Pembroke Coast UK



Mt. Whitney California



Dartmoor Moonrise UK



Kings Canyon National Park USA



Western Desert, Egypt







‘Brân [gives] a warts and all explanation of journalism and one of the most accurate I have heard from any lecturer (or journalist) … The course is certainly inspiring but tempered with a heavy dose of realism. Nobody who takes it will go into the travel writing world with anything other than their eyes wide open.’

Times Higher Education Supplement, 16 August 2002



Excerpt from a lecture given at Nottingham Trent University - November 2005

Some years ago, at a meeting with my then publishers, Lonely Planet Journeys, a young, but senior staff member, bounded up to me and after mentioning that he’d not read ‘After Yugoslavia’ or ‘Enduring Cuba’, asked if they were ‘girl’ books. Recovering my composure I asked what he meant by a ‘girl book’.
"Oh you know, the kind of book where you’re searching for yourself, deep meaningful stuff, emotions, coming to terms with yourself and all that kind of thing."
I managed to reply, "I can’t speak for all ‘girls’ but I certainly don't travel to find myself and if I did I wouldn't expect other people to find it interesting. If I wanted to travel to experience myself, I would probably go on the tube to see a psychotherapist."

Ludicrous as that exchange was, it did subsequently make me think about the many ways in which travel can be written. It also made me think about my own attitude to travel writing. For many writers and readers, the kind of travel book that this publisher described is a perfectly valid genre. When I began writing professionally 10 years ago I did actually write travel books that were mostly about myself … not I have to say in any meaningful, emotional sense, but about me moving around a country. This was largely because I didn't know what else to write; I had very little concept then of the weeks and months of research, networking, contact-making, negotiations and meetings with Embassies, NGO’s, and individuals and families in this or that town. I recall wondering why Norman Lewis’ A Dragon Apparent was so very different in every way to A Phoenix Rising. Apart from the fact of Lewis being a gifted and compassionate writer I realised that he had CONTACTS and that that was what brought his books alive.

As a teacher of travel writing I often use my own early writing as examples of how it should NOT be done, comparing for e.g. A Phoenix Rising with AY for example. All reading is subjective of course, but I’m always faintly horrified when some students – and there are always a few! – prefer A Phoenix Rising to After Yugoslavia. Subjective, subjective all is subjective. One Amazon reader’s review of Enduring Cuba is entitled ‘Enduring this book’! At a particular travel nadir in far eastern Cuba, despairing that I could ever write a book about somewhere where it rained constantly and the food was ullage, I consoled myself by reading Colin Thubron’s wonderful In Siberia. If he could write so marvellously about such a terrible place, surely I should be able to write about Cuba which is a paradise in comparison?

The full text of this talk can be found in the journal ‘Studies in Travel Writing', 10 (2006): 161-8




Zoë studied Travel Photography with Grace Lau. Photography has been an important aspect of Zoë's journalism for several years as she illustrates her own articles.

Between 2003 and 2005, Zoë taught Travel Journalism and Photography at the City Literary Institute with Grace Lau.

Zoe has a large collection of photographs of Burma, India, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, California, Cuba. She also specialises in coastal and island images from the UK, including Celtic and Pictish stone circle and burial sites from Orkney, Angelsey, the north-east of Scotland, Devon and Cornwall.


For further information about Zoë's collection or to purchase selected images, see Contact link