The seemingly romantic life of a travel writer excites many aspiring journalists. Combining the passions for writing and travel sounds like a job many people can only dream about. You have the chance to experience wild and wonderful cultures in some of the most picturesque countries in the world. To escape the ordinary and make your lifestyle the envy of the masses. All while getting paid to do it!
This sounds amazing, doesn’t it?
Well, travel writing offers all of this, and more. It all depends on the sacrifices you are willing to make, the amount of hard work you are prepared to put in, the way you pick yourself up from failure and of course how far you are prepared to go to follow your passion.
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What you can experience as a travel writer.
Most travel writers start as freelancers and many continue as freelancers throughout their career. As a freelance travel writer, you will need to pay your own way to get to the stories you want to write. That means you will need to go at it backpacker style, on a shoestring budget and rely on strangers’ generosity wherever you can. This can be an awesome adventure or a complete catastrophe. It all depends on how you look at it.
Experiencing new cultures
To become a successful travel writer, you need to open your mind to the many things that travelling in a foreign country offers. Forget about McDonalds – enjoy a local meal. Don’t spend all your money on expensive transport just to enjoy your personal space. Board an overcrowded bus and talk to the locals. Learn and understand what it is like to live in their country. Living like a local and sharing anecdotes from locals in your writing will change a boring “5 Things to see in Vietnam” article into “Experience never before seen Vietnam – eyewitness account!”
Experience the adventure
No one wants to read how you sunbathed on the patio while enjoying a fresh Mai-Tai. You can do that at home. They want to know about the exciting and out-of-the-ordinary activities available. And they need you to experience it for them. Be adventurous. Take a hike into the forest, paddle a kayak down a murky river, climb a few mountains. A thrilling story may be waiting behind each bush, peak or bend.
Become a great photographer
Pictures are important. Very important. Placing a stock image of downtown Bangkok to accompany your article will just not get the attention it deserves. Your readers want to see the snake infused beverage you drank. They want to see the local outback pub where you met a guy that wrestled a 20 foot crock. For them to be able to visualise and really experience your story, they need to see the places and experiences you describe.
This all sounds like great fun, but what about the work?
Writing, writing, writing, writing, editing, rewriting, editing, writing, writing… There are thousands of ways to tell one story, and you need to find the best way. With each story, you need to envision the audience, and tell it the way they want to hear it. You need to understand the media you are pitching to – is it a website, a blog, a magazine, a paper? You need to understand the different styles of each and write according to the rules set for them. Then, you also need to know the specific traits of each individual magazine/blog/newspaper title you pitch your story to. Will the style of your story fit in with the other articles and established columns? All this work is a key part of the life of a travel writer.
Then comes: The Pitch.
Now it is time to put on the marketing hat. You survived a close run in with a tiger in an Indian forest, almost drove off a cliff together with 600 strangers, dodged a few pickpockets here and there and still managed to produce an awesome article about your travels in Asia. You receive an e – mail reply from an editor of a highly esteemed travel magazine, who explains that his in-house journalist just returned from there in a first class flight after living in 5 star luxury to cover the location for the next edition. What do you do? You thank him for his time with and ask about his thoughts of countries you should consider for your next trip. Then you continue to e-mail and phone all your industry contacts to try and connect with the numerous magazine/website/blog/newspaper editors out there.
The business of travel journalism is very competitive. However, there are ways to get you ahead of the pack. It all depends on the sacrifices you are willing to make in order to live the life of a travel writer. It also depends on the amount of hard work you are prepared to put in, the way you pick yourself up from failure and of course how far you are prepared to go to follow your passion.