Here in the northern hemisphere, January is often the month that many people start to think about their summer holidays. This is usually because the holiday companies have been bombarding us with adverts on the television since 2 minutes past midnight on Boxing Day.
For those students tackling assignment 6, it also makes them think about that most prized published article - the travel piece.
Ask anyone to describe the job of a travel writer, and most will probably mention a jet setting lifestyle, being sent to all four corners of the globe on an all expenses paid trip to lounge on an idyllic beach somewhere, sipping cocktails served by a beautiful waitress/ handsome waiter whilst watching a golden sun being reflected in the crystal clear waters of an azure coloured sea.
Yeah right - if you happen to get the commission from Conde Nast Traveller magazine you might be sent to the destination, but chat to any travel writer and the lounging bit is a complete piece of fiction. Most 'press organised' travel trips are non-stop shuttle buses, with journalists queuing up to interview selected interviewees before being shuttled off to the next destination.
But you don't have to travel far to be a travel writer. Look at what is on your own doorstep. Remember, your home destination is a tourist destination to somebody else. I've written travel articles about my own home town, and I've written about my county town Shrewsbury. Did I do much travelling to get to Shrewsbury to do my market research? No, I drove up the road and picked up the park and ride service. Not exactly international jet setting, but that doesn't matter. I sold the article to The Lady.
Editors are looking for something different. Your local attraction may be just that. One of my students, Jacki Hartley, recently wrote her travel piece about a trip she undertook to London. Now London is done to death as a tourist attraction, but Jacki chose a more unusual and different angle. She ignored the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament, and Buckingham Palace. She wrote about the guided tour around Highgate Cemetery! (hence my earlier 'done to death' comment!)
It was interesting to read, she laced it with lots of interesting facts and let's face it, when asked what would you like to go and see in London, Highgate Cemetery would not be near the top of the list would it?
It's always tempting to look outside our own home environment when thinking about travel. But sometimes it can be just as interesting to stay local and look at everything through the eyes of a tourist. One student even wrote a travel piece for their local county magazine, reminding local residents about the exciting venues on their very own doorstep. The phrase 'staycation' is being bandied about at the moment by the media and means staying at home for your holiday this year because the credit crunch means people can't afford to travel far.
So don't let your itchy feet take you too far away for assignment 6. Travel writing is about the destination, not how far the writer had to travel to get there.