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7 Realities of Being a Travel Writer

Fuse / thinkstock.com

Fuse / thinkstock.com

Picture this: you’re a travel writer. Your life revolves around jet setting from exotic locale to exotic locale. You get to meet colorful personalities, sample scrumptious fare, and share the stories of the adventures you encounter along the way. And you get paid to do it.

Being a travel writer certainly sounds like the dream job for anybody who has been bitten by the travel bug and now suffers from acute wanderlust. For many, it is the ultimate job—but, just like every job, the perks come with some downsides.

Here’s what it’s really like to work as a travel writer.

You Need to Know How to Write
If you’ve never left your hometown, you probably aren’t the best candidate to be a travel writer. Similarly, if your writing skills aren’t up to snuff, travel writing might not be in your future.

Traveling for Writing Versus Pleasure
For a travel writer, it’s not a vacation: it’s work. It’s not about unplanned adventures and spontaneous stories: it’s meticulous research, extensive note taking, and an eye for fine detail. It’s the ability to spend a day or two in a city, then write about it as if you’ve lived there forever. It’s sacrificing sleep to meet deadlines. In other words: it’s not easy.

Helter Skelter Schedule
You’ve probably guessed that travel writing isn’t for those who enjoy a 9 to 5 schedule. The life of a travel writer means a lot of time spent on the road, which can be difficult for managing relationships, making time for your family, and staying on top of your laundry!

Let’s Talk Money
Here’s the cold, hard truth: most travel writers aren’t rich. A few writers at the top of the pyramid are living the good life, but many have to settle for mediocre pay—if they can land a paying gig at all.

Another struggle is balancing cash flow: writers often have to incur significant travel expenses that they must pay upfront, and are not reimbursed (or paid at all) until their piece has been accepted and/or published. This can span over several months—and credit card companies aren’t keen on taking IOUs!

You’re Not Alone
Travel writing is a competitive field. There are many other talented people battling for that same opportunity to write an article or pen a travel guide. Stand out from the crowd by doing proper research, by knowing the publications you want to write for, and by being concise in your communication, showing that you value the editor’s time.

Telling Someone Else’s Story
Travel writing is not just telling someone about what you did on vacation. It’s about making the reader feel like they were the ones who went on the trip. Your stories need to make it seem like the reader was the one who saw that sunset, rode that bike, or ate that mango. Unless you’re an established travel writer, steer clear of the narrative format.

You Get to See the World
Travel writing isn’t always easy—but for the right person, it can be an incredibly rewarding career. You get the opportunity to visit places you never knew existed and to have once-in-a-lifetime experiences over and over again. You get to make friends around the world, inspire people to explore, and appreciate cultures and environments vastly different than your own. And—you get paid to travel!


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