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Blog Words : Nick Boulos | 14 July

Confessions of a travel writer: diva demands and travel tantrums

"Don't you know who I am?!" This is what happens when the 'glamour' of travel writing goes to your head...

What are the three most magical words in the English language? “I love you”? Nope, not even close. “You've been upgraded.” Forget eternal love, being bumped up is what everyone really dreams about – and travel writers, the smug buggers, get to turn left more than most.

I'm the first to admit that we’re a lucky bunch. Not just for the obvious reason (the opportunity to criss-cross the globe in the name of work) but also because of the way in which we do it, often in levels of luxury far beyond our own means. I've lost count of how many times I've snoozed under a cosy duvet at 39,000ft, stayed in suites in hotels bigger than my flat (a recent one even had its own grand piano), and dined at Michelin-starred restaurants.

But such perks turns some writers into monsters: entitled divas with senses of self-importance so grossly inflated it bears no correlation to their abilities with the written word. These are individuals who no longer appreciate such joyous moments when they do happen but actually come to expect them. I know of journalists and who demand business class flights, bloggers who insist on taxis to and from the airport, and writers who require multiple spa treatments from each hotel. All complimentary, of course.

Of course, such five-star treatment raises serious questions about the ethics of travel writing (an issue we'll save for another blog). It's vital not be blinded by such gestures.
 
We all have ‘Princess moments’ – myself included. There have been times when I've indulged my own inner diva, turning down a trip to Australia because it was in economy with no prospects of an upgrade. But before you chastise me, allow me to explain...

I spend much of my life at altitude (103 flights in a single year being my record so far) and much of that is spent in down the back, cramped, and cranky and sleep deprived. I've become a sort of Jedi master at surviving economy, adopting Cirque du Soleil contortionist moves in a bid to get comfy. But I cannot emphasise enough the need for space and rest when you have articles to write in-flight – and the need to hit the ground running the moment the wheels touch the tarmac at your destination.

Five days in Australia? Yes please. 48 hours in cattle class while hunched over a laptop writing features? No thanks.

So, much to the dismay of the PR, I declined the opportunity of several short days Down Under. That may make me a crazy prima donna but I've got nothing on some of my peers. The stories are legendary: the journalist who made the most of a hotel's free laundry service by packing her living room curtains, and another who emailed the PR in the middle of the night to complain about the 800-thread count sheets in the presidential suite of her glam hotel. Apparently they were “vulgar”. But none come close to the writer who sought the services of a prostitute and expected the PR to pick up the tab. I wonder if he got a receipt.

Worryingly, some writers are as equally badly behaved on home ground. A couple of years ago, I was invited to a rather fancy dinner hosted by a regional Italian tourist board. Some of the most prolific names in the business gathered in a palatial ballroom in Knightsbridge for a feast of salmon followed by, er, salmon (don’t ask). Goodie bags, stocked with treats such as limoncello and small boxes of 'luxury pasta', were, bizarrely, handed out on arrival.

Everybody was having a jolly old time until just before dessert was served. The mood suddenly turned sour when the lady next to me peered into her bag of goodies and casually inspected the much larger box of the same pasta that had been subtly slipped to her by a friend at the tourist board earlier in the evening.

"Where did you get THAT?!" snapped the woman beside her. Let's call her Carol.

Indignant at such an injustice, Carol – a travel writer old enough to know better, with years of experience on major newspapers – was practically foaming at the mouth. “Why have you got a big box of pasta while I have a small one? I want a big box of pasta!” she barked, slamming her fist on the table as everyone else fell silent. “They clearly don't give a damn about impressing me, do they? And I was lured here under the promise of a fine Italian meal and that's not what I've had. It's a disgrace.” Mariah Carey eat your heart out.


Follow Nick on Instagram: @Nick_Boulos

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