Changing Direction after 40
Looking back over 2020 through a haze of mixed emotions, it would be difficult to find a less auspicious date for launching a brand new business. Friday, March 13th was the final working day of a week in which my career as a travel writer disappeared without any warning.
One by one, the lights went out in every ski resort in the Northern Hemisphere and the ski season came to an abrupt halt six weeks ahead of schedule.
As the first lockdown loomed, you didn’t have to be an astrologer to realise that It wasn’t just skiing that was being affected.
For the foreseeable future, opportunities for international travel were drying up faster than a puddle in the Sahara – and with them, my income.
MY USUAL JOB
All my outlets for freelance writing in national newspapers and magazines simply disappeared in the course of that single week. I had made a comfortable living from writing about skiing.
I guess it is – or was – called making a living out of what you like doing.
Of course, it’s not the same as being on holiday, but my job involved skiing for much of the winter and writing about it during the rest of the year. I also wrote about other travel destinations as well – everything from beaches to city breaks and safaris.
Looking back, I was somehow shrewd enough to appreciate the enormity of the change that was coming about and had no choice but to embrace it.
A Google trawl showed me that podcasts are now the no.1 advertising medium in the United States, with 37% of Americans listening to at least one episode that month. But hugely important in creating a travel podcast ¬– together with my husband – we would be our own publishers, free from the whims and financial restrictions of print and online media editors.
So we launched Action Packed Travel. Each week I’d listened to my two favourite podcasts, History Hit and The Creative Penn, but on longer journeys, there had been a couple of riveting plays. It’s like listening to the radio, but better because you can choose exactly what to listen to and when.
DO YOU NEED EXPERIENCE?
A great idea, maybe. Where to begin?
I had no broadcasting experience, although my husband had a little. I’m not particularly technically minded, so I sounded out a friend who had recently started her own podcast. She gave me a list of what I needed to make a start.
The first was to sign up with a podcast hosting platform like Buzzsprout, which would distribute the finished episode to Spotify, Apple and all the other apps. She also recommended an editing system and a cheap microphone. I quickly discovered that to get taken seriously by the podcasting community, I also needed a website with show notes of each episode.
WHAT TO BUY
We invested in a modestly priced, but professional recorder and a couple of inexpensive mics – in the current circumstances we needed a two-metre lead for guest interviews. The first interview was a chat with a friend who has a Guinness World Record for skiing around the world on 365 consecutive days.
We topped and tailed it with our voices, and added original music performed by two of our children.
DESIGN AND DOMAINS
You can’t have a podcast without a cover. So I chose the name – Action Packed Travel – and planned the design I wanted on Canva.com. I could have created the entire artwork there for free but didn’t feel adept enough at that stage.
My podcaster friend recommended Fiverr, a website where you find web designers and illustrators from around the world at really competitive prices. I chose an illustrator from Hong Kong whose style I liked.
Then I bought the domain name, actionpackedtravel.com and commissioned a low-budget website from a man in Mumbai. He specialised in creating websites for podcasters and linked my Buzzsprout page to it.
THE WONDERS OF ZOOM
My idea was to record an episode each week from a different destination, but with lockdown this proved impossible. Zoom became a lifeline.
Each week we recorded interviews with friends and then friends-of-friends, each of whom you might describe as travellers extraordinaire. One was a best-selling crime writer, another had flown a hot-air balloon over Everest, and a local couple from Winchester had pedalled across South East Asia.
GOING ON LOCATION
In the period between lockdowns, we went on location and put together an episode about Winchester, another about the most expensive seaside property in the world (Sandbanks), and episodes about Stonehenge, and Wookey Hole for Halloween.
Making a live episode is a lot more fun than recording one on Zoom, but you do have the added problems of background noise and weather. The wind is not good! The most popular episode so far is one about extreme fly-fishing and for that, we interviewed a man on the banks of the river Anton at Andover. Positive background noises such as a burbling brook, seagulls, or church bells can often be an asset.
Buzzsprout has a community on Facebook and it’s an amazing place for discovering more about podcasting. So if you are thinking about starting your own, don’t hold back. You can make one about almost anything. It could be targeted at friends or family, a small business in need of exposure, or an author wanting to expand his or her audience.
After our first 40 weeks, Action Packed Travel has listeners in 52 countries. Yes, they’re mainly in the UK and USA, Germany, Australia and France, but also such unexpected destinations as Ukraine, Qatar, Panama, Serbia and the Seychelles.
It seems that as one career faded through no fault of my own, I’ve found another that I thoroughly enjoy.
Read more about Felice and the rest of the HER Hampshire team, here.
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