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A STRAW, A PILLOW CASE, AND A GARBAGE BAG TWIST TIE: THREE MUST-HAVE TRAVEL TOOLS EVERY TRAVELER SHOULD CARRY

Dear Reader,

I’m packing my bags for our Photography Workshop in Greece. But before I go, I’d like to share with you some thoughts Steenie recently penned about the state of travel writing today.  When you’re finished with her article here, scroll down to today’s writing prompt and find out why I’m packing a straw, a pillow case, and a garbage bag twist tie into my suitcase…

— Lori

Lori Appling
Director, Great Escape Publishing

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WHERE HAVE ALL THE HONEST TRAVEL WRITERS GONE?
By Steenie Harvey in Ireland

On my way home from my recent trip to Montenegro, I met two middle-aged Irish ladies at Tivat airport. They agreed Montenegro’s landscapes and sea vistas were fabulous, but were grievously disappointed with their holiday at Becici.

“We hadn’t imagined everywhere would be so crowded. From what we’d read, we thought we’d be coming here first…before Montenegro was discovered by everyone else.”

Blessed with a jigsaw puzzle coastline, walled medieval towns and soaring mountains, Montenegro is scenically gorgeous. But in the media conspiracy to get you to this “new destination,” there’s a lot of hype–and much goes unmentioned.

For example, the genteel Irish twosome had expected Becici to have a sandy beach–not an expanse of gritty shingle overloaded with donut-munching Serbs and Russians. They’d envisaged quiet evening walks along an elegant esplanade toward neighboring Budva. Nothing they’d read suggested this promenade would resemble a fairground midway with eardrum-destroying music spilling from every bar.

But as the Financial Times describes Montenegro as “Europe’s undiscovered playground,” it’s quite understandable why many vacation brochures follow suit. Presumably Serbs, Bosnians, Kosovans, Slovenians, Russians, Poles, Czechs, and Italians don’t count. Fact is, battalions of eastern European vacationers have rediscovered Montenegro in the past three years. Italy is but a ferry ride away across the Adriatic. And Serbs from all over the former Yugoslavia never really went away at all.

The hype often borders on the outrageous. “A land of untouched white sands,” insists Travel & Leisure. Beaches might be untouched in winter, but “white sands” are a product of some lunatic’s delusions. I traveled the length of the country from the Croatian to Albanian borders and found nothing that came close to white sand…and little real sand of any color at all. Any article that claims Montenegro has over 100 sandy beaches (and many do) is spouting nonsense.

Concrete bathing platforms and rocks in the north; gritty shingle and pebbles in the center. Yes, there are sandy beaches in the far south, but they’re donkey-brown, not white. With all the western tour operators based in northern Montenegro, the only time visitors glimpse true sand beaches is from coach windows when they pass through the southern border town of Ulcinj on a $64 day-trip to Albania.

My sympathies go to Irish readers of the Sunday Business Post. They must be thoroughly confused because Montenegro apparently “boasts some of the finest sandy beaches in the Aegean.” Really? Montenegro is on the Adriatic; the Aegean Sea surrounds Greece.

Having stayed in Budva, Montenegro’s largest resort, I was amazed to learn it’s the country’s St. Tropez: “Fast regaining its status as one of the most voguish destinations on the Adriatic.” (Well, according to the UK Guardian’s travel section, it is.)

“One of the gaggle of towns on this coastline that’s referred to as the St. Tropez of the Adriatic,” echoes The Washington Post.

Referred to as St. Tropez by whom? The 2,500 + guests staying in Slovenska Plaza’s ghastly holiday village? Thanks to its old town, Budva looks pretty, but its beach neighborhood is almost as downmarket as Bulgaria’s Black Sea resorts. Budva is the summer playground of Balkan factory workers and nouveau riche Russians–not some glamour destination crawling with French starlets.

But my favorite piece of hype is this, from a Montenegro Properties website: “The shopping in Budva old town is finer than Milan and fitted out like Paris.”

Words fail me, and if you scout around Budva’s shops, words will fail you, too.

But here’s my point. All the above guff reminds me of the old Chinese fairytale about the Emperor having no clothes. Nobody dared point out the fact–and when it comes to coloring destinations, it’s the same with a lot of travel writing.

It seems if one publication says Montenegro is undiscovered and abounds in sandy beaches, then everyone has to sing from the same hymn-sheet. Do writers no longer believe the evidence of their own eyes?

Overall I liked Montenegro and its people immensely. I already knew its beaches weren’t Caribbean-like, so my only real complaint would be the dire accommodation and late-night noise in resorts. While mentioning this might deter some potential visitors, I think readers deserve the whole picture instead of a concoction of half-truths and fantasies.

** Tune in tomorrow for Steenie’s advice on using buying rights to your best advantage. Why sell three articles once… when you can sell one article three times for the same amount of money and a third less work?
Steenie will tell you how tomorrow.

** And don’t forget to scroll down below for today’s practical writing tip.  When you get something published, let me know: lori@thetravelwriterslife.com.

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]

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PRACTICAL WRITING PROMPT OF THE WEEK

I get more and more like my mother every day.  She’s always been the clever sort — using toothpaste to take scratches off furniture and glass, removing bicycle grease on our clothes with Crisco, dusting with a dryer sheet to keep the dust from recollecting so fast.

She’d be so proud if she could see my cosmetic bag packed for Greece:

** A drinking straw to protect my necklaces from tangling.  Simply thread one end of the necklace though the straw and secure the clasp.  The straw will keep it from tangling and knotting in the bottom of your bag.

** A garbage bag twist tie.  In a pinch, you can peel back the paper or plastic on a twist tie and use the wire to: secure a loose button or pin, fix a broken hair clip, or temporarily replace a screw in your sunglasses.

Leave the paper on, and you can: bundle computer wires and/or cords, close a laundry bag at the hotel should you need to pack y
our wet bathing suit or shoes, or even tie your hair back.

** And a pillow case.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been glad to have brought my own pillow case.  Not only can you stuff a jacket or pillow inside to create your own pillow when needed but you can also:

Protect your jacket or sweater should you need to remove it during the flight.  Simply stick it in the pillow case and store it at your feet.

Use it as a leg rest by stuffing it with the pillow and blanket provided by the airline and placing it on the floor beneath your feet.

Or use it as an extra bag.  When it’s time to de-plane, take a quick look around your seat and throw in any of the belongings you might have taken out during the flight – book, book light, headphones, ipod, snacks, etc.

Do you have any great travel tips you’d like to share?  Let me know: lori@the travelwriterslife.com

When you’re done, write an article about them.  Travel articles don’t necessarily have to be about travel destinations. They can also be about traveling or the “Art of Travel” as we like to think of it.  Jennifer Stevens wrote an article about how to write an Art of Travel Story in issue #86 of our e-letter.  You’ll find it archived on our website at http://www.thetravelwriterslife.com

Give that article a read and then think about how you can turn your travel tips into a saleable article.  Take some time to put something together this weekend and get it out to an editor.  Then let me know about your success: lori@thetravelwriterslife.com

CONGRATULATIONS RAY BATSON!

Ray was with us in Denver at our Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop and I just recently saw his by-line in International Living.

He also sent us his new website: http://www.mygalleryplace.com/RayBatson, which has some pretty fantastic pictures of his travels.

Congratulations Ray!

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