Friday, September 23, 2011

Traveling, Writing and Writing about Traveling

by Pat Gulley

It surprises me how many people, upon hearing that my novel is about a travel agent, wants to know what exotic destination I am writing about. No, a travel agent, not a tour escort. Sure, I know some agents escort their groups, but if it is a land tour they pick up an over all escort from the tour wholesaler or the bus driver is the guide. And even then, in places that have several interesting sites, they have a local guide come on board.

I just got back from Alaska with my kids, and couldn't help 'networking' and met a few people with a group from the Midwest. Ninety people, and yes they had a 'host' with them from the bank that put the group together. No agent, as the bank had a touring and travel department. (It raised an eyebrow for me as most of those departments in companies in my hometown were eliminated decades ago.) So, of course, I had to go meet this person with the title “host”. Took me back years. She was there to see to it that they all got on and off the ship--with luggage, to the included shore excursions, and to make sure that 'thank you cocktail party' went as planned. Needless to say, she was running around the ship a lot taking care of complaints and changes. We met in the shore excursion line, and she got waited on before me and I left her there still arranging. And she did all this while fielding calls from home concerning the next tour the bank was offering a few weeks later to Vermont. Those participants were worried about the weather. And I must admit, I wonder if that tour went considering how hard the hurricanes hit Vermont.

Now, I was on the Princess Sapphire, a huge ship, and I didn’t find one travel agent. Okay, they could have been hiding or keeping a low profile, especially if this was vacation time for them. You’d be shocked how you are questioned once someone finds out you are in the business. But I have cruised and found ‘agents’ acting as hosts.

My book, Downsized To Death, is about a working travel agent and she never leads tours or groups. So, when as I caught sight of that host throughout the rest of the cruise dealing with her ‘charges’, it occurred to me, as a mystery writer, how I could take this situation and write a murder mystery. I didn’t come up with much, I mean, it’s been done to death, all those tours and cruises and someone gets murdered and someone or the escort dives in and discovers the killer. And I don’t even read those things because they inevitably annoy me to no end with all the incorrect things they put in as procedure. I know, most readers don’t know or care about these things, but I do! I once read a story about a shop keeper who booked all the rooms in a small hotel for a group and said she didn’t have to pay until they checked out. ?????? So, even though it was pleasurable thinking about murdering some of those ‘charges’ that the ‘hard working’ host had to deal with, it’s a bust idea, because, as I’ve said, it has been done to death.

PS: all puns intended.


Gina said...

Pat -
That was the small hotel that went out of business during the guests' stay, right?
Seems to me that travel agents have the least fun part of travel to deal with - things we're all becoming more aware of now that we're trying to book flights, etc. on line. Sounds like a good set up for a murder, though, but if it were me being responsible for getting all those people who-knows-where I'd most likely be the one driven to murder.

Jenna said...

I got a tour management certification once. Never used it, though. It's hard to do when you have kids at home. But a great job for someone young and single, or older and single, or whose children are grown and out of the house. And yes, it's overdone in fiction. Maddy Hunter has had a series about a tour escort for years, and at Bouchercon last weekend I met a woman named (I think) Janice Hambrick, who has a new series starting with that same sort of premise. So even if I wanted to write something - and the thought has crossed my mind - it's been done to death.

Patg said...

Gina, even when you are a group participant you meet people you meet people you think need killing.
And Jenna, in the old and married category, I'v heard lots of comments that it does the marriage a world of good when one goes off for a week or so. Especially in the retired set.

Anonymous said...

On vacation I want to know nothing, especially the behind the "know how it works scene". Like electricity I just want to know it will be there when I need it, no necessarily how it got there! :)

Jo P

Norma Huss said...


I guess the worst occupational hazzard to writing what you know is the agents, publishers, reviewers, and even readers who don't know-but think they do. ;-) Am I right or wrong? (Couldn't resist!)

Patg said...

Yes, I had a hard time with both. All wanted to know where the exotic destination was. One even said, 'why don't you have a great tour like my other author........"

Kaye George said...

Thanks for the insights, Pat. Now you know how a doctor feels when everyone at the party starts relating symptoms. :) No one ever wants to know more about computer programming. I have no idea why.

Anonymous said...

I certainly wouldn't want to be in charge of a travel group. Too much work and too many problems in my opinion. No, when I travel, I want to enjoy myself and not wory about others. Gloria