Travel writing. It sounds like a childhood fantasy: jetting off to exotic locations, taking in the finest local restaurants and visiting renowned museums… all on somebody else’s dime. And while we must admit it is an enviable lifestyle, for sure, there are a number of writers who have managed to carve out a significant space in this closely guarded world. Here, we will offer you some practical tips for turning your travel writing fantasy into reality.
Photo by Flickr user newsusacontent
Yep, that dirty word has creeped into our travel writing tips, and for good reason. Often, individuals who are thinking of entering the world of travel writing believe that the vocation is synonymous with taking a near-permanent vacation. And while you will rack up travel points and frequent flyer miles along the way, you have to put first things first. Study the craft. Check out travel magazines at your local library or bookstore. Google Books is also a great resource. You’ll quickly get a feel for what your contemporaries are doing with the genre… and you’ll easily detect who your contemporaries are. Remember, your goal is not to mimic their writing but simply to know what they are doing and how it draws the reader in.
Get Into The Blogosphere
In years past, travel writers had to create an impressive portfolio in order to get travel writing assignments (especially those that hit the newsstands in travel magazines). However, in today’s social media driven society, individuals with a decent following and an interesting take on the topic can be “discovered” by book publishers and magazine editors searching for a fresh take. This has, indeed, been the pathway for some of today’s travel writers with a few receiving legitimate offers for free travel in exchange for an article.
Three popular blogging platforms you could try:
- Blogger – Also called BlogSpot, this is Google’s free and very easy to use platform.
- Tumblr – Recently acquired by Yahoo, Tumblr is also free, created for more design-based projects with less room for text.
- WordPress – The most popular blogging platform, WordPress is used by media companies and large businesses. It also has a free platform, but some find the interface difficult to navigate.
Your backyard is an exotic destination for somebody. Do not allow yourself the excuse of a trim budget as a reason to not get started…somewhere.
Before you begin putting the preliminaries in place, clarify the editor’s expectation for the article (including the deadline). Find out which expenses are being paid by the trip’s host and which ones you’ll be responsible for.
Preparing your angle
According to Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon, executive editor for Caribbean Travel + Life magazine, one the most vital elements of travel writing is research and preparation. “As soon as a trip is confirmed, I look up the Facebook pages and Twitter handles of the places I’ll be seeing, people I intend to interview and activities I’ll be doing and ‘like’ and ‘follow’ them.” Greaves-Gabbadon says this raises visibility of the destination for her readers while creating excitement among them.
You (yes, you) can take those glossy photos!
All travel magazines, books and blogs feature stunning pictures of the destination. Since you will likely be taking pictures anyway, being able to offer high quality photos (from perhaps a DSLR camera) gives you the advantage of offering the editor a complete package — saving him or her time and often adding a few extra dollars to your final compensation. Not comfortable yet with taking quality photos? Your local community college generally offers photography classes for a very reasonable fee.
You’d be lost without your favorite mobile devices, but these high-ticket items are the main target of thieves around the world. It was reported in USA Today that 11,000 travelers lost mobile devices (mostly smartphones, laptops and tablets) at five of our country’s busiest airports in 2010. An identity theft protection service is the single most-effective way to protect travel writers from would-be thieves.
Services such as LifeLock offer subscribers credit monitoring services (which would alert you in the event of unusual activity in addition to protect your credit card account from racking up fraudulent charges). As you move from city to city, activity to activity and plane to plane, the opportunity for would-be thieves to target you becomes far greater than normal.
Just Do It
Most writers worth their weight will tell you again and again that writers of any kind are the people who actually write — not those who think and dream about it but never create it as an actionable goal.