Today, Norm Goldman, Editor of Bookpleasures.com and Sketchandtravel.com is excited to have as our guest, author Samantha Coomber.Samantha, from England, is now based in Hanoi and is a leading specialist on Vietnam. For 15 months off and on she backpacked extensively around Vietnam by herself, exploring places few tourists would dare to venture. Samantha has been involved with the updating and research for Rough Guides Vietnam and two Rough Guides South-east Asia Vietnam sections.
In addition, the Vietnamese Government tourism department, (the VNAT), recruited her to set-up and launch a new monthly tourism/ex-pat magazine-the first and only foreigner in this department.
Samantha has also written entirely the first edition of Insight Pocket City Guidebook to Hanoi and Northern Vietnam and she has updated and edited the fourth edition Luxe Guide Hanoi. Her articles have appeared in National Geographic Traveler and The Australian newspaper.Good day Samantha and thank you for agreeing to participate in our interview. Samantha: My pleasure!
Samantha, when did your passion for writing begin? What keeps you going and what does travel mean to you?
My passion for writing is inextricably intertwined with my passion for travel – that’s how it all came about. Writing and my travels are my two huge passions in life, my raison d’etre, but the writing came later. I have traveled the world for years, experiencing some very exciting trips, such as cruising on a Felucca boat for three days along the Egyptian Nile River, trekking the Nepalese Himalayas, climbing Mount Kota Kinabalu in Malaysian Borneo, white water rafting in Ethiopia and Zimbabwe and sailing round the Whitsunday Islands, Australia.
It did help that I was in the UK travel industry for 14 years, which funded my constant quest to seek new cultures, countries and experiences. During my twenties, I was a holiday guide for UK tour companies based in European summer resorts – in Corfu (Greece) and Spain – plus winter ski resorts in France and Italy. After that, I was based back in London, working for various tour operators in sales and marketing positions taking full advantage of tour industry discounted fares and business trips across the globe.
In fact, I’ve spent most of my money over the years on travel but for my efforts, have acquired trunks of photos and global artifacts, including a scary Zimbabwe papier mach mask, poison darts from Borneo and a Tibetan hand prayer wheel from Nepal! I started writing about my adventures later on, around 1997, still in London. Putting down on paper about my travels helped me cope with a break-up of a long-term relationship. Writing brought a new sense of purpose into my life – that is with me now for the rest of my life.
Do you recommend other travel writers find a niche or specialty? Why and how did you choose Vietnam as your niche? What have been the rewards for you?
Travel writing only became my career once I hit Vietnam, in 1998. And this came purely by accident. Aged 37, I quit my white water rafting marketing job and London apartment and booked a one-way ticket to Australia, via Vietnam and Bali. The plan was two years in Sydney, then back to London.
It has now been seven years away from London, with two years in Sydney and over five years in Vietnam totally unplanned! En-route to Sydney, the one month backpacking trip around Vietnam turned into four months. I fell in love with the country and backpacked across Vietnam by myself, almost turning native. Vietnam so inspired me that I changed all my plans became totally obsessed with the place and started incessantly writing about it and my trav