Something I love about the summer travel season is the uncontrollable and unavoidable return to essential enjoyments:
- The feeling of the sun on your skin on a beautiful dry day.
- The cooling barrage of a steady breeze during a beautiful hike on a humid day.
- Finding berries and eating them fresh off the bush.
- A juicy peach or plum that reminds you what fruit is meant to taste like.
- Sitting on the grass, or the beach, or any other place outside where there is no plastic or concrete between you and the world.
- Sitting with friends or family late into a fresh evening enjoying a moment in which nothing else matters and it seems the morning will never come.
- The view of the ocean and artistry of the clouds from an airplane window reminding you how big the world really is.
Whether it’s the weather, kids off from school, or simply the many holidays that encourage us to take vacation, summer has a way of forcing us to remember what really makes us happy and the outsized value of small pleasures.
This vitality and simplicity is part of what makes the return of fall strike like such a monsoon wave.
Responsibilities remembered and the loom of the year-end shake us from the reverie of reveling in the easy, good things.
Freelance travel writers, however, typically have a complicated relationship with summer. Vacations for in-house staff, like the editors who give us work, can create an assignment desert that definitely does not make for enjoyment of the season. If you try to spend the time traveling, whether on your own or on press trips, the glut of other travelers out enjoying their limited vacation time makes it hard to get around, get good shots, or simply get into the places you’re trying to visit.
On my recent work trips, including two for our new My First “Press Trip” program, I’ve been experiencing this first hand. Even as we visit locations on weekdays to get around the crush of hundreds or thousands of visitors descending on the spots we’re checking out each summer weekend, we’ve still occasionally gotten caught behind a massive group.
When the simply enjoyments of the season for others are work for you, the situation can become decidedly stressful. Just when you’re also hoping to mix a little play with your work!
Even if you’re at home, the siren’s call of a sunny day can make getting laptop work done a trying affair. And if you have kids, the compunction of working while they’re home for the summer and awake and able to be with you can be too hard to overcome.
(Those of you waking up at four to try to work before family time and spending the summer killing yourself with crazy hours, I’m talking to you!)
Not only have I been experiencing these sort of no-win scenario choices myself lately, both at home and on the road, I’ve been hearing similar conundrums from many of you on coaching calls, AMA webinars, or in-person at conferences this spring and summer so far.
I’ve noticed a deleterious trend lately, from conference talks to our coaching calls, that freelance travel writers are being pulled in too many directions.
You can call it the by-product of not having a clear separation between work and life or decision-making overload from the sheer number of possible things to do anytime you open your computer, but we’re seeing a serious problem.
How do you prioritize? Or do everything? Or decide what you should do in any one moment?
In the summer, it’s even more difficult than usual to “balance” everything as both personal- and travel-related goals best pursed in great weather cry out louder than ever. In some cases with a lot of pressures and obligations, this leads to freelance work and goals taking a backseat if not getting completely thrown at the window.
Or maybe getting stashed in the trunk temporarily to trundle along periodically reminding you they’re still there being dragged around?
We’ve looked at this idea of the “one thing” in the past in a different light, but I’m increasingly hearing from people who might be clear on what their larger goal is for themselves and their business right now who are still floundering when it comes to choosing what to do in any particular moment.
We’ve been working hard on finalizing our schedule for upcoming retreats (thank you again to everyone who contributed to helping us shape these programs!) for the fall, winter, and beginning of next spring, and we feel strongly about including a new event around this focus on the calendar. Not only is the need we’re hearing from writers so strong it’s probably the #1 think I’m discussing on coaching calls these days, but I’ve personally also seen time and time again how effective these types of events are in rejuvenating yourself and kicking your business into high gear through ones that I’ve attended in the past.
If you’d like to take part, or at least contribute your thoughts on where you’re at in terms of overwhelm and what you think would best serve other writers like you dealing with the same thing, we’d love to hear from you in our planning survey, and we’ve got a very cool prize for one randomly-selected submission that will be announced on Monday, August 5!
In the meantime, some ideas for clarity and action depending on where you’re at right now:
- There are some great gigs available below in our jobs list. Meredith is hiring a full-time writer for Travel + Leisure that will also contribute to its other key outlets like Coastal Living, which is also hiring an editor currently, as is Smithsonian, Robb Report, and Fodor’s. Meanwhile, on the content side, big names such as Tourism Australia, Booking.com, Airbnb, EF, and NerdWallet are all on the hunt for people looking for regular work.
- If you’re not feeling confident in your queries or cover letter, we’ve got you covered.
- Check in with whether the magazines you’re pitching are even the ones you really want to work with long term. I always ask people what their goal publications are, and am typically surprised that people either (a) aren’t pitching them at all, and (b) aren’t actively skill- or portfolio-building to get to the point where they can pitch those outlets and have a great chance of success.
- If you just feel like you’re very far from what you think you should be working on and don’t really know where to be, you really need to take some time to stop and course correct. Even though it’s the middle of the year, especially if you didn’t in December or January, if might be time to think through a full annual-review style plan. If you want to be guided in that effort, you can also join us for the Advanced Freelance Travel Writing Mastermind if you’re at that level with your writing business.
More than anything, I encourage you, in moments of indecision or when you’re hearing the sweet siren’s song of something tempting to do somewhere that’s not your laptop (or the latest political new cycle beckoning from less productive parts of the internet), to choose just one action and focus for a certain amount of time on completing it.
Choose something active. Preferably something tangible. External (putting things out into the world rather than taking in information) options are ideal.
Reconnecting with the essential things in life this summer doesn’t need to be just about the sun, wind, sea, and scenery. Your approach to your writing goals might shift in the summer, but it’s just that, a shift, a change in tack or focus.
Where will the back half of this year take your travel writing?
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