Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Interview with a Travel Writer...Lola Akinmade.

Today we talk with travel writer Lola Akinmade who's work has appeared in Brave New Traveler, Matador Travel, The Traveler's Notebook, Transitions Abroad, and Black Travel. Lola also volunteers as a photojournalist for World Hope International.

Hi Lola and welcome to Write To Travel. Thanks for stopping by for a chat.

1. Did you always want to be a writer? How did you get started in writing?

Actually, I thought I’d end up a geologist. My love for the geosciences ultimately fueled an undying love of travel and global curiosity at a very young age. By fifteen, I’d written about 25 fictional stories shared only with those within my sphere. Those stories explored relationships, marriages and travel experiences well beyond my years. My young mind had been left to fully create and explore. Alas! ending up in very scientific field as a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) consultant meant my travel writing became more technical in its delivery.

Somewhere in the fifteen years since then, creative writing slipped beneath technical writing. Some may see technicality as a limitation when it comes to writing. I see it as a sweet double-pot of expertise (creativity and technicality) I can pull from as needed.

2. What do you consider your first "break" as a travel writer?

In 2002, reading the line “Congratulations!” in a letter I’d received from Eco-Challenge – the World’s premier expedition racing event at that time kicked off my foray into travel writing. Chosen as one of a few volunteers to work the event for three weeks in Fiji, my main task involved reporting as a field/web journalist. We tracked the teams through jungle and on high seas, wrote up press releases and team spotlight articles, conducted interviews as well as wrote up travel narratives about beautiful Fiji which were published on a daily basis. Ever since, I’d written sporadically about experiences from Pamplona to Poland.

Until one day, I stumbled across a budding community called Matador Travel….

3. What advice would you give to someone who wants to break into writing?

The breadth and depth of superb travel writing out there can both inspire and discourage you. Know your limitations and be confident in what you do know. As a consultant during the day, networking is crucial to my career. This crossover trait into travel writing has proven to be exceedingly beneficial in a short time span. And yes!.many successful travel writers do keep their day jobs.

Be realistic in your expectations. Millions of people who just got back from that great trip and blogged about it want to try travel writing. Millions of people with great DSLR cameras want to be travel photographers. Everyone wants to get paid to do what they love.

How do you stand apart from the crowd? That is your challenge.

4. What do you see as the future for travel writers in the printed media and online?

For aspiring travel writers, online publishing is helping them stand apart from the crowd. I think it’s wonderful that great writers can beat the Catch-22 need-experience-before-we-publish-you vibe that a lot of established print magazines effervesce out there. Travel writing is no longer becoming this exclusive club for the privileged few.

5. Which travel writers and/or travel books have influenced you?

My well of inspirational sources is bottomless. From the established like Theroux, Leffel, Potts, Watson, Halliday, etc to the up-and-coming like Tim Patterson, Eva Holland, and Julie Schwietert inspire me. No, I wasn’t paid to plug their names.

Jack Kerouac will always have a place in my heart for keeping my attention span with every single line.

6. As a writer and traveler, what are the biggest challenges you face on the road?

I love travelling as a minority. Being able to seamlessly move because people automatically assume I’m a local impoverished immigrant allows me to observe and immerse without sticking out like a sore thumb in some places. I get to experience the true attitudes of locals towards others very different from them – both great and bad.

I have experienced everything from utmost rejection to gawks of fascination that a lot of bright-eyed backpackers could never endure. It is at the low times I question the purpose of travel and then Mark Twain’s quote always comes to mind….“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."…… Mark Twain

By the way, check out The 50 Most Inspiring Travel Quotes of All Time.

7. Finally, what is your favorite place and why?

Having explored over thirty (30) countries and counting, the madness, intensity, audacity, traffic jams and the unexpected of Lagos, Nigeria makes it my favorite place in the world – home.

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