Thursday, September 11, 2008

"Here's yet another American venturing into the world."

My heart beat a little faster after reading my first blog criticism, below. I get to moderate the comments and thought this was worthwhile to publish and respond to as its own entry. I do not know the person who posted the comment.

Jacinto has left a new comment on your post "Karen's Observations after One Week in Sao Paulo, ...":

Your reactions to Brazil after a week sound more like reactions to your own provincianism. Here's yet another American venturing into the world. Shocked that nobody wears baseball caps or speaks English. The best was when you realized that Spanish and Portuguese are indeed different languages. I wonder what insight, as a travel journalist, you will provide on Brazil and other countries. I can't wait!

Hello Jacinto,
Thank you for reading and responding to my blog. Yes, you are right - my observations (not reactions) are just that:superficial, first-impressions that I thought might be helpful, in a very general way, for others who have never ventured to Brazil. I did not express shock at the differences, just noted them.

Jacinto, I wonder if you are Brazilian? On the topic of language, many Brazilians here and in the U.S. have indicated that they do indeed understand Spanish.

I look forward to sharing insights as I get to know people better.

Farewell Sao Paulo, Hello Rio! Karen in transit on Sept. 11, 2008

Today's Magic Number is EIGHT!

8 Hours - number of hours I am waiting (still) in Sao Paulo airport to fly to Rio.

8 Nights - number of nights I spent at Green Place Flat in Sao Paulo, Brazil, before leaving today.

8 p.m. - Time my flight departs for Rio. It is only an hour, 15 min. flight.
It's strange to be in an airport all day on September 11. I have paid silent tribute to the many victims who died that day. Many were just travelers boarding another airplane to go to their destination...

Karen tries to make her luggage look smaller by crouching down next to it before she left her hotel room in Sao Paulo, Thursday morning.

Call it procrastination or spontaneity, but I thought it would be fun and exciting to show up at the airport at noon today and fly stand-by to Rio. From online research, I knew the flight should cost about $100 reales. At the airport, I went to three airline desks and was quoted $300-$600 for a ticket. I was told it would be cheaper to book on the Internet. So I did. The one flight that was a reasonable price departed at 8 p.m.

Good news: With 8 hours to kill, I have been hanging out all day at a lovely rooftop cafe here at the airport. It has a cityscape view, fresh breeze, decent food and kind waiters. Due to one language mishap, I am now on my fourth bottle of water con gas. Best of all, there are no booming airline announcements broadcast up here.

Flavia Frangetto and I struck up a conversation today at the airport cafe after she and her companion borrowed my flash drive. Here, she displays her doctoral thesis! Flavia is a lawyer and getting her doctorate in environmental law. She is especially interested in global warming issues.

I have been thinking about how much time I have spent on the computer so far this trip. A little weird to be so wired and connected. Today, my technology helped me make an old-fashioned face-to-face connection here at the airport cafe. A gentleman approached me seeing that I was using my Apple laptop, and asked if he could borrow my zip drive. He was sitting at a table next to me and I said sure. When he returned it soon after, I gave him my business card (tireless networker that I am). Turns out he is a professor of environmental studies. After he left, the woman who shared his table came over and introduced herself. And that led to a wonderful conversation with a brilliant and beautiful woman from Sao Paulo, Flavia Frangetto.

Going to go check in now! I have too much luggage! The plan is to stay at a hostel in Rio; I have arranged my reservation online and plan to meet a driver at the airport in Rio. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

So You Want to Be a Freelance Travel Writer? Being you own boss means managing your marketing, sales, technology and networking strategies - in addition to world travel!

Motivated by questions I received from travel tour operators and fellow media at the recent Adventure Travel Trade Association here in Brazil as well as my conversation with Brazil-based freelance writer Marilyn Diggs (see earlier blog entry) I offer the following for those who want to be a freelance travel writer.

Tools of the Trade - Websites, associations and tips I have found useful during my 12 years as a freelance journalist specializing in adventure travel.

You need a website 100% dedicated to promoting yourself as a professional writer
1. Your website is your portfolio and a primary sales tool; don't combine it with another industry you are involved in. Your website should showcase samples of your best writing rather than ALL of your writing.
2. Include a photo gallery if you plan to sell your photos.
3. Hire a professional website designer. The results are often more polished than using your own template. However, templates have improved tremendously and design your own if you are so inclined - and offer good web templates.
4. Promote your website. Hand out business cards with your site on them, include a live link to your site on your email signature, include it in your published stories and feature it on your online profile at various online networking sites. Also, highlight it in your newsletter.

Consider adding to your writer's website:
1. A blog (short for web log, an online journal); I use
2. Newsletter - I use Constant Contact.
3. Photo Gallery - I use

Create free profiles on online networking and Social Media
1. Linked In
2. Plaxo
3. Hi5
4. Redroom (for authors)

Combined Social/Professional Online networking:
1. Facebook
2. MySpace
3. Twitter

Read industry news and writers' updates online:

Use Press Release Sources

Join professional organizations and associations. I belong to these professional and recreational groups - some of which have strict requirements for media credentials.
1. ASJA member
2. ATTA member
3. BATW member
4. OIWC member
5. ACA member
6. USA Cycling member

Online Travel Networks
5. Trav Buddy
6. AdventureUS
7. Chicable

Good luck!

Here's food for thought
from the Writer's Newsletter The Written Road:
Excerpt from Rolf Pott's interview of Matt Gross, who writes the Frugal Traveler column for the New York Times travel section.

Q: What advice and/or warnings would you give to someone who is considering going into travel writing?

A: Go into travel before you go into travel writing. You should know how to cross a land border, book plane tickets in a language you don't speak and befriend the old lady who squints evilly from the second-story window at everyone who passes by. In other words, if you're just after paid vacations, then you're going to have a tough time. But if you're willing to put aside your ego, embrace the unknown and endure crushing poverty, then you might have a shot.

Q: What is the biggest reward of life as a travel writer?

A: Duh: getting to travel!

Read the full story on Rolf Potts' Vagabonding website:

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Karen's Observations after One Week in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Lunch is the big, sit-down meal in Brazil.
Dinner is sometimes just soup and sandwiches.
Dinner Time: 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. is when I have dined on weekends and weeknights in packed restaurants. The average dinner time? Still not sure - Late! Been going to sleep about 1 a.m. nightly.
Breakfast is light.
Vegetarian WARNING - menus often revolve around meat and starch. Yesterday, I noticed I had rice, pasta and potatoes on my plate. I try to eat fish when available. Food is frequently too salty for my taste.
Favorite meals: casual, self-serve lunch buffets. Price determined by weight of the plate.
Beverages: Sparkling water. I have tried some exotic and delicious fruit drinks and of course, the powerful cocktail made with sugar cane, caipirinha.
Best dessert: Besides dark chocolate, I like "milk pudding," a custard which tastes like flan. Pudim de leite, as it is called, is made from condensed milk.

I have not yet figured this out: At a live music/restaurant place last Friday night, I was asked to pay a fee to the musicians - on the way out, at the end of the evening. (So was everyone else.) I was confused. Seemed the idea was to pay the cover charge at the end of the night?

Women: wear tight, straight-legged jeans (no matter what body type), spike heels and plunging necklines for casual-wear. Long hair. Work apparel is far more conservative. Leather shoes and purses.
Men: Leather shoes, short hair, clean shaven, dress slacks and casual jackets. No grunge look!
Unlike the USA: Only a few baseball caps here and there. Very few hats of any kind for that matter. Sunglasses are not as prevalent here either. The sporty, urban-chic, yoga-class look seems to be absent; perhaps it remains in the gym? Soccer jerseys are popular.

Horrendous. Just as everyone warned. The snarl of cars leads to horrible smog.

I have not noticed anyone commuting by bike. I have seen adults riding bikes in parks for exercise.

I have been surprised by how few people speak any English. After about 16 cab rides, I have found only one driver who spoke some English; another could speak Spanish quite well. Most of the front desk at this large, high-rise hotel can not speak English; same with restaurant staff.

My speaking Spanish has not helped much. I can read Portuguese somewhat but its pronunciation is quite different than Spanish. Portuguese sounds very soft and swishy; there are many "shhh" sounding words and long vowels as in Saaaaoooo Paaaauloooo. The overall effect is a language largely without the staccato beat of consonants.

PEOPLE Despite language barriers, I have encountered friendly, helpful people in Brazil who are patient with my not speaking Portuguese!

QUESTION: What is adventure travel? ANSWER: Leaving your hotel room!

Today, I plunged into the dangerous streets of Sao Paulo. I have been repeatedly warned by locals and visitors alike that downtown S.P. is swarming with criminals* ready to rip off my jewelry, money, camera and other valuables. But for me, adventure travel is all about risk, even if that just means leaving my hotel room.

The biggest danger I faced so far was going nuts from working long, solitary hours at in my hotel room at Green Place Flat. Sunday and Monday, I have been holed up tackling projects related to the wonderful Adventure Travel Trade Association South American Summit (which was Wed.-Sunday). It's been a wild ride:
* Sorting through piles of business cards and tour company materials from the conference.
* Uploading photos, catching up on email, posting updates and entering data.

A visit to Ibirapuera Park was the perfect break from the city bustle. More on the park, below.

I've spent seven nights at this hotel and am now buddies with desk clerks Renato, Ishmael and Arturo. I will leave Sao Paulo this Thursday. Where to? I am thinking Rio and the Amazon, not sure yet. My mountain bike tour in Peru with Sacred Rides starts Sept. 27 in Lima ...

Today's Highlights:
1. Marilyn Diggs - I found Marilyn online, by accident, through one of my favorite writer's websites, I noticed that she lived in Sao Paulo and was an American, an accomplished writer and painter. We exchanged emails and she generously offered travel advice on Sao Paulo and Brazil in general. She has been here 20 years. I accepted her kind invitation to meet her today and will write more about that fun encounter.
Marilyn Diggs, an American writer and artist, has been a resident of Brazil for 20 years, She invited me to her home today in the neighborhood she called "the Manhattan of Sao Paulo."

2. Ibirapuera Park - This oasis of calm in the traffic-choked city of Sao Paulo was just the boost I needed. Like San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, Ibirapuera Park houses several prominent city museums. Thanks to Marilyn's recommendation, I visited the Afro-Brazilian museum, which was Smithsonian- quality (top notch!). I watched the runners and cyclists do their afternoon workouts and sat by the lake watching the black geese. I also had a delicious buffet lunch at a restaurant in the park and was thrilled to find leafy greens there!

3. Money - At last, a cash infusion! Big thanks to the one Citibank ATM in Brazil that was in the mood to accept my ATM card. Til now, I survived on cash loans from conference friends.

4. Shipped stuff to California - The only crime I encountered was the outrageous cost of shipping a backpack of my surplus stuff (mostly clothes) to the U.S. I also sent my cell phone since it is useless here and would be expensive to replace if stolen. Part of the reason for the $$$ was DHL had to send it 4 days express mail - they did not have any other options. Given my investment in time and money to get to this shop, I decided it was worthwhile to send the stuff so I don't have to schlep business clothes with me through the rainforest and the Andes.

* CRIME REPORT: Despite dire warnings, during my first day as a solo female visitor in Sao Paulo, I did not feel unsafe in the business district or at the park. I was home before dark. I kept a close eye on my purse, walked with purpose, did not pull out a map and was pleased when I was addressed in Portuguese. I took care not to wear my camera around my neck, a backpack or beltpouch which might indicate "tourist."

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Karen's Presentation on Media Panel at ATTA South American Summit

COMING SOON ON THIS BLOG: How You Can Get Media Coverage - Notes from Karen's ATTA SUMMIT Presentation

Karen reminds the audience that everyone has a story to tell - in print, online, in video and photos! The best way to get media coverage is to pitch a story that is new, seasonal, celebrity-based or a specific topic like food or yoga. Photo credit: Ana Laura Araya,

Just to make sure the audience is awake and listening, Karen asks them questions about their company websites. Karen reminds the audience that everyone has a story to tell - in print, online, in video and photos!
Photo credit: Ana Laura Araya

Co-speakers on the Saturday media panel, "Beyond the Press Release" were Nancy Harrison, of ATMS, Adventure Travel Media Source, a media news service, and Kiko Nogueira, editor of Abril, in Brazil.
Photo credit: Ana Laura Araya,

Free trip to Brazil! Timo Shaw of Country Walkers wins drawing at ATTA South American Summit in Sao Paulo

Timo wins big! His upcoming free trip to Brazil does NOT include a visit with these two beautiful women, who were working at the Adventure Sports Fair. The fair took place in the same venue as our summit.

Timo Shaw, president of Country Walkers, landed the grand prize Saturday night at the Adventure Travel Trade Association South American Summit - a free trip to Brazil. I am jealous! This transplanted New Zealander who recently moved to Waterbury, Vermont, from Seattle, Washington, has a wonderful sense of humor and kept many of us laughing all weekend. Congratulations, Timo!