Once a civil servant, always a civil servant … so they say. Well, THEY don’t really say that, but Andy and I do blurt it out on a semi-regular basis.
I was reminded of it again when a friend told me my thumb was famous, after being featured in a travel article about the Camino de Santiago in The Times over the weekend.
My thumb, it has to be said, is easily recognisable thanks to a distinctive thumb ring purchased on the Greek island of Symi many years ago. The shot in question involved my hand holding up a Camino passport in front of the church in Tui (the Spanish town not the travel company). As the image was part of a Camino de Santiago package we put together for Slow Travel specialists Inntravel, the image is credited to them rather than me. That’s fine, that’s part of the deal.
Last week, Andy appeared a couple of times in another travel article about Portugal’s Minho in The i online newspaper. That one was a bit more bizarre as the image was credited to someone else entirely but, again, I’d already been paid for it so I’m not sweating it.
Images and sections of text written by us are regularly featured in the UK press. But, since Andy especially stopped pitching travel articles, our names less so. What we do has widespread coverage, yet much of it anonymously. Other travel writers discovering off the beaten track places around Europe using a guide we’ve written is not uncommon. In a way, it’s much the same as when I was a civil servant. I’d regularly write nameless briefings to be used passed on to government ministers, as well as analytical reports relating to things like unemployment & BAME communities in North West England.
About a decade ago, I wrote numerous travel articles for a London-based PR company. Some were for travel and airline companies; others were destined for travel blogs. Some bloggers published these articles under their own names. It was illuminating and occasionally amusing, and it didn’t bother me as I’d been paid for the work, so hey ho.
The legacy of the civil servant background is that you do work to the best of your ability without marketing your own name. We’ve never really lost that approach. We didn’t even put our names on the first guidebook about Tenerife we published.
Marketing ourselves is not a strong point. A combined Scottish and Irish background means we both tend to view self-promotion as a lot of bumming and blowing. There’s a great Spanish phrase for people who blow their own trumpet a lot – no tiene abuela. S/he doesn’t have a grandmother, meaning the braggart being referred to doesn’t have a grannie to boast on their behalf.
But self-promotion is a must in this game, and our lack of being able to do it has definitely proved an obstacle to progress.
Despite that, we’ve reached a point where we are exceedingly happy with what we’ve achieved and where we are currently at. Generally speaking, we do what we want to do, travel to places we really want to experience, and write the sort of things we want to write … even if nobody else knows exactly what we do much of the time.