I’ll say this week’s theme in French — succí¨s. This was the first word that came to mind when I contemplated ‘success’ and ‘travel.’ It reminded me of when I started my travel writing career over a dozen years ago. I was in marketing research for a number of years, but grew increasingly dissatisfied with that career path. One day, I realized what I liked to do was travel and tell people about my trips. Following this Eureka moment was the realization that I should become a travel writer.
Not too long after that I met a man at a fundraiser in Provincetown who was the editor of OUT & ABOUT, the premier print-based monthly subscription newsletter at the time. (OUT&ABOUTwas absorbed into PlaneOut, then Here Media and is no longer published.) So, I thought, why not just throw myself on him, metaphorically speaking anyway? I told him that I loved to travel, that I was a good writer, and that I spoke French and Italian. A month later he asked me to write a monthly ‘CityScene’ column about Boston where I was living at the time.
After a few of these he and the publisher offered me my first real assignment and off I went to the South of France with little more than a plane ticket, a rental car reserved, and a few contacts in the tourism community there. No lodging! After a long overnight flight to Nice, there I was on the phone trying to hunt down tourism officials. I connected with one who gave me the name of a hotel that might be interested in hosting a travel writer for a gay publication. I called the name and he invited me and my travel companion — a woman friend from college who also spoke French — to have a coffee with him. No promise of lodging; the day’s getting longer; I’m getting a little nervous.
We met with him, and I guess we charmed him since at the end of the coffee, he offered us two nights hosted accommodations. With breakfast. Succí¨s! My first hosted lodging — all done in French to boot. I called this ‘passing the salon’ test. For each contact we made at a hotel, we were invited for a coffee or glass of wine, and after an hour or so, invariably we were invited to stay the night or have dinner, get a special tour of a vineyard, see a private art collection, or drive in a vintage Peugeot.
For 12 days we toured our way around Provence, passing salon test after salon test, meeting fascinating folks in the travel and hospitality industry — hotel owners, restaurateurs, wine makers, cultural liaison, and on — who imparted the passion and knowledge of their industry and region to us. The article I was assigned to write grew into a major 20-page travel guide that for many years was the definitive gay guide to the area. All in all, un grand succí¨s.