As we begin the 2020s, I’ve seen discussion about whether this is the start of the decade, or the end. Does the decade start, for example, in 2020 or 2021? There’s a case for it being 2021, based on the fact there was no 0 year! But my dictionary defines it as a “set or series of ten; ten years”, so I’m going to take the position that this is the start of our new one!
Each year I look back on my travels, but it’s instructive to also look back on a decade and reflect on the places I’ve been and the changes and highlights in my life. I’ve certainly made some fairly important changes to my life over the past 10 years, both personally and professionally, and been fortunate to travel to some incredible parts of this planet.
At the start of the past decade, I was living in Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city and one that I love dearly. Travel writing was my full-time profession, as it had been for many years, and I was taking advantage of a life without ties in order to travel and write as much as I could. It was a great year for me professionally, capped by being the recipient of the Jack Butters Memorial Award for Most Outstanding Contribution to the Australian Society of Travel Writers, jointly with my friend and colleague Lee Atkinson, largely for our work as co-editors on the society’s anthology, Best Foot Forward, produced for its 30th anniversary.
During the year, my travels took me, among other places, to Abu Dhabi, the Cook Islands, India, New Zealand, and Laos. In Australia, a highlight was walking the 65km Overland Track in south-west Tasmania.
The new year offered me a new opportunity which – although I did not know it at the time – would have far-reaching effects on my career and life. When another writer was unable to fulfil a commitment to teach at a week-long summer school in New South Wales, a former colleague recommended me as a fill-in tutor. Camp Creative was to become a regular feature of my January calendar for the next five years, and was the start of my love of teaching others my craft. That first year was marred by the news during the week I was there that the heavy rains we were experiencing were causing devastating floods in Brisbane, five hours drive to the north, where my adult daughter and extended family lived. Instead of driving south to Melbourne at the end of the week, I instead turned north to lend a hand where I could for my daughter, whose house had been inundated.
During the year, my book Great Australian Pubs was released, featuring 100 pubs around the country, most of them historic and all of them with interesting tales to tell. A great choice for Father’s Day and Christmas gift, it was hugely popular and soon sold out.
Travel highlights included a cruise on the Patagonian fiords – including rounding Cape Horn during the voyage – and a road trip across the top of Australia along most of the Savannah Way, from Darwin to Cairns.
Early in 2012, I made the decision to move from Melbourne after seven years, returning to Brisbane, where I had previously lived for 18 years. It made sense for many reasons, both personal and financial, and I have never regretted it (despite still missing Melbourne). The move also result in me accepting an offer to work as a casual tutor in the journalism school at the University of Queensland, which cemented my love of teaching and sharing my experience and knowledge with the journalists of the future.
I also launched this blog, which has provided me with an outlet to write without constraint on subjects that interest or concern me. I’ve had my ups and downs, found blogging time-consuming and sometimes frustrating, abandoned it – sometimes for too long – and then come back to it with renewed enthusiasm. I’m grateful to my many readers and followers for supporting it and showing genuine interest in what I write.
Getting settled in Brisbane, I once again became a homeowner, buying a two-bedroom apartment in an inner-city suburb of Brisbane, which I still love. Travelling continued to play a big part in my life, as I juggled it with teaching commitments, managing to add Taiwan, Spain and Fiji to my international destinations this year. I also took an expedition cruise through New Zealand’s Fiordland, visiting Milford Sound for the first time. In Australia, my travel highlight was attending the biennial Laura Dance Festival on Queensland’s Cape York peninsula. A photographer’s dream. More of my travel pictures from 2013 can be seen here.
Some wonderful destinations provided travel highlights this year, including Thailand, Switzerland, England and Ireland. I also published a collection of my work, A Glass Half Full and Other Travel Stories, just in time to sell it at the Corrugated Lines: A Festival of Words in Broome, Western Australia, and the Margaret River Readers & Writers Festival (I was a guest speaker and panellist at both). Later that year, my book was a finalist for Travel Book of the Year at the annual Australian Society of Travel Writers’ awards.
A quiet year for travel saw me take only two international flights. The first, to Singapore, was a fantastic chance to reacquaint myself with this vibrant city-state. In October, Austria called, as the 50th anniversary of the classic movie The Sound of Music was celebrated. I donned a dirndl (not for the first time) and joined other international media to cover this amazing event, getting to meet some of the “real” von Trapp family as well as cast members from the film. There was also a chance to visit some of the movie locations and other parts of Salzburg and Innsbruck.
A great year professionally, in which I decided to further my career by undertaking a professional doctorate at Brisbane’s Queensland University of Technology. After a year of full-time study, I switched to part-time to more effectively juggle my career with my studies, but hope to graduate by the end of 2020, as a Doctor of Creative Industries (Journalism). My thesis title is “Ethical challenges for travel journalists in the digital age”, a topic which I’m finding arouses a great deal of interest. Another highlight of my career in 2016 was winning the Best Travel & Tourism News Story award in the Australian Society of Travel Writers annual awards. Sadly, because of teaching commitments, I wasn’t able to be present at the ASTW convention in South Africa to collect it, but it now sits proudly on display in my office.
I may not have made it to South Africa, but my travels did take me to some incredible places, including one of the most remote places on Earth, Pitcairn Island, home to descendants of the Bounty mutineers. Indeed, I found it had been a “year of islands”. Other travel highlights included my first visit to Finland, and a return to the Solomon Islands.
Travelling one of Australia’s most epic road trips, the Outback Way, which spans more than 3000km across the centre of the continent, was a terrific way to break up the year and one of its highlights. The best time of year to do this trip is winter, so our media group set off in July, travelling for two weeks in 4WD vehicles.
A trip to New Zealand also took me for the first time to Hobbiton, the movie-set for Peter Weir’s classic films The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Combining a personal pilgrimage with some work opportunities, I spent the final months of 2017 and into 2018 travelling in Morocco and Europe. Morocco was a dream destination, but the personal took over in Europe. I had long wanted to visit Poland, specifically to see the World War II prisoner-of-war camp in which my father was interred for several years. Little did I realise when I began a new relationship with a wonderful man early in the year, we would soon be visiting Krakow together to visit his family, and I would find myself achieving that long-held dream.
Belgium, Thailand (twice) and Austria all featured in my travel calendar this year, and after spending much of January in England, it was fabulous to return later in the year to visit the Channel Islands and northern France, on assignment. But my pleasure was dimmed slightly because at that particular time, I would rather have been at home. Just days before I left for Europe, my family welcomed with joy the birth of my first grandchild. Little Ollie has been a constant source of delight ever since, and I am a doting Nana! He’s done a bit of travelling himself in his first year, notching up four countries already!
I’ve already blogged about my travels last year, but there were personal highlights that deserve a mention. In April, my family converged on my mother’s home in New Zealand to celebrate her 90th birthday! What a milestone. We had a wonderful time, with four generations spending Easter together – my sister and I have become grandparents just a few months apart, both with little grandsons to play with, and it was so much fun. My partner Glen and I stayed for two weeks, and managed to get some sightseeing and local touring in while we were there.
In early December, we had family celebrations in Brisbane when my youngest daughter Jess graduated as a Bachelor of Journalism at Griffith University. Her father and I couldn’t be more proud! As anyone who’s ever done it knows, it’s not an easy life studying and working…but she got through it!
And so another decade ends. I wonder where we’ll all be and what we’ll be doing at the end of 2029? Will blogging be a “thing” still, or will we have another platform for sharing stories and thoughts? Whatever the 2020s bring, I’m certain we’ll still be telling stories in one form or other for generations to come, as we always have.
The links in this post will take you to previous blog posts and published work about some places as well as other relevant information. With grateful thanks to the many organisations, hotels, airlines and travel operators who have assisted in my travels over the past decade and beyond.