The argument for free time on press trips
Many of my trips abroad, solo or in groups, feature lots of meetings and packed itineraries. Present across almost all of them is a desire to pack things in.
Fair enough, ultimately. I’m visiting to work, after all, with people paying for me to be there. Those same people therefore have a right to my time and, quite reasonably, want me to see as much of their destination as possible. This might be due to their pride over it. It could be a desire to make sure I have the maximum amount of material for articles. Or it might be to pander to as many stakeholders or friends as possible; something which looks good on reports.
What frequently tends to be lacking in these itineraries is free time. I crave this for two reasons: firstly, because I have weekly jobs such as this very Roxhill column to fulfil, and secondly because it allows me to have more authentic, instinctive experiences.
Ultimately, a travel article involves the writer telling other would-be travellers (i.e. readers) what to expect. As such, the closer that travel writer’s experience can be to the one the reader might potentially have, the better. Given those would-be travellers aren’t going to have dinner with the hotel owner, or visit a wine-maker, new treehouse camp and history museum inside one afternoon, it can quickly become harder to relate my trip to their potential one — meaning that any chance I have for more natural, more feasible exploration becomes invaluable.
I appreciate that free time is a challenge for those arranging press-trip itineraries – less definitely doesn’t feel like more. Leaving big periods of space, or simply allocating longer per activity may seem wasteful, and over-indulgent. It might just make for a much better, much more successful article, though.
What Richard thinks…
“It’s not every week someone suggests I go looking for giant slugs in Montenegro”