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Do we all need to live in London? | Funded writing retreat for low-income writer
Steph talks about how to make a career outside of London
After what wound up not being a particularly relaxing June — although it was a month where Lottie finished her second book and I finally caught up on hundreds of emails — we’re back this month and returning to the hot topic of networking. While I highly recommend diving into the archives to see what we’ve written previously, this month we’re taking a look at something different: how those of us who don’t live in London (or indeed the UK) can stay on top of our networking games.
Applications still open: Intrepid’s Diversifying Travel Media press trip
A quick reminder to apply to Intrepid’s first-ever Diversifying Travel Media press trip before applications close on the 20th of July.
Running from 26-30 September inclusive, this trip will take four writers to Croatia to experience what a press trip is like, without the need for a commission in advance.
Applications are open to writers from underrepresented backgrounds, with the selected writer being mentored on the trip by a selection of brilliant travel journalists: Meera Dattani, Shafik Meghji, Georgina Lawton and TTW’s own Lottie Gross.
Find out more about this opportunity, including entry criteria and how to apply, here:
Do we all need to live in London?
Neither Lottie nor I live in London. And while Lottie spent years building her career there before moving out to Oxfordshire, my career started while I was living in Latin America, and since then I’ve moved to Manchester and, more recently, Cheltenham.
It’s not that I’ve never considered a move to the epicentre of the British travel media. Other journalists’ tweets make me palpably aware of the number of networking opportunities I miss out on each week by not living close enough to pop in for an evening event. And it’s hard not to experience professional FOMO or wonder how many chance meetings with editors I’m missing out on, or what number of introductions to lucrative new clients have slipped through my fingers because I just wasn’t in the right place at the right time.
To travel or not to travel?
Unfortunately, I can’t make my way through life trying to assuage my FOMO. By living two hours — and at least a £60 round trip — away from London, I have to be judicious when it comes to selecting the events I attend. Over the past few years, my criteria for evaluating invites have been simple: if the event doesn’t link to my niche (Latin America), then it’s probably not worth the hassle and expense of attending.
While this has loosened of late as I’ve opened up my writing to other destinations, it has meant prioritising events where Latin American destinations and PRs typically attend. World Travel Market (WTM) is a great choice (for a day but no more — I made that exhausting mistake once) as it’s an event where you can meet representatives from practically anywhere in the world. We’ll be going into more events and associations that offer easy networking opportunities in our third newsletter of the month. You’ll need to be a paid subscriber to get access.
But established networking events shouldn’t be your only foray into networking. It’s easy to get lazy when you’re living a train ride away from networking opportunities; however, face-to-face conversations with PRs tend to be far more fruitful in teasing out ideas than a protracted email conversation. So, if there’s a PR company repping clients who you’re really interested in meeting, invite them for coffee or lunch. PRs are normally the ones to instigate this type of informal meet, but there’s no reason why you can’t. And coughing up the cost of your train ticket and hotel may well lead to a brilliant press trip — all while allowing you to connect with a new-to-you face in the industry.
If you can’t avoid travelling to London for a networking event, keeping costs down is imperative. Affordable accommodation is few and far between but not impossible to find. Tina Walsh uses sites such as University Rooms to rent out university accommodation across the capital for up to 50% less than the cost of a typical hotel room. You’ll find the greatest availability from June through September, but more limited options are around throughout the year.
I’ve also stayed in a handful of hotel chains’ budget brands. hub by Premier Inn and ibis budget are two such options, with compact rooms, accessible central London locations and significantly cheaper prices than their respective main brands. Olly Beckett also recommends Travelodges (cheap for Central London locations if you book during their promotions), as well as hotels in Canary Wharf if you’re around for a Friday or Saturday night. And, Suzy Pope has found booking a newly-opened property within an established hotel chain can save a pretty penny, as the lack of reviews can result in lower initial prices.
Networking outside of London
If heading into London isn’t a viable option, then allow technology to step in. It wasn’t that long ago that jumping on a Zoom call was the only way to network — and stay sane — and it remains a low-cost tool for staying in touch.
Harnessing the power of social media to stay visible to industry colleagues — as Lottie discusses in this newsletter — is also a nifty means of networking. Again, we’ll be diving deeper into how to do this, whether you’re in the UK or further afield, in this month’s final newsletter (again, for paid subscribers only).
To get access to all newsletters in this month’s series on networking, upgrade your subscription today.
It’s also worth re-evaluating whether London needs to be your main networking port of call. If getting in front of a PR repping a far-flung destination is your ultimate goal then London might be the best place to do this. However, the most lucrative press trips can be to destinations right under our noses. Stories about your local area tend to have far lower travel costs and, as a consequence, a higher earning potential than international trips. Lottie writes a lot about her locality, a move she’s engineered by speaking with the owners of local businesses she loves. Often, these businesses don’t have PRs but still want to work with journalists.
Luckily, some companies are also beginning to address how London-centric press events are and have made moves to reach journalists beyond the capital. June’s Media Getaway brought together 86 journalists and 47 PR and destination exhibitors for a free, two-day networking event in Leeds with accommodation and meals included.
There were some familiar faces from London events, however, I was surprised by how few other journalists I recognised — which shows the number of us lurking in different cities around the country. Didn’t get an invite? Email organiser Howard Salinger to express interest in next year’s event.
We’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: networking is an activity where “little and often” should become your mantra. Sometimes the impact won’t be felt for a few months or even years later when a press trip or commission finally comes together. But, we exist in a profession where our ability to be personable, friendly and generally good human beings is of equal — if not greater — importance than our writing abilities. Fostering good relationships with our colleagues across the industry is therefore a vital part of moving our careers forward.
Fully-funded place available for Take World’s Portugal writing retreat
If you’re looking for a retreat space where you can crack on with your latest creative project, Take World’s upcoming writing and creativity retreat might well be the perfect fit. It runs between November 8th and 13th in the Portuguese town of Sintra, just outside of Lisbon, and is open to all but prioritises women and non-binary people of colour, as well as those from other underrepresented groups.
Author, writer and founder of Take World, Georgina Lawton, will be co-hosting the retreat with the award-winning journalist and editor, Charlie Brinkhurst Cuff; the trip includes talks from leading authors, morning yoga, beach hikes and plenty of writing time.
There’s one fully-funded place for a writer from a lower-income background; make sure to specify on your application if you wish to be considered for this opportunity. Learn more about the retreat and apply here.
Tweet of the week
In the latest bellwether of the state of the media, reports suggest that all of National Geographic’s remaining staff writers have been laid off:
Who to follow
Sustainability authority Karen Edwards took up the post of Sustainability Editor at Wanderlust a few months ago and has since helped launch their first-ever Travel Green List.
Been receiving strange error messages on Twitter? As of this past weekend, Musk has been working hard to encourage those remaining on the death-spiralling platform to jump by limiting the number of tweets unverified accounts will see per day. Is it finally time to leave Twitter? And where should we go instead? Answers on a postcard, please.
If you’re in need of a reason to shout “WHAT THE ACTUAL F” at the top of your lungs, read this controversial article in the New Yorker about why we shouldn’t travel. It has, unsurprisingly, raised more than a few eyebrows.
This is the first newsletter in our networking outside of London series. Become a paid subscriber to receive the rest of this month’s newsletters.