The Adventures of Travel Writers in Croatia

For my session two at DIS Stockholm, I am doing Travel Writing, and I can honestly say Lola Akinmade Åkerström, our instructor for the course and an award-winning travel writer and photographer, is my new favorite person. 

The DIS staff are all quite friendly, so they always spark conversations with me, and one question they frequently ask is, “what course are you doing for session two.” When I say travel writing, they get excited. “With Lola,” they ask, and I always respond with a nonchalant “yes.” They then sing her praise and share how jealous they are that I get to work with her.

I had never seen someone so universally loved and admired, which led to me setting high expectations for her. The bar I set for Lola was in the sky, and she gracefully, without dropping a sweat, leaped over it to the stars. She silenced any doubt I had in the praises she received. 

In classes, we discussed different travel writing articles and videos Lola and other writers produced. These writing pieces center around the topics we are tackling that day, such as avoiding cliches, weaving in characters, structuring your writing, finding the perfect story, and pitching to editorials. Each topic and our three writing assignments cater to cultivating our creative voices and improving our writing skills; the aim is to tell stories and share experiences that will allow our audience to feel our emotions and see our vision through our words.

Some may say it is egotistical that we spend three hours each day reading and critiquing her work, but honestly, it is inspiring. It is magical witnessing her words, creative eye, and ability to know she is talented without acknowledging it. It’s at the point where we no longer see her as an instructor but as Lola. For us, she is to travel writing as Beyonce is to music and to teaching as Zendaya is to acting. She is so inspiring and talented that calling her by her first name alone holds so much weight. 

Each class session, I leave feeling like I, too, can publish for CNN, National Geographic, or New York Times, and with the writing tips, tricks, and guidance she provides, I believe that one day I will.

As a travel writer, Lola knows the best writing pieces come from surrendering yourself to the culture of the country you’re visiting, making our study tour the best travel experience I have ever encountered. For the study tour, we went to Croatia; it was a mixture of luxury and budget-friendly cultural travel. 

Our first stop was the island of Split, where we stayed in a Hostel, and as far as hostels go, it exceeded my expectations. In Split, we toured historical sites to get an insight into how the island came to be and local markets to see what Croatians eat and produce and to meet with the local farmers. Plus, we had dinner at a five-star restaurant with a Michelin chef. Why? Because that is the type of high-class living you experience when you hang with Lola.

From there, we took a ferry to the island of Hvar. The heat of the tropical climate attacked us as we stepped off the ferry. However, Lola helped us forget about that as she does what she does best, treating us to lunch at another five-star restaurant. We then had a guided tour of Hvar. The next day we visited castes, learned the cultural use and importance of lavender to Croatians, experienced farm-to-table dining, and had a wine tasting before heading to Dubrovnik. 

In Dubrovnik, we toured the Old Town, saw the filming sites for the HBO hit series Game of Thrones, and walked the city walls built to protect the town from enemy invaders. Our time in Dubrovnik ended with another farm-to-table dining where we harvested our food, visited the farm animals, milked cows, and cooked alongside the locals.

From this study tour, we learned how Croatian history impacts their way of life and how to formulate travel writing pieces that showcase how to maximize budget-friendly and luxury travel to achieve this level of insight and appreciation into Croatian culture and people. 

In class, we all joke that our study tour was like a vacation because it did not feel like school. However, that is what Lola does. She makes learning fun, and through the historical tours, dining experiences, hands-on cultural interactions, and in-class lessons, she has equipped us to cultivate travel writing pieces that will tell the story of Croatia and how it has inspired us and improved our creative writing and storytelling skills.

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