Sunday, 25 January 2009

#77 – Make the most of your own knowledge

Or selling common sense to where it isn’t common sense.

As a travel writer, I am something of an all-rounder rather than a specialist. I know some places quite well (and Australia very well), but I’d hardly call myself an expert on anything. This doesn’t mean that some of my editors don’t think I’m an expert, however.

Australian knowledge
I sell a lot about Australia to Australian publications, but there are also publications in the UK that will come to me as an expert on Oz. I’m not really that knowledgeable, but my knowledge of the country is vastly superior to that of most people (including the editors). I might not have the absolute inside line, but it’s good enough for the purposes.

Budget airlines in Europe
Similarly, I write a lot about Europe for Australian publications. And a lot of what I’m doing seems like common sense to me. For example, I’ve just done a piece on budget airlines in Europe and where to look for the cheapest flights. Many Europeans will already know this – but not many Australians do.

Common sense?
The same applies to pieces I’ve done on the vagaries of the British train system. Most people in Britain know to book trains online in advance or face exorbitant prices. Aussies don’t, however. What may seem common sense here isn’t common sense there. I don’t need to be an expert on the UK rail network – the basics that I do know are enough to make me SEEM like an expert through Australian eyes.

Applied logic
This is a logic that can easily be applied elsewhere. Americans probably don’t know the best ways to find cheap car hire in the UK. New Zealanders probably don’t know anything about budget airlines in Canada. South Africans probably have zero knowledge about getting good value taxi fares in Dubai. A local in each of those destinations can easily appear to be an expert by explaining what is common knowledge in their home town, but a mystery on the other side of the world.

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