21 tips for writing a bestselling travel article

This article will give you 21 tips and tricks to help you to write a bestselling travel article: In the style of a well known travel website which also sells guidebooks.

I look to magazines to show me the best examples of how to write. Sometimes I have to wonder why these people get paid in money rather than in bananas. That’s right, I’m implying a relationship between monkeys and typewriters. Bearing that in mind, here are some tips on how to write the perfect bestselling travel article, including photo editing tips:

1. Pick a place that’s easy to get to, but far enough away that normal people can’t actually afford to go there.

2. Take one or two photos that are probably unrepresentative of the place as a whole, particularly if it involves the sea, rugged landscapes, or any view you can only get from a helicopter.

This is exactly what you will see if you go to Egypt.
This is exactly what you will see if you go to Egypt.

3. Touch up the picture with Photoshop to enhance the colours, to make it even more unrepresentative of the place, and edit out the unsightly evidence of real life taking place, such as litter, insects or children.  Your aim is for travellers to be disappointed when they get there, so they go somewhere else (and buy a new guidebook) next year.

Those peaches have been colour enhanced to make you disappointed if you really see them.
Those peaches have been colour enhanced to make you disappointed if you really see them. Source: Wikipedia.

4. Write a story, embellish the details and make up interactions with semi-stereotypical characters who are always unusually aware of their global context for a farmer/mechanic/factory worker, to really show people an unrepresentative slice of life in the place where they’ll never go (because if they did, they’d find out you made it all up).

5. The opening paragraph – use at least four adjectives per sentence, the whole paragraph must be exactly three sentences long. The first sentence should have no more than 8 words in it. The second sentence can be a little longer.

6. The body of the article: Basically the first paragraph serves to describe the place in its entirety, from here on you will be talking about the history, climate, etc, and never, ever tell people anything useful such as what they could find there, how to get there, what petrol is called, what side of the road to drive on. Instead, you should find the most obscure language in the area and throw around one or two words that don’t mean anything, because it makes people feel like they now know enough lingo to go there. You never know, they might just find that one person who speaks that actual language and talk to them for long enough to use the two words they can now understand. More likely, it’s an insular community who are sick to death of white people, since their only contact with white people is when they turn up, gawk, take pictures of them as if they’re objects, then talk loudly at them and leave.

7. It is probably a place of conflict. Briefly mention the conflict, and don’t hasten to embellish on exactly how this conflict has changed all the people who live here, even if it only happened a few years ago or only happened for two days, or only affected one village that was eight hundred miles away from where you stayed. The only exception to this is if the conflict is ongoing. If the conflict is ongoing, you must mention it in less than one sentence, or even better, don’t mention it at all. They can find out for themselves when they get shot.

8. Don’t mention cultures or customs (with the exception of high days such as Carnevale or Divali, people need to know what they could have done, had they picked better travel days), after all, wouldn’t it be really funny if all the unescorted white women got arrested for immodesty, driving or being out unaccompanied. Better still, don’t tell them about the kidnap/rape problem, because that’s no biggie if it happens. The absolute best practice, though, is to tell your audience all about the cool exciting awesome things you can do in this country, which women aren’t actually allowed to do, and adding a tiny sentence at the end saying “women are not allowed in/on/at the …”

9. Do mention pickpockets or begging children, people will then think your article is honest and reflective of the “real” place.

10. Do mention that drugs are illegal. After all, the fact that they’re illegal EVERYWHERE is such a good deterrent that telling people what happens when they get caught abroad will REALLY stop them doing it. Seriously, this is like secret code for “everyone does drugs in this country.” Those are the only countries they ever point out the legality for.

11. Don’t mention any of the potential diseases you can get in the country you’re writing about. Or any of the necessary vaccinations. Who cares if some tourists die of malaria, AIDS, dengue fever or cholera as long as they bought your guidebook before they departed on their trip?

12. Don’t mention the state of the hospitals or other emergency services. People won’t take out travel insurance if they find out it’s utterly useless due to the fact that there aren’t any hospitals within 800 miles. And then you won’t get money from advertisers.

13. Don’t mention whether the destination has decent food for coeliacs, vegans, Muslims or Jews. They don’t need to eat. As a travel writer, you don’t know any of “those people” personally, so clearly they don’t exist.

14. Do talk in great detail about the “traditional dish” or “national dish” (which nobody really eats who lives there) which is usually meat stuffed with meat in meat sauce with meat and/or possibly cheese.

15. Leave out information about electricity. No-one charges their phone when they’re on holiday.

16. Keep pushing those sponsored hire car articles, but don’t tell readers ANYTHING about the various highway laws. Getting tickets abroad and putting the wrong fuel in your car is fun! Hey they could even get their car impounded!

17. Keep talking about budget options, but don’t actually make an effort to include anything that’s truly cheap. Whatever the hell you get paid to write those shoddy articles is too much if you think £80 a night is a budget hotel/hostel.

18. Never mention anything to do with accessibility. People who are disabled, people who have a guide dog to accompany them (or other support animal) and people with kids in pushchairs don’t travel. Only rich able bodied people do that. That’s why there are ramps and lifts and things all round the world.

19. Don’t discuss travel money options. At all. That’s not worth a single word of an article.

20. Don’t mention which religious groups reside in the area or where the local churches are, or what denominations can worship here. People stop believing in religion when they’re on holiday.

21. DO mention architecturally famous places of worship. Particularly if nobody can worship in them any more. Because travellers want to see the stunning results of religious buildings but don’t want to actually thank the people that made it all possible.

If you follow this guide, you too can produce financially lucrative, but boring and uninformative travel articles with exaggerated details, that editors will pay to publish. That’s a highly popular way that you can make a living off travel writing – because selling out and selling lies to the Man is everyone’s dream come true right?

Beautiful Saturday: To straighten or not to straighten?

I got my first pair of straighteners (called flatirons in the US) back in 2003.  I was 16, and they’d been out for about a year.  I had the Babyliss 4×4 straighteners, that came with 4 different interchangable metal plates – ceramic coating was a couple of years away – and the options were: standard crimpers, wide crimpers, “loose wave” (which was utterly useless) and the flat plate to make hair straight.

The straight plate took about 5-10 minutes to heat up.  The temperature it reached was probably fairly low.  Because the plates were made of aluminium metal, they did not glide through the hair.  You had to use them like crimpers, where you spray the hair with loads of hairspray, then close the plates around a piece of hair, held it still for a count of 10-20 (depending how long you wanted it to last vs how much time you could spend on this), then opened it and moved down, closed the plates around the next part of the piece of hair, held it still again for a count of 10-20, then did it again, all the way down each piece of hair.  Then you could do the next section.  It would generally take about an hour to do a full straighten and even then it didn’t make the hair sit properly flat unless you used excessive amounts of hairspray, which defeated the point.

A straighten done like this would basically have the same effect as when you blow-dried your hair straight, where the heat of the hairdryer would fix the hair straight when combined with the pull of the round brush.  It would take longer, because you had to dry your hair first, and generally was a bit of a waste of time.

The BaByLiss 4X4 crimpers in all their glory.  Source: www.toutvendre.fr
The BaByLiss 4X4 crimpers in all their glory. Source: http://www.toutvendre.fr

Fast forward two years, when in 2005 the ceramic straighteners exploded onto the UK mass consumer market.  GHDs had been out for around a year but nobody could really afford them.  Suddenly, glossy, long-lasting, straight hair could be anyone’s.  But there was a drawback.  They got too hot.  There was a problem in 2006 because particular high-end branded straighteners were causing house fires and property damage, because people were leaving them plugged in and they didn’t have an upper limit on how hot they would get.  The best case scenario was that they would melt and you’d need to buy a new set.  The worst case scenario was that they’d cause a house fire.  Whilst researching this article I discovered this is still happening.

To try and improve safety, manufacturers of most straighteners fitted thermostats and many also gave consumers the option to set the temperature – my 2007 model wet 2 straight straighteners had a range of 160 to 230 degrees celsius and would stay there.  The problem was, the lower temperatures produced a less lasting straighten, while the higher temperatures, as I’m sure everybody knows now, damaged the hair.

Enter heat protection spray.  Nobody really knows how it works (I spent serious time on Google recently trying to find out), although manufacturing blurb likes to point to “proteins” “keratin” “amino acids” and other ingredients as the thing that prevents hair damage.  I couldn’t find any research that showed how much these sprays actually protect the hair (as opposed to a placebo effect) and beauty bloggers seem to only know what they’ve been told by the companies that make them, which is the same as what the manufacturers say on their adverts.  It’s all a bit circular, like so many things in beautyworld.  The thing that’s most worrying, though, is that people think they can use the same high temperatures on their hair and not damage it.  It still weakens the hair to straighten it, no matter what you do.  If your hair is stronger to start with, you can probably get away with doing it every day and only suffering slightly more wear and tear than if you didn’t straighten.  For you, it’s probably a pretty good payoff.  If, however, you have the sort of hair that I have (frizzy, stands on end when cut short, prone to breakage under light stress, prone to dryness), you have a choice to make:  You can either bleach your hair white or straighten it regularly, but not both.  I chose to have white hair, that I sometimes tone silver or platinum.  Because of this, and because my hair has grown past shoulder length, I cannot straighten my hair every day.  If you have thicker hair to start with, you may get away with straightening regularly, I’m not sure.  I blow dry my hair when I wash it, and wash it two to three times per week (I know I should only wash it once a week, but I still struggle with this).  I find that my natural shape and frizz of hair actually doesn’t look too bad when it’s very blonde, it looks fluffy and softening rather than frizzy and harsh, which is what it looks like when I have my natural very dark hair.

All through school I used to get bullied for the unruly hair that I was born with.  Growing up in a 100% white British area, having 1/4 Afro-Caribbean genes makes big hair something the other kids would seize on and be very nasty about.  They weren’t exposed to other cultures enough to understand that hair was just like that for some people.  They thought I didn’t brush it, or that I had “cheap shampoo” because the shampoo and conditioner adverts told them that good shampoo = sleek straight glossy locks.  When I had dark hair, even last year, I was still getting told by people that I need to use X conditioner to fix my hair (when I’m blonde, they blame it on the bleach).  When you get treated like this by enough people, you start to believe them, especially when there’s no-one else around with hair like yours (I’ve never knowingly met the man responsible for my frizzy genes, and as a child, I didn’t really remember what people’s hair looked like when we lived until I was 5 in the Jamaican community in South East London).  When ceramic straighteners came out they were top of my Christmas list and I would use them daily (or put my hair in a bun), and have done for years until I discovered chemical relaxants aka chemical straightenings.  I went for those for a while but didn’t like how much more frizzy my hair was when they wore off, or how much more breakage there was, so I stopped everything when I grew my hair for my wedding.  As a result, I was very worried about bleaching my hair because of not being able to straighten it, but I have had icy white hair, generally toned silver, for about 8 months now, and I’ve never really looked in the mirror and said to myself, my hair needs straightening.  So through bleaching my hair, I’ve learned to accept it’s natural frizzlike tendencies, which is great.

I did straighten my hair last week, for a Youtube video because I was playing a character, and it had been so long since I last had straight hair that I didn’t recognise myself when I did it.  It felt weird, like some of my width was missing, like the very first time I straightened my hair.  I could definitely get used to having straight hair, but the time; effort; money on hair products such as primer and protein sprays; and the misery of having dark hair (which actually makes me depressed, I wish I was being hyperbolic) all outweigh the benefit of having straight hair.  Most of the time these days.  I’d rather have unruly sproingy white hair than sleek straight dark hair.  It fits my personality better.  Now my styling priority goes: 1st choice: Naturally springy hair.  2nd choice: Curled with my curling tongs (for special occasions).  3rd choice: Straight.

Are you pro-straightener?  Do you prefer straight hair, curled hair, or au naturel?

How to clean a bunny water bottle

We’ve said a few times that our rabbits prefer to drink from bowls, and we usually have about 2 bowls per pair so that if they stand in one or it gets knocked over, they always have something to drink.

We also give the outdoor bunnies bottles, attached to their runs, in case they need to find water and don’t want to travel 30 feet back to their houses.  Sometimes the indoor bunnies get bottles as well, for example on a car ride, because a bowl would not be practical in a car.

The thing I hate about bottles is how nasty they get inside, especially when the rabbits barely (if ever) drink from them.   Here’s some ways of getting them clean, and signs that they should just be replaced:

1. Green algae: Clean: To get rid of the green algae that settles at the bottom, get a sterilizing tablet designed for baby bottles and follow the instructions.  I have put the metal parts in in the past and nothing happened to them, but I don’t  think you’re supposed to.  The reason I used baby sterilisers rather than anything else is that they’re designed to need little to no rinsing, and they’re safe for babies.  If they’re safe for babies, they are generally safe for bunnies.  I always rinse thoroughly though, even with a no-rinse sterilizer, just to make sure they are clear of chemical.

This is one example of sterilising tablets for babies.
This is one example of sterilising tablets for babies.

2. Melted bottles: Replace: Don’t use boiling water, or they go like this:

melted bottle 1 melted bottle 2

They look thick enough to take it, but they aren’t, as my husband discovered last week.

3. Bleach: A big no-no: Don’t use household bleach, or other similar strong cleaning chemicals.  Even a tiny amount of these can kill a rabbit and it takes a LOT of rinsing to get these clear.  If you wouldn’t use it on a baby’s bottle, you shouldn’t use it on a bunny’s.

4.  Bottle brush: Excellent idea: Get a bottle brush for your everyday cleaning, and (in a fresh sink of water) submerge the bottle in warm water and a bit of washing up liquid, then scrub the inside clean with the bottle brush.  Be sure to get the corners.  You should still sterilize sporadically.

5. Rusted: Replace: Check the metal bit regularly.  Replace the bottle if it’s gone like this:

rusty bunny bottle 1 rusty bunny bottle 2

Rust can cause tetanus so get it sorted as soon as you can.

That’s my methods for cleaning water bottles and how I would tell if they need replacing.  Do you have any special methods for getting your bunny water bottles clean?