On this site, I’ll share not only my own travel writing experiences, but original case studies that I gather from other writers I know. Everyone from the retired couple eking by on a small but happy income in Nicaragua to the blogger making a name for herself after just a year. Also of the writers you never hear about that make a solid living writing regularly for a handful of top glossies to travel writing greats like Don George and Tim Cahill.
But, on my own journey as a travel writer, there’s been quite a few older stories and articles that have made quite an impact on my own interest in or valuation of this career.
Many, you may quickly notice from the excerpts below, are not overwhelmingly positive. But that’s the point.
The folks who go into travel writing expecting a free vacation, don’t last very long. Ones who come from other professions that require a lot of grit and hard work, including anything from law to quick churn newsroom journalism, are able to push through the difficult parts of a life of travel, selling, and self-doubt from editorial criticism.
Are you going to be one of them?
I recommend clicking through to read the full articles to make sure you know what you’re signing up for.
So You Want to Be a Lonely Planet Author?
It’s a grueling tempo to maintain, sometimes for up to six weeks at a stretch. My longest LP road trip so far has only been 12 days and I returned home in such a state that I could barely get the wits together to feed myself for the first few days.
So, You Want to Be a Travel Writer
Travel writing is… huddling in my luxury hotel room over a bowl of instant noodles that I boiled in the coffee maker. The tourism board put me up but didn’t pay for my meals and I can’t even afford a sandwich in this town. Travel writing is knowing the best place to sleep on the floors of several major airports in Latin America. Travel writing has the kind of glamour attached to it that makes people think you’re willing to do it just for the cool factor.
– Julia Steinecke in The Verge magazine
A Job With Travel but No Vacation
”Publishers of travel guides say they go out of their way to give new writers a reality check. Laura Martin, the editor in chief of Let’s Go, said that researchers are given 20 hours of training in subjects like self-defense and driving and that they’re asked to do a dry run in Boston before setting out for more exotic destinations.”
– Warren St. John in The New York Times
The Allure of Travel Writing
Now that nearly everyone has been nearly everywhere, it might be thought that travel writers have lost their purpose. In a way they have… but what they feel like is something else, and in a profounder sense the best travel writers are not really writing about travel at all. They are recording the effects of places or movements upon their own particular temperaments—recording the experience rather than the event, as they might make literary use of a love affair, an enigma or a tragedy.
– Jan Morris in The Smithsonian magazine
The Seven Myths of Being a Travel Writer
Just as plugging in a Stratocaster doesn’t make you a rock star, writing tales about your travels is not going to make you a travel writer. Like any position where supply far exceeds demand, you’ll need to follow the right steps and then pay your dues. It’s not going to happen overnight.
– Tim Leffel in Transitions Abroad
How to Write a Bad Travel Story
Don’t read good travel writing. It’s true that reading good writing can make you a better writer, but it will only serve to make you frustrated. Don’t read The New Yorker or Granta. Likewise, don’t read any “how to” books on travel writing, especially the best one, Travel Writing, by Don George. Neither should you consider joining a writing group or taking a writing class.
– David Farley in World Hum
Why I’m Not a Full Time Travel Writer
Next month is the Travelblog Exchange (TBEX), a conference for travel bloggers. I had dearly wanted there to be some kind of reality check discussion, not because I want to depress hopeful writers, but because I wanted to blow away some of that fiction around what it really means to be a travel writer by profession. X1, who writes for a prestigious publication and travels a lot has told me, “Yeah, it’s great. I love the work. But I’m poor. I live in a tiny apartment.” X2 admitted to winning big in the technology lottery and living off those funds. X3 has a full time day job and a spouse with a full time day job. X4 admits to churning out fluffy, uninteresting stories for custom publication markets. The folks I know who are full time freelance travel writers are in a continuous cycle of pitch, write, edit, research, travel, repeat. It’s a lot of work, and it’s not clear to me that money is that good.
– Pam Mandel in the Nerd’s Eye View blog
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