Brazil : part 1 : as a volunteer

scwc at ChristoI’ve just returned from two weeks in Brazil, in Lonier near Rio de Janeiro.

I was just one of the many volunteers, from lots of different countries, who were at the Street Child World Cup. It was an incredible experience and was a fortnight filled with the highs and lows of emotions and tears of total despair & sadness but also tears of joy.

I learned of Street Child World Cup (SCWC) through one of the co-founders, John Wroe. John and Tim are Swansea Jacks (meaning they support some football team called Swansea City). John’s enthusiasm and total commitment to the SCWC was impossible to resist and when I saw a tweet asking for volunteers for the Comms Team, I leapt at the chance. I didn’t tell John though and, at the volunteers training weekend earlier in the year, when he saw me, his first words were “What are you doing here?” Chuckle, I was warmly welcomed after that. The Wroe family is just wonderful, John and Jo and their two daughters, Alice and Ruby. Yes, I am using superlatives but they deserve every single one . . . and more.

One thing I did find out was that it’s hard work being a volunteer! I was part of the Comms Team and we spent the first few days in the media room, ensuring all was ready for the football tournament. From before breakfast until you went to bed – those people were so dedicated and committed to what they were doing, you happily joined in. On one day, 06.30 was the first meeting and, at the end of another, 22.30 was the last!

Hard work it most definitely was, but with so many pluses. The joy of meeting new people, learning new things, sharing experience and expertise and being part of a team. I cannot properly put into words how exhilarating it was to be a member of a team that was doing something totally for others, to give without wanting anything back, to get so much from it. It was an absolute privilege to work as part of the ‘J’ Team, Jo Clark, Jo-Jo Ellison and Joe Hewitt. Not forgetting, wonderful Ben, amazing Matt, lovely Jo, gorgeous Malachy, Wilf and Alan, beautiful Ben, Becky, Kate and Vicky, Tanzi and Hena, Jessie and Bex, Nick and Paul, Sam and David, someone called Lynn (without an ‘e’) and, and, and . . . . . .

As for the sleeping arrangements; our little room slept five with just enough space between the beds to put your suitcase side on! We five,  Sue, Bev, Ingrid, Lynn without an ‘e’ and me, got on really well, especially as there was only one key for the room. You had to remember to take it to main reception if you were the last one to leave the room – thank goodness we didn’t have too many moments of forgetfulness.

The children, who were in the teams, were amazing. Some of the stories of what they’d been through would break your heart, but that’s for another post.

Brazil volunteers arriving backThis is a photo of some of us arriving back at Heathrow after our 12 hour flight – all looking extremely glamorous, of course. Great timing!  I hope we stay in touch, wonderful friendships were forged.

Would I do it again?  Absolutely!

P.S. Just have to mention the outrageously lovely reception peeps – WonderWoman, Angel and her hubby, Superman.

P.P.S. Not too late to donate and help the street children – it isn’t just for the duration of the Street Child World Cup.





Samoa and falling in love

What country has had this said of it?

“Sheer beauty, so pure that it is difficult to breathe it in”


and of the people,

“The loveliest people in the world, moving and dancing like gods and goddesses, very quietly and mysteriously, and utterly content”

The country is the sacred centre of the Polynesian Islands. The country is Samoa.

The speaker of these words was the talented and tragic Rupert Brooke, who, during World War I, wrote ”The Soldier” (If I should die, think only this of me: That there’s some corner of a foreign field that is forever England.) and Granchester (oh! yet stands the Church clock at ten to three? And is there honey still for tea?)

I visited Samoa this year; it is everything and more that Rupert Brooke said. The islands are still mostly unspoilt, there are smiles and happiness everywhere. It is just like Paradise would be.

Samoa, saturates your senses and soothes your soul.

We travelled around and stayed at different types of places, all local of course.  I’m very much a responsible traveller and like to get close to the local cultures and people whenever possible. So the places we stayed at were all locally owned, the shops we bought from were all local and the places we ate were all local.  That way you know it is benefiting both you and your hosts; you because you learn and experience so much and your hosts because the money exchanged stays local.

IMG_1187I’m not sure whether it was at the airport or when we arrived at The Orator that I knew I’d fallen in love with Samoa. So much beauty, so much care and so many smiles. And . . . pineapples growing in the garden!  And the food, oh dear, all ideas of being good and counting calories went out of the window – delicious!

IMG_1213We marvelled at the beauty all around us and the flowers, so absolutely splendid. We took the bus into Apia town and went out for long walks. I ‘m not exaggerating when I quote Louis Armstrong;

Yes, I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.

Our next stop was at the ferry to the island of Savai’i.  We stayed at La Legoto, which was glorious. Our beach front fale was not made from wood and straw but it was definitely built by locals.  The views were to die for and the sky was blue ~ deep sigh of contentment.


DSC01667IMG_1249I could sit and just look out to sea for hours, so serene, so good for the soul. As with elsewhere, the people were so friendly and so lovely and genuine; the place was, well you can see for yourself, soooooooo easy on the eyes, so stunning; and the food was delicious. The plants and flowers were a joy to behold.  There are tons more IMG_1247superlatives and adjectives I could use, but the word Paradise keeps popping back in my mind.

To be continued . . . .

Sneak thieves and wharf rats in Scotland, rubbing salt into the wound

Forth Coastguard Station

Just when you thought things could not get any worse, the dangerous, and seriously flawed, Government & MCA plans to close eight of our wonderful Coastguard Stations, have been put into action – early!

As announced on the Milford Haven Coastguard page on facebook –

“At 1330 utc the final Maritime safety information broadcast will be sent by the staff at MRCC Forth. On completion of this broadcast all operational responsibility will be passed to MRCC Aberdeen and Forth Coastguard will cease to exist, bringing to an end 109 years of Coastguards being at Fifeness. Safe seas, calm waters and light winds to all.”

Forth Coastguard Station was due to close on the 28th September; big mistake in itself, but to rub the salt into the wound, they sneakily closed it this Friday, 21st September!  Why would they do that?

There are several potential reasons:-

  1. Negligent management by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA), under the ‘guidance’ of Sir Alan Massey. By allowing staffing numbers to become so dangerously low, they could not achieve a full compliment for the shift patterns. To close the station early would hide this appalling situation.
  2. Just three days before the closure, on Tuesday 18th, Sir Alan Massey and Stephen Hammond, Under Secretary of State for Transport Minister, were answering questions, in front of The Scottish Affairs Committee.  Luckily, most of the focus was on the Clyde Coastguard Station with Sir Alan Massey explaining about the pairing between Stornoway & Belfast, although he could not answer a few, very important questions, such as would the exams for the pairing knowledge take place before the closure (Sir Alan stated that you could not go on watch without having passed the exams) and the answer being I hope so! When Sir Alan Massey seemed to be unable to answer a question directly, Stephen Hammond blustered in with patronising quotes he had read since taking over the position from Mike Penning, a few days earlier. You should watch the committee in action to form you own opinions, my opinion is the four Scottish Ministers were thorough in their questions, knowledgeable and credible; whereas, Massey and Hammond did a lot of puffing, postulating and posing, but definitely showed no credibility. How sad. The number of contradictions and mistakes, in what they are saying is pretty incredible, even for politicians!

I am sorry that I did not publish this when I wrote it, I was so angry and upset at this tragedy unfolding that I wanted to continue the post later, but I just can’t.  It is only a matter of time before our coastal jewels become our poisoned chalices!

Oh, and by the way – there was much said about the Forth Coastguard Station closure (all of it against) and so they pretended to have another closure the following Friday, the scheduled date!  Normal service will be resumed when the blood pressure has gone back to normal!

Why the jewels in our crown will become poisoned chalices

I recently published two posts about our wonderful coastal areas – they are magnificent, and magnets to visitors and tourists. As summer is here (well, in theory anyway!), and people are being encouraged not to go abroad for their holidays, our coasts are getting busier and busier.  Visit Britain, quite rightly, spent the not inconsiderable amount of £3 million pounds on a marketing campaign to encourage us all to holiday at home.  A successful campaign it was and is; well, if you ignore the fact that both our Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister are taking holidays abroad. Shame on them, but then, our MPs do not always lead by example – don’t do as I do, do as I say!

What should be good news for the travel and tourism industry will turn into a disaster. It is only a matter of time. We are an island nation, we are a proud nation.  Unfortunately the government doesn’t seem to have the same values of respect, integrity and gratitude as do most of the population of the UK.

When the Transport Minister, Mike Penning, announced the closure of eight of the Coastguard Communication Stations protecting us, there had been no independent risk assessments carried out.  There were no in-depth consultations, to the extent that both the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly have called for risk assessments before implementation. No respect for the professional front-line guys and girls in the coastguard service.  Above all, no consideration for the trawlers, yachts, climbers, bathers, surfers, walkers, locals or tourists, who will be put in danger if these plans go through. It is not that there will be regional centres – the like of which, Mike Penning fought against for the fire service. There will be one national call centre in Fareham (Penning’s Folly) and all emergency calls to the Coastguard will be directed there ~ so where will the local knowledge be?  How will the visitor from abroad, walking along the cliffs of Scotland, be able to say where he is (should an incident occur) to someone the opposite end of the United Kingdom? It’s like the blind leading the blind – absolutely without common sense or reason.

I love my country, that will never be in question, but working in the travel and tourism industry and seeing such a crazy, ill thought-out plan makes me want to cry. And all for the sake of saving a small amount of money, which will probably be spent ten-fold in getting an empty shell of a building up to the standard it needs to be.

Norfolk is where I spent my holidays as a child, stunning countryside and seaside places.  But the Coastguard Station at Yarmouth is one of those being closed down, and the MP, Brandon Lewis (Conservative), has voted for the closure plan!  Why would he do that when there are so many miles of coastline in his constituency? I doubt his constituents realise he thinks it’s okay for Norfolk to lose its Coastguard Station!

There are far more MPs voting against the plans in a survey the CoastguardSOS team carried out; well, from those who deigned to reply anyway.  There are 189 MPs with responsibility for coastal areas and only 14 have voted for the plans, whereas 89 MPs are against the plans. Of the remaining coastal MPs, 13 have ignored the requests and 73 haven’t bothered to answer. Have a look and see what your MP said.

This government is not listening to the  people of the United Kingdom.This government is arrogant and without integrity on how it has handled these Coastguard Station closures.  The Transport Select Committee is now looking into the whole matter again and has invited written new evidence to be submitted on the changes to the Coastguard Service.  I hope to goodness this all-party group will be able to halt plans that will result in fatalities, of that there can be no doubt.

Our travel and tourism industry, both domestic and inbound, would suffer greatly should deaths occur. I am somewhat surprised that the commercial arm of the industry has not spoken out about this.  The tourist boards and town councils all report back (ultimately) to the government …….  I should imagine, if they are aware that the Coastguard personnel had gagging orders put on them, they would not want to rock any boats, so as to speak!

First they want to sell off our forests, our heritage; now they want to take away our safety at sea and by the coast.  What next?

Great Britain’s coast – huge jewels in our crown

Cornwall - with thanks to Andreas Øverland,

Britain has spectacular coastlines, gentle downward gradients to the sea, crumbling coasts into the sea and phenomenally dangerous rocks waiting for the unfortunate and the foolish.  Our coastline is one of our jewels in the crown of this scepter’d isle And, in this glorious travel and tourism industry of ours, we actively encourage people to stay in the UK for their holidays and to visit our seaside towns and villages.

Beachy Head - with thanks to Simon Falvo

Visit Britain is currently running an impressive international ad campaign to entice travellers in other countries to visit us. Great for us to show off how lucky we are to live in such a gorgeous place, on this wondrous planet of ours.

Land's End - with thanks to Bruna Zanelli

When I was young (many moons ago), we always went to the seaside in the school summer holidays.  And, as far as I can remember, we always had a fabulous time. Caravanning in East Runton, near Cromer, Norfolk; staying on a dairy farm in Seaton, South Devon; exploring along the Lincolnshire coast; going across to the Isle of Wight (I can remember writing England on my postcards ‘cos we had gone across the sea!) so many wonderful memories.

Land's End - with thanks to Walks Britain

And when my children were young, we went to these wonderful places again, and many more, Tintagel to visit King Arthur’s castle and Merlin’s cave; St. Michael’s Mount to beat the tide back to the mainland; Lynton and Lynmouth to catch crabs and chase the waves; Hunstanton to run free with kites along the coloured cliffs; Cromer to walk along the planks of the pier and keep a watch for pirates, Happisburg to climb the red and white lighthouse for a better view of the sea pirates; so much fun, so much happiness and such wonderful places.

Exmouth Beach, thanks to Serena FitzGerald, Facebook

The wonder of social networks, is that people respond to questions and pleas for help that you post. I got these wonderful photographs through Facebook and Twitter. Lucky me, all the above were sent. A huge thank you. Co-incidentally, today is St. George’s Day and all these pics are of gorgeous places along the English coast.

Birthday Blessings

Yesterday (Sunday 17th July)  was my birthday, something that happens on an annual basis I know!  I am a very lucky girl as my daughter, Kezia, son, Aleck and grandson, Finlay, spent most of the weekend with me. Friends popped in and the slice of birthday cake was much bigger than it should have been ;-)  I blew out the one candle and we relit it so Finlay could blow it too, to give me extra luck ~ it just keeps on getting better!  My front room is full of flowers, cards and balloons.

I thought I’d write about how the amazing world of technology impacted on the day.  On my mobile, I had some lovely texts from friends.  And I’m lucky enough to have great friends on Twitter and Facebook and that is where the wonder of today’s technology kicks in.  I had birthday greetings from all over the world ~ Samoa, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, United States of America, Brazil, Iceland, Germany, France, Holland, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Spain, Romania, India, Rajasthan, Bhutan, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England :-)

For any of you sitting there reading this and saying ‘So what?’; to me this is still inspiring and the fact that you can also live chat to any of these wonderful countries is wonder-full!  This has only developed in the last few years, something our children and grandchildren will, and do, take as the norm; but something that we older beings had to explore and teach ourselves.

The travel and tourism industry on these social networks is refreshingly open, friendly and sharing.  You can easily see the difference between the bigger companies and organisations who are really talking to people and those who are just paying lip service ~ but that’s for another post!

Thank you to all the lovely people who took the time to send birthday wishes, I am very grateful :-)

Britain’s Best Travel Blogger ~ episode 2

In January 2011 Zoë Dawes, aka The Quirky Traveller, won Travel Titbits’ ‘Britain’s Best Travel Blogger’ competition.  So what, I hear you say! What difference did it make? Well, have a peek!

January – winning Travel Titbit’s Britain’s Best Travel Blogger title!

February: The Lake District with English Lakes Hotels Quirky factor: tiny canon on the jetty which was used to frighten the Victorian guests – and still used today

March: Finland with Mighty Fine Company  Quirky factor: Reindeer Farmer Juhe’s collection of old fishing implements  

April: Chatsworth House with VisitEngland   Quirky factor: House & garden scattered with yellow plastic ducks – Easter hunt!

May: The Isle of Man with Travel Titbits  Quirky factor: the rather vocal Manx Loaghtan goats and learning about ‘The Peggy’ at the Nautical Museum

May: Norwegian Fjords & Waterfalls on Cunard ‘Queen Elizabeth’ Maiden Voyage  Quirky factor: the plaques presented by dignitaries in every port the ship visits and the fabulous Art Deco works around the ship

June: ‘East Byre’ Self-Catering  Cumbria hideaway with Sojourn North  Quirky factor: fresh bread for breakfast from our very own breadmaker

About The Quirky Traveller:      With a quirky take on life and travel, Zoë Dawes writes articles and blogs regularly for various travel organisations around the world. Her TV & Radio programmes have been broadcast far & wide and she gives talks on her travels, aiming to be entertaining, informative and fun.

In 2010 her blog site The Quirky Traveller was voted in the Top 10 Inspirational Travel Blogs (USA Got Saga) and is also in the Klout Top 50 Online Travel Influencers. She is part of Visit Britain’s Super Blog team.  You can find Zoë on Twitter and Facebook.

Zoë has received many invitations to go on adventures and to give talks on Travel Writing & Blogging.  The global exposure has also brought more opportunities of writing.  Zoë has also developed Travel Writing Workshops to share tips and support and she has seen increased website traffic, advertising, sponsors & PR interest.  Zoe has posted an expanded article on The Quirky Traveller.

About Travel Titbits:  By definition Travel Titbits is a pleasing scrap of anything travel inspired. The aim is to list the best travel deals for holidays, hotels, flights and cruises and send out a weekly email of the Top 15 best travel deals around. ( Find Travel Titbits on Twitter too. )  This is complemented with holiday inspiration by featuring articles, tips and advice from travel writers, bloggers and, quite simply, people passionate about travel, from around the world.

January 2011 saw the inaugural annual award forBritain’s Best Travel Blogger. The simple criterion was the winner would be the person whose piece inspired and made you want to visit the place written about.  That person was Zoë!   Since the competition, Travel Titbits has seen an increase in the number of subscribers to its weekly newsletter and a pleasing increase in the number of customers choosing the holidays on offer.

Time and travel

Okay, what happened to the last two months?  I can’t believe it’s March tomorrow!

I just looked up March on Google, and learnt something new (courtesy of Wikipedia)

The name of March comes from ancient Rome, when March was the first month of the year and named Martius after Mars, the Roman god of war. In Rome, where the climate is Mediterranean, March was the first month of spring, a logical point for the beginning of the year as well as the start of the military campaign season. January became the first month of the calendar year either under King Numa Pompilius (c. 713 BC) or under the Decemvirs about 450 BC (Roman writers differ). The numbered year began on March 1 in Russia until the end of the 15th century. Great Britain and its colonies continued to use March 25 until 1752, which was when they ultimately adopted the Gregorian calendar. Many other cultures and religions still celebrate the beginning of the New Year in March.

I didn’t know 1st March was the beginning of the New Year here until 1752 ~ the internet is truly amazing; all the information you could want to know at your fingertips!  History is like travel, the more you delve into it, the more you want.

All you have to do is log onto one of the social media sites and you can share in the travels of many lovely travel bloggers. What a fantastic way to learn about this wonderful planet of ours. I have friends all over the world – I feel truly privileged about that.

Travel is not a right, it’s a privilege.  I saw a tweet this morning from Jo Galloway, who is trekking across the Himalayas soon for charity, this sums up what travellers should be doing :-)

Must order the eco goodies for my Himalaya trek buddies. We want to leave only footprints.

The travel and tourism industry does pay attention to responsible travel, but how much differs greatly. Yes, there are many great people out there, advocating and acting upon making travel responsible. People who inspire. But, there are also many who just pay lip service to it.

Are you a giver or a taker?  Do you take care to ensure your travels will not have a negative impact where you go, or, do you just book to go somewhere and take advantage of being a traveller in a foreign land?

There are no foreign lands. It is the traveller only who is foreign.  Robert Louis Stevenson

And the spotlight is on you!

Last week, I was surprised to see this on my Tweetdeck:

Congratulations for what, I thought? And there it was: Top 25 Online Travel Marketing & PR Influencers. Why was I being congratulated was the first thought, oh my goodness was the second!  There I was at number 4!

One of the reasons I absolutely love what I do, is because you spend your time listening to others, connecting others, helping them stand out, advising when required and, generally, opening doors and making things happen. You are never the ‘I’, you are the one pushing others forwards and revelling in their successes. You’re part of a team of people, in which every single one of you is special and unique and every single one of you has an important role to play. You stand behind, you do not stand out!

Still, sitting there, full of gratitude and wonder, with a huge grin on my face whilst it sank in, was not getting anything done!  I shared the news with my son & daughter and with close friends.

I had started the day with a tweet of : Good morning :-) Definitely a day to believe in the magic of dreams. Mind you, should you adhere to most of the rules and regulations of Twitter, you do not start with a salutation. I have a different opinion here, you would never launch into a conversation without saying good morning/afternoon/evening or hello, so why would you on a social communications site?  If people really don’t like it, they have options!  Twitter is a happy place, a place to meet, greet and grow. A place to build relationships, be they personal or business. So the salutations and ((hugs)) you tweet, take the place of a kiss to the cheeks or a more formal handshake, or, best of all, just a great big hug!

Ha! I digress. I had expected nice e-mails and direct messages back, which I did receive, but they also said, well how are you going to publicise this? What a novel idea, promote myself!  I suppose that is where the British reticence of blowing one’s own trumpet comes to the fore ~ you would never want to be thought of as bragging!

But, I didn’t have to, they did it for me!  That is the power of friendship ~ one of the most beautiful possessions in the world!  Nothing material with the best possessions, people and feelings are what matters. I’m lucky there, I have an enviable group of friends, both old and new, that I love and respect. And that is what twitter is all about, a wonderful community that allows you to make true friends. The lists are produced each week and number one this week is Charles Yap @HotelPRGuy of Intercontinental Hotel Group and I am at number 5, so happy :-)

I have eclectic tastes and sometimes tweet a lot if I get excited and passionate about a subject, but that’s just me and that is what building relationships is all about, being yourself.  Believe in yourself and be yourself, the rest will happen ~ even the spotlight!

Personal Relationships

The PR in thatspr represents personal relationships rather than public relations.

The personal relationships you build with your clients can spill over and you become friends as well.  Great for a working relationship – you trust and respect each other as well as liking each other.  I have been very fortunate here and word of mouth recommendation has been good to me.  Anna Pollock has been a client since 1995 and is also a wonderful friend.  Anna is the person I most admire in the travel and tourism industry.  She has such integrity and is not in the ‘old school network’ that is still around.  What she is, is a woman of her word, a true visionary and someone who was writing papers on subjects, that are now being discussed in 2010, nearly ten years ago!

It’s the same with social media, you connect with someone on twitter, facebook, linked-in and other sites and you begin to build a relationship.  The people you connect with best are those with shared values, interests and aims.  I have met some amazing people through this medium.

Last year, at World Travel Market, I met some of the travel writers and bloggers on twitter and facebook.  What a treat that was, all even nicer than I had thought they would be.  Since then I have met other delightful people and some have turned into true friendships.  The personal relationships you develop have a bearing on your outlook and it is so true about keeping company with those who uplift you.

In two weeks time it is World Travel Market again – I love it!  And I am going to meet so many more travel-lovers this year as well as catching up with old friends.  The people, opportunities, networking and knowledge that make up World Travel Market are not to be found anywhere else.  It is THE event in our industry!

You may not actually see some people from one year to the next but the friendships and comradery are sincere.  The personal relationships are kept alive through the year via social media and the hugs are saved until you see each other again – how wonderful is that?

It is very much like horticulture.  A garden that is well tended, looked after, weeded and loved is the same as a personal relationship – the more you put into it, the more you get out of it!