcase, with the check in my hand, thinking: “I have officially made it. I’m a travel writer.”
I’m often asked what makes a good travel writer, what you need to do and be like so that your writing is authentic, captivating, exciting and fun. Therefore, I have put together five tips for you today, my travel writer’s mantra. They may not work for everyone, but they’ve been the foundation of all my writing and I swear by them:
1. Speak the language
When people hear I’m fluent in eight languages and study two more, they tend to think I’m an alien. Of course, I’m not saying every travel writer must be a polyglot, but speaking at least some Italian, or French, or Chinese, can make a huge difference. Locals are more likely to open up to you when they see you try to speak their language, and it is so much easier to gather stories and anecdotes, and come across unexpected revelations and adventures.
2. Talk to the people
And I don’t mean just locals. For example, I love airports. Striking up a conversation with a stranger when you’re waiting for a connecting flight or enjoying a cup of coffee is very inspiring. Ordinary people are the source of fabulous stories, as life is the greatest writer of all. Don’t be shy – people love to talk about themselves and their life, and they enjoy sharing their experiences with fellow travelers. When you’re in your destination, talk to everyone. To waiters in restaurants, to store owners, people who walk their dogs in your favorite park in the morning. Good travel writing is not about places – places are only the stage where the real stories – people’s stories – unwind.
3. Write from the heart
Don’t be afraid to open up to your readers and share your emotions with them. Don’t try to be objective – allow yourself to be as subjective as you can. The purpose of travel writing, especially of narrative travel writing, is to take your readers with you and allow them to experience the same sensations, sights and smells that you are experiencing. Your writing is like a magic carpet and you are the weaver who is putting its threads together. Don’t be afraid of wild colors and lush ornaments, be bold, be vivid, be quirky, be fun, and always be yourself.
4. Slow down
If you want to tap into the energy and vibe of the place, you need to slow down. Sit on a bench or in a café, and observe. Feel the place, feel the people, watch their gestures, their moods, their faces. Become one with it, and take it in with all your senses. Don’t rush, don’t run around desperately trying to see all the sights. Again, it’s not about the sights – it’s about being able to find those hidden gems and delicate secrets that tourists don’t have a chance to see.
5. Be humble and don’t judge
Travel is the best school of life. It teaches you to be open-minded and respectful. When you travel or are getting ready to write about your travel experience, remember this: “It is what it is, and it is all good.” As an outsider, you will never be able to fully understand the motivation of people, their choices and their circumstances. This world is full of contrast and diversity, and we need to learn to accept, honor and love them.
Barbara Conelli is an internationally published bestselling author, seasoned travel writer & photojournalist specializing in Italy, and Chiquenist on the mission to bring Fantastic Fearless Feminine Fun into women’s lives. In her charming, delightful and humorous Chique Travel Books filled with Italian passion, Barb invites women to explore Italy from the comfort of their home with elegance, grace and style, encouraging them to live their own Dolce Vita no matter where they are in the world. Barb lives between New York and Milan, and as a real globetrotter, she’s always on the move, accompanied by her adorable and very spoiled beagle. To her, writing is like breathing, and she’s currently working on her new book.
Visit Barb at http://www.barbaraconelli.com and please come on back here next Tuesday to read my interview with this bubbly, enthusiastic, true Italian Chiqueniste! We’ll be sitting on a terrace watching the action on the Piazza Di Spagna in Roma, sipping a soulful vino rosso or perhaps a lightly sparkling prosecco, and waiting for you to join us!
Fascinating, enthralling and seductive travel and life tales about unexpected encounters with the capricious, unpredictable and extravagant city of Milan, its glamorous feminine secrets, the everyday magic of its dreamy streets, the passionate romance of its elegant hideaways, and the sweet Italian art of delightfully falling in love with your life wherever you go.
Download the book at http://tinyurl.com/buydolceamore and enjoy the book trailer right here!
Have you been lucky enough to visit Italy? We would love to hear about some of your favourite memories so don’t be shy. Share them with us right here! Grazie mille!
14 thoughts on “A touch of Italy with Barbara Conelli”
Love this post! Like 99% of the women out there, Italy is top of my must-visit lists! Thank you ladies!
Thank you very much, Diana!
I can’t wait until you get there and then read what you write about it, Diana!
What a great post – fantastic advice, on not only being a good travel writer, but being a good traveller. Traveling is always a time to slow down, and connect with the environment you find yourself in. It’s completely essential to make some effort at the language, however pitiful your attempt. People will always appreciate that you tried. I love Italy and am going to Lucca in later this summer. Last year I went to Bologna & before that Barga, a beautiful Tuscan hill town. I like to rent an apartment so I can enjoy shopping for food as well as cooking.The food is always one of the highlights of any trip to Italy as far as I’m concerned.
You are so right. The best thing is to settle in and try to feel how it is to live there and be a local. I was in Lucca three years ago and loved it.
Amazing….I love the tips about how to be a great travel writer. Great advice for any writer but I can see what people devor Barbara’s books with her life tales and unique voice.
Wonderfully done ladies and beautiful pics Patricia.
Natalie, thank you very much for your comment and your kind words!
Thanks, Natalie. It just makes me want to go there as quickly as possible!
Patricia, thank you very much for participating in my book tour and hosting me on your blog. It’s so great to be here! I absolutely LOVE your photographs!
You know I am always delighted to have you come by for a visit, Barb! I’m loving your posts from Rome and can just imagine the incredible experience you are having!
Barbara sounds like the type of lady I’d love to travel with. I’ll be getting her books right away since that’s exactly what I love about traveling ~ finding the off beat places, talking with people, listening. I think her tips are excellent not just for travel writing, but for traveling period. Rushing from place to place is fine, but what you’ll remember years from now aren’t the facts about the Vatican (you can Google that), but the people you met, the food you ate, the small moments that didn’t seem important at the time. Thanks for introducing us to Barbara, Patricia. You find the most amazing women!
Those small moments you mention are precious, Tameri! They really set the tone for the memories of travel that will be most treasured. Barbara’s research and knowledge of the places she writes about bring them to life in a way Frommer’s simply cannot.
Tameri, you’re my kind of girl! I get many questions from people, asking me what to see, where to go in Italy… And I always say: “Go to the nearest café, have a cappuccino or a glass of wine, and just watch the buzz.” Famous sights are great to see, but nothing can ever replace the human experience…
The tips fo a travel writer are terrific and can be applied to writing any genre.
Working for the government, Italy was always one of my favorite countries to receive assignments — and I always hoped they would be lengthy assignments. Beautiful country, terrific people and oh what fun. I’d return in a heartbeat. Looking forward to your next post.