On its surface, travel writing is a dream career - and by definition, an unattainable pursuit for most. There are few people on Earth that would turn down free stays at the most exotic, exciting, and luxurious places on the planet, documenting travels and bringing back the evidence for readers of publications all around the world. But that’s just one manifestation of a travel writing career - typically, it plays out in a much different scenario: less luxury, more work, and maybe more excitement, if you’re lucky. It’s the passion for exploration and wanderlust that keeps these writers going, and it could be your motivation too, if you’re willing to take the plunge.
Travel writing isn’t as lofty as it may seem, but it’s not quite as out of reach, either. By starting small, working diligently, and nurturing a passion for travel and telling stories that go beyond your next paycheck, you could very well join the ranks of the coveted group of travel writers working today. Just how do you get started? Find out below:
1. Start Small
Write about what you know - whether it’s your hometown, the place you now live, or a frequent vacation destination, it’s important to be a near-expert when you’re writing with any sense of authority. Explaining how to best navigate a town or where to find the best meal will be most skilfully done when you truly know what you’re talking about. Plus, it’s easier to get published on a local level that nationally, or internationally.
2. Hone Your Interests
Figure out what interests you most about travel writing, and focus on that. Your portfolio needs an obvious, purposeful direction. The goal is to be an expert in 3-5 topics or interests, build a readership, and to be able to attract publications with a similar aesthetic. Don’t risk going too broad and turning in shallow pieces; instead, go in deep! Quality always trumps quantity.
3. Take The Camera With You
It doesn’t matter if you’re the best writer you know - every story needs a visual to correspond with your writing. Most readers - especially when they’re searching online -are attracted to pictures, photos, and illustrations of whatever destination you’re covering, more so than words on a page. Not that they won’t read your story; they’re just much more likely to read it if it’s packaged with visual imagery. Learn to be a multi-faceted journalist, and you’ll get more readers, and more assignments, too.
4. Brand Yourself
As you are starting out your freelance career, it’s important to have a crystal clear idea of who you are as a writer. Ask yourself - What is your purpose or goal as a writer? How would you define your aesthetic? Who is your target audience? The better you know yourself, the more able you are to market yourself to publications and form a portfolio that represents you well.
5. Pitch Your Stories as Often as Possible
There’s no shortage of publications (especially on the web) that are in need of content contributors. Seek out websites and publications that take submissions, and send them solid, concrete story ideas. Start small, then expand to bigger publications once you get published. Enjoy seeing your name in print, then get right back to it! Truly, the work of a travel writer never ends.
If you’re a writer who loves to explore new and uncharted territory, or to find hidden gems in a cities full of stories, travel writing could be the career for you. Consider your interests and represent yourself clearly with a solid online portfolio, and you’re on your way to a career full of excitement, adventure, and lots of hard work. Travel writing might not be for everyone, but for some, it’s the fulfillment they crave and a source of motivation to continue exploring and documenting life as they see it. When you’re ready to take the plunge, do so with conviction and confidence in yourself!