Dave Fox is the founder of Globejotter Tours, and the author of Getting Lost: Mishaps of an Accidental Nomad and Globejotting: How to Write Extraordinary Travel Journals (and still have time to enjoy your trip!) He lives in Seattle, Washington. Dave took a few minutes to answer a some questions about Globejotter’s tours which incorporate writing into each trip. Once you’re finished reading Part 1 here you can follow up with Part 2 on my other website, Travel Blog Advice.
Also, if you’d like to join Dave on his next tour to Vietnam and happen to mention you heard about it from foXnoMad or Travel Blog Advice, you’ll receive a $200 discount.
What is the idea behind Globejotter Tours?
We’re different from other tour companies in that all of our tours include a series of journaling and travel writing classes along the way. We explore foreign cultures and learn to write about our travels as we go. Some of the people on our trips are journaling for themselves, and want to learn how to write more lively and meaningful travel diaries. Others want to write more polished travel tales they can share on blogs or publish in books or magazines.
Our emphasis is always on the journey — getting out and exploring, absorbing as much of the local culture as possible. We’re careful to not let the writing classes overshadow the overall travel experience. If you spend too much time writing during your trip, you miss out on other experiences, so I teach people how to journal more efficiently, and I teach techniques that enhance not only their writing, but their overall travels, by helping them be more aware of their surroundings.
Our groups are small compared to most tour companies – never more than 12 participants on a trip. The main reason for that is to maintain high-quality writing lessons, but this comes with the added bonus that we can be spontaneous and find cultural experiences you won’t have in a larger group. On our recent Botswana writing safari, for example, we stopped at a village that had never been visited by tourists before. An elderly chief invited us to sit down with him under a tree. He told us all about his life and how the tribe’s lifestyle is changing due to environmental issues. It was a fascinating chat, and it was completely unplanned. We could never do that sort of thing with a big busload of tourists.
On our Vietnam tours, we include a fair amount of free time. You need that in order to get out and find your own unique stories. We hit some sightseeing highlights as a group and get people oriented in each place to help them feel comfortable wandering on their own. Then, we give them time to go discover their own travel tales. It makes for fun conversations when we get back together for writing sessions or group meals.
What style of writing do you focus on?
Travel storytelling. Every tour begins with a crash course in how to write a great travel journal, and how to collect the details in that journal that you need to create exciting travel tales. From there, we move on to crafting a compelling story.
To some extent, it’s up to each person what sort of writing they want to work on. We get people with a wide range of skill levels, from beginning journalers to experienced freelancers. I schedule one-on-one time with each of them, both during the trip and afterward (via e-mail, phone, or Skype), to help them focus on their individual writing goals. If people are journaling for themselves, we work with techniques they can use not only on the journey in progress but in future travels as well. If they want to get published, I help them fine-tune their stories and we talk about the professional side of travel writing. If anyone wants to work with a different genre – fiction or travel journalism, for example – they’re welcome to. We don’t cover those things in the classes, but I’m happy to help them during our one-on-one time.
How are the tours organized and kept entertaining?
Our primary focus is always on diving as deep as we can into the cultures we visit. In each new place, we start out with an orientation walk, some sightseeing highlights, and usually a group meal at a fun, local restaurant. From there, it varies from tour to tour.
On our upcoming Vietnam trip, we’ll take motorboats out to floating markets in the Mekong River. We’ll have a morning to run around in some sand dunes, and maybe organize an evening bike ride to a local fishing village. We’re also going to have a half-day cooking school. We’ll tour a village market with a local chef to learn how to shop for the freshest ingredients. Then we’ll head back to a special kitchen where everyone will cook their own lunch.
The African safaris are a little different. We can’t offer as much free time for safety reasons. We don’t want anyone to get trampled by wildebeest or munched on by lions. So we’re together as a group more, but we have some fantastic local game experts who take us on game drives. On our recent Botswana trip, we also met a group of Kalahari Bushmen. They showed us how they survive out in the desert and taught us some of their games. And we taught them how to play Frisbee. The Frisbee game happened almost by accident. We were having a lot of fun learning a spear-throwing game that they play and I wanted to offer something in return. I suddenly remembered I had a Frisbee in my backpack. The cool thing about it was that their lives were as different from ours as anyone’s could be, but we connected in spite of the cultural differences and language barriers.
Then, there are the writing classes. We have a class roughly once every two days. Whenever possible, we have the classes someplace fun so people don’t feel cooped up inside. In Vietnam, we’ll have a class as we cruise down the Mekong River on a private boat, and another on the beach along the South China Sea.
These really are trips for independent-minded travelers – the sort of traveler who might not normally take a tour. Anyone who needs their hand held 24 hours a day, or can’t carry their own bag, or needs a chocolate on their pillow at night, probably won’t like what we do. The group dynamic is important. We encourage people to be laid back and spontaneous, and we have more fun together that way.
You can catch up a bit more with Dave and learn where the tours go, some misconceptions about travel writing, and his advice for travel bloggers in Part 2 on Travel Blog Advice. Thanks Dave!