... a dreamer, freelance writer, massage therapist, naturopath, mother & drop-out social work student living, working and writing in the Blue Mountains. When not occupied with the real world, she writes fantasy.
You might be a college graduate or perhaps you're a parent looking at earning some additional money from home. Maybe you simply love travel or have started a blog. Either way, you've come to this page because you like the idea of writing about your travels and getting paid for it.
Once I'd had a few travel stories published I found myself often asked how to get into the 'world' of travel writing. For sure, it does feel like another world: one many of us would like to visit, perhaps stay in, and learn all about.
I should point out, I am only an occasional travel writer. Indeed, I know few people who are full time freelance travel writers – although I can confirm these mysterious and envied creatures do exist, primarily as full-time employees of travel departments in magazines, newspapers and websites.
The web is chocked with tips on travel writing. Perhaps you've already taken a look. The level of advice you need depends on where you're at in your journey to travel writing – thus there's no 'one-size-fits-all' answer. You may be a skilled writer with a few courses already under your belt. Alternatively, your last piece of submitted writing may have been a year 12 essay.
For those starting out, here's some brief, basic tips.
- Do a travel writing course. This will teach you everything you need to know much more quickly than driving yourself insane trying to glean the goods from multiple websites. To choose the right travel writing course, make sure it's one that teaches you how to pitch your story ideas to travel editors with an intriguing story angle, follow up the inevitable silences and rejections, study and get to know your publications and write appropriately for them. You can't learn the detail and depth of knowledge you need from a conversation with me (or anyone else for that matter), but you can from a travel writing course.
- Travel. There's no story if you haven't been anywhere. However, you can write about your own town and its surrounds. Many writers find success with this. After all, they know the place well and all its secret treasures. So don't be held back by the thought you must travel to expensive and exotic destinations.
- Focus your story on the less known. When you travel look out for stories that haven't been done to death. For example, when I traveled to Moorea I decided not to write about fabulous overwater bungalows and 5-star resorts, but about the fact a scientific project – the first of its kind in the world – had been undertaken to catalogue every living creature on the island. Okay, so I did also pitch ideas to editors about snorkeling and dreamy lagoons, but I didn't get anywhere with that. Which kind of proves my point.
- Join a writers' forum or social group. This will help you learn more and more about the wonderful world of travel writing. It will aid you in making the contacts you need to make. Give back and you'll receive.
Besides that, no-one else (except maybe God) will understand what you're going through and it gives you someone to occasionally talk to about your writing work besides the cat while you're sticking it out for hours on the computer alone.
DESIRABLE: - Skill up on your photography. Many editors favour writers who can also provide good images of the destination.
- A good book. Purchase a comprehensive book on the subject. This will be invaluable in terms of explaining additional concepts the course might not cover. I personally recommend "The Travel Writers Handbook" which a good friend bought me, which just goes to show even published travel writers still have a lot to learn.
A trip to Vietnam led to a story in Traveller, Sydney Morning Herald.
That said, when people ask me about travel writing, I think they're actually asking something quite different and specific. They want to know how 'I' actually got into the world of travel writing.
So here goes!
Okay, it's a cliché, but I'd always adored writing since the age I could – well, write. I dreamed of having my name on the cover of books and would read Thesaurus and the Dictionary for fun. And, now we've got that cliché out of the way, let's move on to how I got into travel writing.
If I'm totally honest, it was a travel writing course that paved the way. While talent and skill at crafting a story is essential, without a map there's no way through the gate. Of course, you might stumble lost along the route and somehow find your way in, but just think how much time a map saves you. A course (albeit the right one) will provide a dedicated map. The best map is drawn by someone who has already battled the terrain and knows the destination well. So make sure your teacher is a veteran of the industry.
Prior to that I'd been a regular contributor to Weekend Notes website, writing articles about things to do on the weekends such as local festivals, gardens, walks, restaurants and events and occasional interstate and overseas travels. This helped me hone my writing and gave me some material to show prospective editors I had some kind of writing history. Moreover, it gave me a chance to write, engage with readers, learn about web writing and be paid something for it. I still enjoy writing for Weekend Notes.
With the knowledge I'd gained from the course I started pitching travel ideas to editors, submitting completed articles I'd worked on with a fanatical rigor for months. As one, then another was accepted for publication my path to travel writing became easier. What had been virtually a vertical slope I kept sliding down became less arduous. With some publication history behind me in magazines like Voyeur I could jog instead of run. My Voyeur story can be read here.
Passion and determination will keep you going through the rough patches so you'll need that as well. There are many low points as well as the high. You'll need determination in bucket loads to pick yourself up out of the bogs and mires you'll sometimes find yourself in. But, so it is with all challenges.
I've personally used inspirational quotes and positive visualisations to keep me inspired. Determination and passion for writing have been instrumental in me achieving my goal. Also throw into the mix a good dose of self-belief to sustain you when others suggest you're wasting your time chasing a dream.
My writers Facebook forum has also been invaluable for all the reasons I've mentioned above. There's one person on there who gave me an incredible opportunity. I owe that person much. There are others who've helped with advice. I've also picked bits of information out of conversations I've followed on there.
These days I'm not exactly basking on a Greek Island with travel publications begging for my stories, but I have been on an overseas travel famil (free travel hosted by a tourism body) and have dined and enjoyed accommodation and tours at nil expense in return for travel stories. I've been paid for those and seen my name in glossy magazines. High five!
In truth, travel writing isn't as glamorous as it may seem to outsiders, but it is fun!
I don't make a living out of travel writing, but I do make a living out of writing overall. As a freelance writer I write articles about travel but I also write about lifestyle and health topics. Many writers diversify.
Travel writing isn't easy because it's so competitive. You'll find yourself competing with actors and authors, seasoned journalists with writing awards and all the Jo Blogs of the world. Not to mention people in third world countries who are willing to write for next to naught. It's a long queue and can be a fight to get to the front and make yourself stand out.
You may find you have to stay up late at night editing photos or writing to a deadline. You may find it's hard to find time for travel writing around your day job or kids. Or like me, you may sometimes feel lonely about so much time alone on your damn computer. Worst of all are the endless rejections (and silences) from editors whose inboxes are overflowing with emails from all of us aspiring writers.
There are easier jobs in this world and you will never know what's in your weekly packet – if anything at all. Very disconcerting for some. Impossible for others. That said, those who thrive on adventure, risk and self-initiative will enjoy the perilous but exciting world of travel writing.
Whatever the outcome, if you come hither, enjoy your travels and adventures in this wonderful world and don't forget to drop in on me.