Zoe Dawes, 56, our latest Fabwoman, followed her dream to leave corporate life and become a travel blogger
I’m a travel writer and blogger, living in NW England on Lancashire – Cumbria border with my teenage son and a couple of cats. Single mum from choice – great friends with my ex, Alex’s dad, who lives in a nearby village. Originally from Southport, I love the Lake District which is on our doorstep and spend a lot of time wandering this beautiful area.
How has life changed for you since you were 50?
It’s changed dramatically and all for the best. I’m finally doing what I wanted to do since I was a little girl – write and travel. Everything is more fun now; I wake up looking forward to each day, never knowing where an email or phone call might take me. Being an older Mum has advantages as I’d already had a lot of adventures when I was younger so I love combining the responsibilities of motherhood with following the dream. My son comes with me on some trips and he seems to like having a Mum who does things differently.
What did you do before starting the Quirky Traveller?
My first job was as an English teacher, having been told at school I couldn’t be a journalist so the only way to combine my love of English with a job was to teach. I left my fiancé and that job after 5 years to go and teach in Greece, as I’d always wanted to live abroad. After 4 years I moved to SE Asia, becoming a training manager for HSBC in Hong Kong and then working for a Public Speaking consultancy in Singapore. On my return to the UK in 1990 I set up Chartwell and, until 2 years ago, was a business coach and trainer specialising in leadership and management for SMEs and entrepreneurs.
What was the inspiration behind ‘Quirky Traveller’?
It was a pure fluke! The recession had hit the coaching business and I had become quite fed up with helping others to fulfil their own dreams and ambitions when I really knew I wasn’t doing the same. I went on Twitter 2.5 years ago and chose the name @quirkytraveller because I didn’t want any connection with my ‘business’ world, I love travel and some people say I’m a bit quirky … I set up a simple Word Press blog just for fun, and wrote a few pieces about my travels. One day an American lady asked me if I could write a blog post for her – I said yes and wrote my very first piece for someone else http://www.wanderingeducators.com/best/traveling/cumbria-chilli-fest-twist.html I then went on a travel writing workshop in London where Dea Birkett and Rory MacLean great writers inspired me to develop my writing skills and see where they took me.
What was the biggest challenge for you in setting it up?
There were 2 main challenges; one practical and the other personal. The practical one was that I had no idea how to make a living from my writing. I was lucky enough to have a client who was a brand designer and he gave me the QT logo. I decided to try a number of different things ….these included running tours & walks in the Lake District, designing products to sell, running writing workshops and giving talks. I didn’t know what, if anything might work and it was all new to me. The other challenge was that I was scared of pursuing my dream – in case it didn’t work out!
Which is the ‘quirkiest’ place you’ve visited so far?
Well, quirky for me, means looking at places, people, things from a different angle http://www.thequirkytraveller.com/quirky-travel/ so everywhere I go I try to find the quirkiness. But a couple of places stand out as quirky in anyone’s book. One is Portmerion in Wales – an Italian-style village on a river estuary which was used as the setting for the 60s cult series ‘The Prisoner’. And abroad it is probably the Gaudi architecture in Barcelona – now that guy was the epitome of quirky!
Becoming Britain’s Best Travel Blogger
What have been the highlights for you?
There have been so many … seeing my first article in print, getting ‘The Quirky Traveller Notebook’ published, going on a cruise on the ‘Queen Elizabeth’ maiden voyage to Norway c/o Cunard … but being chosen as ‘Britain’s Best Travel Blogger’ earlier this year was truly life-changing. Having my writing accepted by others was such a thrill and it’s opened so many doors for me and created great opportunities.
What’s next for you?
I’ve got some great blog trips coming up including a week’s holiday in Majorca with my son – he has to benefit from this too. Then I want to streamline my work so I can concentrate on the writing and hopefully start on a travel book – I don’t know what it will be about yet, but it will definitely be quirky!
What would you say to other women looking to change their lives in their fifties and beyond?
You will know if it is the right time for you so don’t try to force it. Surround yourself with people who want you to succeed, not those who are threatened by you changing. Take every opportunity to do something different, say ‘yes’ more than ‘no’ and, to misquote Susan Jeffers ‘feel the fear and give it a go’ – what have you got to lose?
How would you define being Fab after Fifty?
Happy being yourself, doing what you were put on this earth to do and knowing that things happen when they are meant to …
You can find out more about Zoe’s ‘quirky’ travels at http://www.thequirkytraveller.com/