Helen Ochyra, BA (Hons) Drama and Theatre Studies graduate at Kent, has recently published her new book, Scotland Beyond the Bagpipes. We caught up with Helen to find out more about her time at Kent and her fascinating career in travel writing.
What attracted you to studying at Kent?
I visited the campus on an open day and just fell in love with the setting – that view over the city, cathedral at its centre, still makes me smile every time even now. And I was pretty excited to study somewhere with its own nightclub (I spent a LOT of time in there over the years!).
Where has your career taken you since leaving Kent?
I went travelling immediately after graduation and when I returned, took a job at the Guardian for a few years. I then worked briefly for Rough Guides before going freelance back in 2009. Since then I’ve been a full-time travel journalist and have written for all of the national newspapers, numerous magazines, websites etc. I specialise in writing about travel around the UK in particular, especially now I have two very young children, but have also long specialised in writing about Spain and Australia.
What is your favourite memory of Kent?
Meeting my husband! We met in our very first term and were inseparable by our second year. This year we’ll be celebrating 20 years together, and if we can, we’ll try to visit Canterbury to get a picture of our burgeoning family with that cathedral view.
What is a career highlight of yours?
So far, it has to be publishing my first book, Scotland Beyond the Bagpipes. I’ve seen my name in the newspaper and on TV but nothing beats seeing it on a book jacket!
Congratulations on the publication of your book! Could you tell us a little bit more about the project, and how it came about?
I’ve been visiting Scotland to write travel articles for years and just fell in love with the place! I went on numerous short trips for work but always itched to spend longer there and to go on a proper adventure around the entire country. Having become so fascinated with Scotland, I also went looking for a book that would go a bit deeper into its culture, history and landscapes than the average guidebook and couldn’t find anything. (I think basically I was looking for something like Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island). Since it didn’t exist I decided I would just have to write it! It sat on the back burner for a while but then a huge shift in my personal life happened (my mum died) and I thought “if not now, when?”.
What’s next for you?
I’ve recently completed writing a memoir, which is currently with an agent. I hope I’ll be able to share the publication details soon!
You can keep up to date with Helen via her website, as well as Twitter and Instagram.