Friday 22 March


FREE Opening Night Gala

Tall Tales and True Stories from Travellers around the World

A selection of speakers from our fabulous program will regale you with their amazing travelling tales – you just have to work out which ones are true and which ones are not. Hosted by the Wheeler Centre’s director and star of Randling, Michael Williams.

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Saturday 23 March




Vagabonding – making long term world travel a reality

Interested in travelling the world for two years instead of two weeks? Internationally renowned traveller, trainer, and bestselling author Rolf Potts will talk you through what it takes and answer your questions on the art, ethic, and economics of long-term independent travel.

The World According to a Contemporary Chinese Travel Writer

Travel writing has long been a part of Chinese culture, from Du Huan’s voyages in the 8th century to Yu Qiuyu’s contemporary classics. Now as China is poised to transform the global travel industry, a new wave of Chinese travel writers are documenting and shaping the particular cultural approaches to travel enjoyed by the rising middle class. Join Xu Zhiyuan, one of China’s best-known public intellectuals, prolific author, editor-in-chief of the Chinese edition of Business Weekly and a Financial Times contributor, in conversation with the Wheeler Centre’s Jenny Niven about Chinese tourists’ perceptions of rewarding travel, and his latest book, A Wanderer’s World (一个游荡者的世界), which chronicles his adventures and journeys around the globe.

“I live in Melbourne Now”

Migrant Stories from Africa & Italy in Carlton

In January 2013 ZaLab landed in Melbourne Little Italy to launch a community film project on migration. African and Italian migrants, together with Australians of Somalian, Ethiopian, Italian and Congolese origins, collaborated in an intensive one month workshop on several topics such as the sense of belonging to a country, personal roots, the reception experienced in Australia, the contribution given by the migrant cultures in the “new world” to the constitution of an Australian identity. Members of the project will present the film and talk about their experiences of travelling to Melbourne.



On the French Wine Trail

French author, wine bar owner, TV host and wine educator Olivier Magny talks with Festival director Jacqueline Dutton about how he got “Into Wine” and how it’s taken over his life – literally!



India is “the land of contrasts”, also labeled the land of prayers, confronting, chaotic, shabby, colourful, majestic, timeless, innovative, outdated and even futuristic – perhaps offering a glimpse of our overcrowded planet in the future. But ultimately, can the visitor ‘get’ India through a travel mode that is defined by western conventions and expectations, and by a search for – or denial of – the exotic? And how is the foreigner to report about a place that can never be fully comprehended, without risking patronizing prose or misrepresenting the land and its people? Join award-winning travel writers Christopher Kremmer, Alex Landragin, Claire Scobie and Josiane Behmoiras in conversation about the moral, emotional and cultural complexities of being in and writing about other places.

From Amateur to Professional: What it Takes to Be a Travel Writer

Australian Society of Travel Writers Committee member and photojournalist Sue Gough-Henly hosts afrank discussion with freelance journalists Craig Tansley, get lost magazine editor Justin Jamieson, and newcomer Natasha von Geldern about what it takes to succeed in the business.



Dumb, Drunk and Racist – Does Travel Really Broaden the Mind?

Daily Telegraph journalist Joe Hildebrand went to India with a mission to bring back 4 Indian travellers, who joined him for a racist road-trip documentary across Australia. Joe talks about his experiences and impressions of India, and how Australia looks through Indian eyes with author and journalist Christopher Kremmer, from the Australia India Institute. Watch the TV series here.

From Travel Writer to Novelist

Many travel writers have successfully made the transition from non-fiction to fiction – Paul Theroux, Jonathan Raban, Pico Iyer and Australia’s own Nicolas Rothwell and Susan Kurosawa. Chris Taylor has also taken the plunge, having been a guidebook writer for Lonely Planet all over South-East Asia, a journalist, editorial consultant, and communications expert. He recently published his first novel Harvest Season, a culture-clash story about the travel scene in remote Southwest China. Bringing together hedonists and artists, travellers and locals, Chinese police, government officials and villagers, this novel is one of the most compelling portraits of China’s contradictions and challenges in a regional setting. Find out more about how Chris moved into the fictional mode of storytelling as he talks with Fairfax national film editor Karl Quinn about his experiences and reasons for choosing this genre.

How Byron Bay became a tourist mecca

Byron Bay has not always been a destination for thousands of tourists and a site of schoolies mayhem. Long-time residents Tricia Shantz & Rusty Miller have seen Australia’s most easterly town evolve, and have documented its transformation as co-editors of the free tourist booklet Rusty’s Byron Guide, which celebrates its 30th edition this year. Join Tricia and Rusty for a conversation about how surfing, wellbeing and environmental concerns have shaped the community of Byron today.



Burma – the shape of things to come

In 2012, The New York Times announced Burma was the destination of the moment.  One year on, hotel rooms are full to bursting, tours oversubscribed and the appetite for Burma only growing stronger.  So what shapes this almost insatiable desire for Burma? Is it political curiosity to see what was once secret and forbidden?  Or are we driven by old colonial narratives of grand tours and encounters with the exotic other; a nostalgic yearning for what has been ‘lost’ in time?  How does a country like Burma—only recently opened to the world—cope with the demands of modern travellers?  And when the initial boom is over, what (or who) will mould travel in Burma in the years to come? Simon Westcott leads this timely discussion with Burmese-Canadian-Australian author Michelle Aung Thin, Balloons over Bagan co-owner Brett Melzer, and long-time advocate of mindful travelling in Burma, Lonely Planet co-founder Tony Wheeler.

Debunking the Junket myth – travel journalism and international relations

Fairfax online travel editor, Craig Platt, Get Lost magazine publisher Justin Jamieson and Naked Hungry Traveller online magazine executive editor Tom Neal Tacker discuss how travel media crosses cultural divides while raising awareness about issues of global importance. It’s not just a junket!

Ten Tips for Aspiring Travel Writers

Eight years ago Rob McFarland was an IT consultant who had never been published. Now he’s a full-time travel writer, with seven awards including Australian Society of Travel Writers ‘Travel Writer of the Year’ (2007). Rob shares his top ten tips and tricks on writing, pitching and networking.



Smart Traveller or Reckless Tourist? The Ethics of Travelling Today

How can we engage with and report on travel in meaningful and ethical ways when social media promotes frequent and bold styles of travel, hidden tourist heavens go viral, the climate is changing and native culture is altered and streamlined in a globalized world? Our panel of experts including Rolf Potts, Kris Madden, Tom Neal Tacker, Josiane Behmoiras, Patrick Holland & Alex Landragin discuss the dilemmas confronting the travel writer in the 21st century.

The Capital In The World project

‘Capital in The World’ is a cooperative project between Lonely Planet Italia and Radio Capital, whereby a team is broadcasting live daily from a foreign country. In the span of one week, a group of travelling friends tell their story and share local culture and ways of life with their followers via radio, and social media (twitter and Facebook). The ‘Capital in The World’ team (Angelo Pittro, Tania Beccaceci & Doris Zac) has so far visited Norway, Mexico, Malaysia, Quebec, Iceland, South Africa and Scotland – Australia is next! They will discuss how travel is shaped when a group of friends are driven by a broadcasting project: is this the ideal style of travelling, or does our contemporary obsession with instantaneity, ubiquity and constant ‘sharing’ contradict the idea of dwelling in the ‘here and now’ of the journey?



Sunday 24 March




China Now

How has travelling, living and working in China changed over the last 20 years? And what does it mean to write about China today in a rapidly evolving social, economic and cultural landscape? Xu Zhiyuan and Chris Taylor are both journalists and authors whose writings offer diverse perspectives on China. Find out how they divide their time and their minds between their journalistic jobs and their more poetic pursuits in a discussion that delves into the heart and soul of China now.

Where the Road Ends…

Travel is typically associated with globe-trotting and leisure, but what happens when you stop travelling through foreign places and instead settle down in one? When does a new country’s novelty turns into normalcy? In the recent book Joyful Strains: Making Australia Home (Affirm Press), 27 foreign-born Australian writers discuss their experiences moving here from overseas; in this panel, expat authors Val Colic-Peisker (originally from Croatia), Amy Espeseth (USA) and Michelle Aung Thin (Burma/Canada) will discuss ‘one-way’ travel and its cultural, social and geographical challenges and pleasures. Hosted by Joyful Strains co-editor Ali Lemer (USA).



Travel Dreams Can Come True, but Travel Reality Bites Hard too

Travel can be a highly emotive experience – that’s why we love it! But if things go wrong on the trip of a lifetime, it can really be devastating, not only emotionally, but also financially. This panel of travel experts, including travel agents, airline representatives, and tour companies, talk with Jodie Willmer of Travellers Aid Australia and intrepid traveller Tom Neal Tacker about the potential disconnect between the dreams and reality of travelling. We go behind the scenes of this mysterious industry to uncover the stories that can change our lives for the better – or worse…

South East Asia on a Shoestring – Seventies Style

When Tony Wheeler wrote Lonely Planet’s first-ever shoestring guidebook in 1974, South-East Asia offered ‘cheap and interesting travel without the constantly oppressing misery of some of the less fortunate parts of Asia’. To find out if anything (or everything) had changed Brian Thacker decided to retrace Maureen and Tony Wheeler’s trip using their original South East Asia on a Shoestring guidebook as his only guidebook. Join Brian for a very 1970s slideshow as he takes you on a trip on the banana pancake trail in bell-bottomed pants. Hosted by Tony Wheeler.



Surfing Stories

Surfers are intrepid explorers, in search of the perfect wave, anywhere in the world. Byron legends Rusty Miller and Tricia Shantz, together with Surfaid’s Kirk Willcox and Melbourne author Daniel Ducrou, talk about how they capture their rides in words and images and discuss the dilemma of writing about secret surf spots…

Travels in a Supermodern Age

Patrick Holland (Riding the Trains in Japan) and Maya Ward (The Comfort of Water) talk with Tess Rice (co-publisher at Transit Lounge and recently returned from Burma) about travelling both near and far, and their search for the authentic, the natural, the sacred, and the human, in a world hell bent on rapid economic development.



Travels in Dark Lands

Lonely Planet co-founder Tony Wheeler likes a travel challenge. He thought the “axis of evil” sounded like an interesting one and wrote about his experiences in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and some of George Bush’s other enemy states in Bad Lands. The subject of his new book is the no go zones of Congo DRC, Colombia, Haiti, Nauru, Pakistan, Palestine-Israel, Papua New Guinea and Zimbabwe. Come along to hear about the Dark Lands that usually frighten away the tourists and their travel insurance companies!

Travelling for laughs

Everyone knows that you get some great laughs out of travelling. Whether it’s miscommunication, mayhem, or just the sheer oddity of a situation, when you’re outside your comfort zone, you’ve just gotta laugh. But how do you transpose those hysterical moments onto the page so that others can relive them with you? Join funny men Ben Groundwater (Fairfax’s Globetrotter on a Shoestring @ The Backpacker) & Brian Thacker (Couchsurfing) for some savvy tips and a good belly laugh.



Voluntourism – Good Deeds or Guilt Trips?

Voluntourism is a trend growing in popularity that combines travel with volunteer work. It’s marketed as a good way to experience the world while doing something good for others. So is voluntourism a rite of passage that makes the world a better place or is it a practice that does more damage than good? Join us for the final debate of the festival as we scratch the surface to uncover a complex debate. Chaired by Andy Dawson, Professor of Anthropology & Development Studies at the University of Melbourne.Check out George Dunford’s article on the subject