It was at exactly this time last year, when we would far rather have been at home preparing for Christmas, that we found ourselves hitch-hiking across Hungary. Our travel plans had been subverted by a national train strike. A week or two later we were walking the coast of Belgium in heavy rain. Zeebrugge on a wet December evening, let's face it, does not have instant appeal. Early in the New Year, power cuts in Bohemia left us shivering for hours on a Czech railway platform waiting for a train that did eventually arrive - three hours late.
And you still think you would like to be a travel writer? It is a job that has its downsides. And yet a lot of folk still believe that we drift from one posh hotel to the next. The reality is very different. The truth is that travel plays second fiddle to writing. We spend 90 per cent of our working lives writing and 10 per cent travelling. Take a look at this account of how we spent the first week or two of last month.
Like many editors, we are inundated by texts from unpublished writers who would dearly love to build a career around their enthusiasm for travel rather than writing. But there really are some writers who had their first break with hidden europe. A couple have gone on to greater things.
But for every text we accept we turn down dozens. Literally dozens. Which is sad, as buried away in those rejected texts there is some very fine writing that really deserves to see the light of day. That said, we are still happy to hear from writers who think they may have something to offer for hidden europe. But please, please, do study our submission guidelines before putting pen to paper.
For budding travel writers with time on their hands this month, there is a golden opportunity to make their mark. The British Guild of Travel Writers has a competition for unpublished writers. In 2010 the Guild marks its fiftieth anniversary. The Guild's press coordinator, Sarah Monaghan, says: "The Guild has supported excellence in travel writing for half a century now and we want to celebrate our special year by championing new travel writing talent." The closing date for submissions is 31 December 2009, so get writing. Details on www.bgtw.org.