It’s happened again! I’ve said many times that the guidebook and travel writers we meet here at Adventure Travel Guidebooks are often way more interesting than the destinations we cover. Marie Cleland absolutely proves that! I began following Marie on Twitter a while back and found her tweets to be very captivating, and it steered me to her website. There, I knew I had found a serious adventurer and just had to find out more.
Marie grew up in
Marie grew up in New Zealand and studied Egyptian history and archaeology at university with dreams of becoming a female Indiana Jones, though her first trip to Egypt brought on a new affliction: wanderlust, which it turns out we both have in common. Fast forward a few years to London, England, and she’s now a travel writer pursuing story leads in Eastern Europe and adventures off the beaten track, contributing to a variety of publications from inflight magazines with massive readerships to niche consumer titles. Not one to shy away from eclectic pursuits, between snowboarding, horse-riding, diving, trekking, and the odd half marathon she can also be found knitting tea-cozies, raising caterpillars, and grappling with her 1940s Leica camera.
Marie, how did you get started in the travel writing business? Was it a passion or did you just fall into it?
I’ve always traveled and been passionate about exploring new places, but although I did a degree in Egyptian archaeology, I went on to work in magazine publishing as a career. After a few years as a staff writer, assistant editor, and sub-editor, I decided to go freelance and that’s when I got into travel magazines. It was a natural fit and a step towards my ultimate goal – working for National Geographic magazine.
When preparing for an article, how do you determine what information to include? Is there a favorite formula or outline that you follow, or is it different for each assignment?
It changes with each assignment. When prepping, I put a lot of thought into what makes the story timely, and relevant to the readership. I focus on the elements that can best tell the story of that place/person, and that make for the most interesting reading. Sometimes these factors are dictated by the editor’s brief, but otherwise, it’s about drawing on the experience and my own interests as a reader, to create what I hope is a compelling copy.
What was the most fun article you’ve ever written? What made this one stand out?
That’s a tough one! I’ve done a lot of fun stories, and they all stand out for different reasons. Snowboarding in France for EasyJet Traveller got me onto the slopes, which I love. The Italian eco-winery for Ryanair magazine was pretty indulgent and allowed me to spend time with a wonderful family. Then again, driving around Slovenia in a blizzard and sampling amazing wine (not at once, of course!) was pretty cool, too.
Tell us more about “Red Sea Diving”? That seemed like a time you had to really stretch your boundaries to do the story.
Actually, if you hadn’t asked me this, I would have put this at the top for question number three! It was a case of “feel the fear and do it anyway” with the diving. And it really paid off. Having access to such an incredible realm that only a fraction of the world’s population will ever experience is a huge privilege. Diving can be a truly peaceful activity if you allow yourself to relax and enjoy it, as well as undertaking it safely and responsibly. The training seemed a bit intense, and the gear awkward, but once I qualified, and sunk below the surface, I felt like it was a place I really belonged – and didn’t want to leave!
Are there 2 or 3 memorable adventures that you can recommend to our followers?
Only three? OK. Number 1: Ice-climbing in the Cordillera Blanca in Peru. A fun challenge at 6,000m (almost 20,000ft) altitude and also an incredibly beautiful landscape. Adventure Number 2: Trekking the Milford Track in the South Island of New Zealand. The beauty of the terrain took my breath away (or was it the steep hills?). Number 3: Exploring the hill-tribe villages of Thailand, staying in huts, meeting the fascinating villagers, and seeing snakes in the wild.
What has been your most favorite travel “adventure” you’ve had that you haven’t written about?
In January I had a once-in-a-lifetime adventure trekking with a little group into a remote forest in Guatemala. It was real Indiana Jones stuff. A lost Mayan city. Vampire bats. Artifacts littering the forest floor. Jaguars roaming around the camp. Nuff said. (Go to Flores in the north of Guatemala, and find the Los Amigos hostel – amigos hostel and then ask them to organize a group for you to go to El Mirador. It’s a two-day walk to get to the site, and only about 1,000 people do it each year.