2019 December Featured Journalist of the Month:Michael Hodgson
Friday, December 13, 2019 05:34 PM

 Michael Hodgson:

Born to British parents in Canada but spending most of my formative years in the United States, I schlepped back and forth across the Atlantic frequently with my mum and dad until heading off to college. In college, I had the opportunity to spend a few months in Kenya and I found myself hooked on discovering cultures, new places, and taking on adventures. Since then, my travels have taken me to all seven continents. As a writer, I have authored more than 16 books and penned many hundreds of feature articles over the years. My travel writing, photography, and videography appears primarily on HITravelTales.com, a website/travel blog I operate in partnership with my wife, Therese Iknoian.


1. What got you in to travel writing?

I love to travel. I love to write. I love to take photographs. And I have been writing, traveling and taking photographs all of my life. After selling a successful outdoor and fitness business news website (snewsnet.com) that I ran in partnership with my wife, Therese Iknoian, I relished the opportunity to focus my creative energies in a business focused wholly on travel, also operated with Therese – HITravelTales.com. 


2. What’s the most challenging part of being a travel journalist for you?

Taking time to simply travel for travel’s sake and putting the camera and notebook away for a bit. 



3. What is one thing [equipment or personal item] you can’t go without on the road?

Equipment would be my computer and camera, naturally. Personal item … any one of our many stuffed animal traveling companions. Seriously! I love taking photos with one of our stuffed animals in it, and they are incredible ambassadors of good will and humor. Therese and I have even had other travelers race back to a hotel room or a parked car to introduce their traveling companions to ours. 


4. What’s your most unusual and/or memorable travel experience?

Several years ago, walking the streets of Buenos Aries with Therese, we took a brief pause to gather our bearings under a tree by the side of a main boulevard. At that moment very large Argentinean bird decided we were ideal targets for a particularly wet and very stinky poop. I got the worst of it, in my hair and all over my shirt and pack.

A couple who were passing by on the sidewalk immediately rushed over to us with eyes very wide. Their English was pretty spotty, and my Spanish was below remedial level, but it became very clear they were there to help. The woman began pulling handfuls of tissues and a water bottle from her purse as she and her male companion began to attempt to clean me off, dousing me with water while dabbing and scrubbing. They kept apologizing, in between increasing giggles, for what the bird had done and making clear we needed to be more careful when standing under trees.

The lesson of the day was not lost on me … travel often brings out the best in people, no matter where you are in the world. That, and without a sense of humor, travel can sometimes turn shitty. 


5. How did you learn about NATJA, and why did you join?

Knew about it through my involvement with the Adventure Travel Trade Association. I’ve always been a believer in professional development and joining professional associations that are relevant to my writing focus. I was a board member and past president of the Outdoor Writers Association of America so know the value of professional associations in helping writers network, discover new places, and continue to develop their craft. 


6. What is the best piece of advice you could give to a rookie travel journalist?

You are only as good as your last article, your last photo. It is not about awards, likes, followers, subscribers or even fans. You have to be confident yet humble. You have to be insatiably curious. And then you have to travel always with an open mind and an eagerness to learn. Travel writing, good travel writing, is about connecting with a place – its rhythms, its people, its culture, its hidden sides – and then sharing that with your readers in a personal, meaningful way that helps them discover it through your words, your photographs. And finally, at the end of the day, you have to remember always this is a business and your words, your photographs are your products. Meaning, you have to be good at selling your products too or you are just writing for yourself.