October 13, 2007

Society of Spirit

The Australian Society of Travel Writers (ASTW) is a unique group of people who are incredibly talented, very intelligent and almost without exception full of generosity.

Two years ago it was suggested to me that I join the ASTW, and I was encouraged to come along to a few functions as a guest of some more established members. At the time I didn't realise what a lift-up I was getting for my career, or my personal confidence.

ASTW is full of writers, photographers and public relations people, but it's not just about mingling and networking. Anyone who picks travel journalism as a career is kissing away the opportunity to earn lots of money in favour of living a lifestyle that is less rigid and more expansive. These are real people making real connections, it's not about money.

These are also people who want to broaden their minds, most certainly where the journos are concerned. Most of the public relations members fit a similar mould, it's just that they have found a balance between travel and paying off debt. Most of them still get it, they still understand what a travel writers life is like and what they need to survive.

But the real gem that lies discretely hidden under the logo of the ASTW is the sheer kindness of the journos. Editors, staffers and freelancers who welcome new-people, share their experiences and help each other along the way. It's easy for freelancers to fall into a mode of competing with the world, but that's not the norm inside the ASTW. These are old souls, people who have varied experiences and have learned that you get more flies with honey than vinegar.

It's not easy getting into the ASTW, that is true. But the bar has been set to a standard that ensures only those who are dedicated can join. And dedication is what characterises the ASTW.

I was lucky to have the support of many members before I joined, and even more since. Last weekend I even won their award for Travel Photographer of the Year. As grateful and honoured as I am for being chosen, I also know that my selection says more about the ASTW than it does me. I wouldn't have been in a position to enter the awards if not for the spirit of ASTW members - past and present, old and new.

Thanks ASTW, you've made me proud.

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