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Word Travels - Calgary Herald Profiles Julia by Calgary Herald
Calgary Herald Profiles Julia
by Calgary Herald / Published February 9 2008

So you want to be a travel writer . . .

OLN's Word Travels looks at life on the road

Yvonne Jeffery, Calgary Herald
Published: Saturday, February 09, 2008

Julia Dimon's resume reads like an adventure novel -- except that it's real. Just 27, the Toronto-based travel writer has hiked with silverback gorillas in Uganda, snorkelled with whale sharks in Mozambique, climbed to the top of China's Great Wall, slept among lions and hyenas in Tanzania and spear-fished in Zanzibar.

Now, she's co-hosting Word Travels. The Outdoor Life Network's new 13-episode TV series treks along with Dimon and self-styled "modern gonzo" journalist Robin Esrock as they chase possible travel stories from Bolivia to Jordan to Dubai.

"It's exciting," admits Dimon, who's already spent a year backpacking solo around the world (you'll find her online at "The highs for me are just the ability to travel and to meet different people from all walks of life and religions and cultures."

It sounds pretty good -- but before you pack your bags and e-mail your boss, you need to know the flip side.

"Travel writing is notoriously one of the most underpaid professions," Dimon says. "I guess the perks are so amazing that I've been able to say that money isn't a priority at this time of my life. I feel like I'm living life and getting the best of what the world has to offer . . . but the money is becoming more of a problem as I get older."

Especially as thoughts of family and stability begin to creep in. For now, however, she's loving what she's doing and it shows. Even after an intense, insect-laden trek through a Venezuelan rainforest, she's still game to try the elusive moriche worm, a local delicacy. While Dimon was slogging through thigh-high mud, Esrock chose to swim with dolphins, rappel down a canyon and catch a piranha dinner. The split is typical of the two, as Dimon searches out the quirky and the cultural, and Esrock goes for edgy, risk-taking adventure.

"As soon as I started to see more of the world, (I realized) there are things you can't ignore," she says. "I care more about the world than I ever did -- I feel that it's important for me to say something beyond 'here's a cool place to eat, or shop.' I try to write as much as possible about ethics and some of the things I've encountered while I'm travelling."

Dimon says she gravitates to destinations off the beaten track and to stories that are youth-based and, increasingly, female-based. Having covered everything from the hip-hop scene in Tanzania to youth squatting in Amsterdam, she clearly connects with the subjects of her stories and videos.

"I think my age works for me," she says. "When you're asking people who are your peers questions, they're more willing to open up . . . (and) I think it's just being genuinely interested and open and honest, and keen to learn. People like to share their lives."

She and Esrock met in the small Turkish town of Koycegiz when they were on separate trips. They kept in touch, and Esrock approached her last year with the TV show idea. You can catch the result on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. and in reruns through the week (check Watch for rich photography and a real-life approach to the road, including broken planes, wonky Internet access, posh hotels, not-so-posh backpacker hostels and story deadlines that can't be missed.

Oh, and the worm? Dimon says it tastes like pulp. Just in case you're tempted to join her.

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