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How to be a Travel Writer, Part 5

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by Kevin Burns

Read the article or take the class at Udemy!

Warning: It is unlikely that you will get rich. For every Bill Bryson, there is a Tom Smith. I know! I don`t know who Tom Smith is either! But I`m sure he is a very nice guy! Very few even do travel writing fulltime. It is often a side-hustle. That said, as Joan D. Bailey has argued, one should not regard it so. It should be something that you view as your main job. Otherwise, you have no hope for success. Anthony Hopkins, the famous actor was interviewed and asked in his long life is there any wisdom he could share with us? He said: “Just keep going. Don`t give up!” Yes, I get it! You could have told me that. But when he said it, it had power. I think it had the wisdom of his many long years of struggle as an anonymous actor. But it is worth remembering. You too must keep going if you want this career to work. Don`t give up in spite of what others may say.

Do not think it is impossible. But it is worth seeing the other side. Few will be able to do this job as a full-time gig. There are few jobs available and many people who want these jobs. As well it seems glamorous, but the reality is not so much. It is a lot of hard work for little pay. Few get rich as travel writers. Even the famous ones do not do it for the money. It involves a lot of tedious research in order to get your article right (pun intended). You need to gather things like bus schedules, details about hotels, restaurants and walking tours. It can become tedious. There is a lot of waiting involved.

“It`s waiting for planes and trains, buses and ferries, tuk-tuks and trishaws. It`s swatting mosquitoes and squatting over hole-in-the-floor toilets.” (5)

Can you be content with being thrifty? Are you OK with a lot of hard work for little pay? If so, there is hope for you! You will need to work long hours to make travel writing pay. But if you enjoy it, perhaps it will not seem like work?

Canadian writer Patrick Johnson relates:

“…there are people making a living thru SM {Social Media} followers. That’s, I think, the only future. But getting 100K followers is a long slog!… it’s a very challenging sector in a dying industry. Basically, legitimate media won’t pay for articles when someone has received free stuff (unethical; unreliable), so you can write stuff about places you’ve gone on your own dime, but that’s not lucrative (spend $4,000 to go to Italy and get paid $75

for a story). The only feasible biz model is building a social media base of tens of thousands and then getting free stuff.”

Johnson paints a negative picture and may well have a point. It has never been easy to be a writer of any kind. Yet, having a YouTube Travel Channel, Instagram, Twitter and perhaps Facebook, may help you to gather a following for your travel writing. Being a Vlogger is worth considering. It seems a lot of people do travel writing as a side hustle, alongside their day job. But there are some who are doing it fulltime. So do not give up on your dream! If you want to be a writer fulltime you could do it too!

Although the internet has hurt the travel guidebook industry it has opened opportunities online, and guidebook publishers still want knowledgeable writers who know an area well.

What Character Traits do you need to be a Travel Writer?

Do you have the character to be a travel writer? Are you comfortable with instability and spontaneity? You may be asked tomorrow to go to a destination halfway around the world. Can you do that? Your life will be pleasing editors and meeting deadlines. (6)

Fighting Procrastination

Motivation is one thing, but it does not last. When it ends, you need to fill the void with discipline. Write a little everyday. Make a point of committing yourself to writing at least for 30 minutes per day. You will find that it ends up being much longer. You will create a new habit of consistency and some diamonds will emerge. Can you keep going? ALL famous travel writers faced rejection before they became famous. So will you. (7)

If you cannot think of how to start your article, just start anyway. If any great ideas come, write them down and continue writing. Trust the process. Often what wells up from your unconscious will be better than what you can think up. Try to get into the flow. You may amaze yourself. If it is terrible, don`t worry. Just trust the process. You can always edit it later, and from all of the chum you may find gold. George suggests writing down all the events from your trip if you find it difficult to start to write. (8)

“Write. – Writing takes practice and diligence. If you want to be good at it, you have to learn to not wait for your Muse or inspiration to arrive. You sit down to write, and eventually, hopefully, they show up. If they don’t, you still write. That’s how you get to be good at it, and that’s how you find work doing it.” –Joan D. Bailey

Common Mistakes

– Writing about a topic because you think it is popular: – Not using your imagination – Editing- not proof reading and editing at least three times, Not checking your spelling and grammar – Sending your pitch to a chief editor as opposed to a more minor editor to start.

“As you try to marry passion with practicality it`s critical to stay abreast of the travel trends. Identifying one can become the nucleus for a story.” (9) One of the most common mistakes is writing about a topic because you think it`s popular. Don`t do it! You need to find a topic that you would enjoy writing about but has potential to be published. Even a topic that has been written about a thousand times before has

potential if you have a unique take on it. Venice, Italy has been written about constantly, but perhaps you have some unique way of looking at this famous city, or you had a unique experience there that you can share. Have you seen a unique style of Venetian glass you could tell readers about for example? Did you go on an interesting tour of the glass factory?

(Typed block)

“What sets good travel writing apart is detail, detail, detail. Which cafe, on what street, overlooking what view? You must sweep the reader up and carry them off on the journey with you. Paint an evocation of where you are so we can experience it along with you. Be specific and drop “stunning”, “breathtaking” and “fantastic” from your lexicon, otherwise it’s just a TripAdvisor entry.” -Sally Shalam, Guardian hotel critic

Editing (Spoken)

One way of cutting down on interview mistakes is by taking a sound recorder with you when you conduct interviews. Not only is it convenient, but you have proof of what has been said.

Go to Part 6 of How to be a Travel Writer

About kintaro63 (218 Articles)
Writer and teacher in Japan

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