Writers love to talk about “finding a good home” for a story. As if the story, or the idea that pre-dates it, is a child you are putting up for adoption, and you’ll only let go of it if you know its new mother and father will take better care of it than you ever could.
Many writers agonize over the best homes for their stories, but travel writers with healthy incomes know that the important thing is to spin each trip as many ways as possible—to milk every money-making opportunity you can out of every bit of research you do.
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I used to carve out time on the plane ride home to think back through what I had done on the trip and write down as many article ideas as I could. Now, I send myself emails throughout the trip with interesting ideas, snippets or article pitches, or fully formed pairs of article ideas and magazines complete with notes from interviews or tours to flesh out the pitch.
But when you’re first trying to get on a press trip—or even just decide for yourself whether a trip is worth going on and paying for out of pocket—you need to do this breakdown in advance, based solely on a trip’s itinerary.
There are dozens of different types of travel articles, and you can usually wrangle most experiences into several of them:
- news brief
- destination overview
- destination guide
- side trip
- best of
- consumer/product guide
- trend piece
- narrative feature
- personal essay
- reported feature
- anniversary revisit
- a day in the life
In the publishing world, however, no article idea exists without a matching market to focus the idea around, gearing it toward the particular reader you are writing for and their interests, experience, and abilities.
Every event, destination, and experience can be spun into different angles for different audiences. For instance, if you’ve had a beekeeping excursion on your trip, where your whole group dons those bulky white suits, gloves up, covers their faces, and prays not to get stung, you might be able to write:
- a first person essay for a travel, agritourism, or urban farming title interweaving a traumatic bee sting experience in your youth (it ruined your first kiss as a teenager at a pool party!) with your triumphant man-overcoming-nature experience playing beekeeper for a day
- a service or how-to piece for a family travel publication on how to visit a beekeeper and keep both yourself and your kids calm and safe
- an interview for an agriculture magazine on how this beekeeper has developed an innovative way to keep his bees safe from the current colony collapse crisis
- a marketing-focused feature for a trade title on how this beekeeper, a local winemaker, and a nearby vegetable grower have turned their area into an agritourism destination
- a topical deep dive feature for a food magazine on the 15 different types of honey available in Italy each year, how and why they vary by the season, and the flavor profile of each
- a profile for a heritage publication on how the beekeeper and his family have kept a five-generation-old family tradition alive through the industrial and digital revolutions
- a recipe round-up of the beekeeper’s five favorite ways to use honey
That’s seven ways to spin one two- or three-hour visit to a beekeeper. And I could keep going.
In this profession, especially if you want to earn a great living, being able to turn one experience—not just one trip or one destination—into multiple story angles is a crucial way to think about and organize your travel and pitching.
Where have you been recently? How many niche, specific article ideas can you break that into?
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