I’m a journalist, travel writer, editor and copywriter based in Melbourne, Australia. I write pacy travel features, edit edifying websites and fashion flamboyant copy. My articles and photographs have appeared in publications worldwide, from inflight to interior design: I’ve visited every continent, and have lived in three. Want to work together? Drop me a line… 

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Winner: ASTW Travel Writer of the Year!

I am so very, very, very pleased to tell you that I have been named Travel Writer of the Year 2023 by the Australian Society of Travel Writers (ASTW)!

The ASTW made the announcement at its awards ceremony in Sydney this weekend, a glittering occasion (not least because I decided to emulate a human mirrorball for the evening). It was one of three awards I received:

  • Best accommodation story; for my review of The Benev spa hotel in Beechworth, in Victoria’s High Country
  • The Jack Butters Award for outstanding contribution to the ASTW; and, of course,
  • Travel Writer of the Year 2023.

The Travel Writer of the Year entry requires submission of three features; I took a turn off the beaten path to include my solo travel in Saudi Arabia for Traveller.com.au, another women-only travel in Islamic countries, for the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age and a third story on journeying through the Malaysian state of Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, for Gourmet Traveller magazine.

The Jack Butters Award is named after the first president of the ASTW, and recognises outstanding service to the ASTW. It’s a tricky one to talk about without sounding boastful – I organise the Victorian events for the ASTW, and in the past have managed its social media, encourage networking and connection within the industry and generally get my hands mucky on the job. I am very proud of this award, as it requires nomination from fellow members. So, thank you to those who thought of me at this time.

I send thanks to my editors, particularly Craig Platt for going out on a limb and running my women-in-Saudi piece on traveller.com.au, and for Anthony Dennis for seeing the need for a cover story on women-only travel in Islamic countries in the Sydney Morning Herald. Neither can be described mainstream topics. And sending thanks to Sarah Maguire, editor of the Explore section of Aust Community Media/Canberra Times/ Newcastle Herald, for indulging my love of raw linen and bush fragrances of The Benev in Beechworth.

I’m equally thankful for the sponsors who make such travel, especially Experience AlUla in Saudi Arabia, North East Tourism here in Victoria, Tourism Malaysia and the countless people who have helped and guided me on my years of travels in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia.

Thanks also to the sponsors for each award – Virgin Australia who sponsors the Travel Writer of the Year award, and the lovely Victorian company Lancemore Hotels, who sponsored of the accommodation award, and finally, the ASTW itself and in particular, its board and awards committee. Without the ASTW, I would not have the friendships, the connections, the support and encouragement of the many, many talented people in its ranks.

And to end, here are the links for each piece:

Solo woman’s travel in Saudi Arabia – https://www.smh.com.au/traveller/inspiration/visiting-saudia-arabia-as-a-woman-i-went-to-the-notoriously-sexist-country-as-a-solo-female-tourist-20220705-h24v9q.html

Women-only travel in Islamic countries – https://www.smh.com.au/traveller/inspiration/travel-guide-for-women-travellers-in-the-middle-east-tips-and-advice-20220624-h24nad.html

Lore of the jungle: adventuring in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo – https://www.magzter.com/de/stories/travel/Gourmet-Traveller/LORE-OF-THE-JUNGLE

Slow road to a blissful state: The Benev, Beechworth, Australia – https://www.exploretravel.com.au/story/8124768/slow-road-to-a-blissful-state/


Women in Saudi Arabia

Until late 2019, I could not visit Saudi Arabia as a solo, female traveller. Only business visa holders and religious pilgrims could visit Saudi Arabia, and even then, as a woman, I would have needed to be accompanied by a male guardian. Living in Egypt in the late noughties, my father had passed away, I was unmarried and neither of my brothers wanted to visit Saudi Arabia. It remained one of a few countries I had not visited in the Middle East, yet with an all-pervasive influence in the region’s economy, politics and societal expectations, there was a Saudi-sized gap in my understanding of the region.

Then, just before COVID closed the world down, Saudi Arabia threw out its own rule book, and brought in e-visas for independent travellers, issued online and almost on the spot.

I am so proud of this story, published in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age (Melbourne) newspapers, about my adventures in the Saudi city of Jeddah and the AlUla oasis, up toward the Jordanian border. To read more about travelling as a woman, and meeting the women of Saudi Arabia, click on the link below.

https://www.traveller.com.au/visiting-saudia-arabia-as-a-woman-i-went-to-the-notoriously-sexist-country-as-a-solo-female-tourist-h24v9q

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 


The rise of women-only tours in Islamic countries

Coming to you – most appropriately – from Cairo today, I’m sharing my latest story about the rise of women-only tours in the Middle East and surrounds.

When talking about travel in Islamic countries, top of the list of reasons why people refuse to visit is the treatment of women: the lack of access to education and financial independence, enforced dress mandates or the “guardianship” laws and customs that in extreme cases reduce women to the legal standing of a child. There’s also the fear of being ignored, duped or even groped.

Yet to avoid the region would be – in my opinion – to miss out on some of the world’s most lavish ancient civilisations and rich modern cultures.

Click here to read my cover story in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers, in Australia.


Global Salsa

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