In 2013, when I attended the Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop in Boston, Mass., I had no idea what to expect… other than it was a sold-out event, and 150 hopeful travel writers would be attending this three-day class with the same hopes and dreams I had for this travel writing lifestyle…
Success, freedom, money, travel, breathing room, the experience—to name just a few.
I was in my mid-50s when I walked into the conference room. Over half my life was behind me for goodness’ sake!
I remember hoping I wouldn’t be the oldest person there. Amazingly, ages ranged from young people in their 20s all the way up to spry folks in their late 70s.
I was going to fit right in.
And everyone seemed to come from different backgrounds. Many had degrees in one thing or another. I met moms who were happy home-schooling their kids. I spoke with lawyers and doctors who’d decided to make a career change mid-stream. There were also many couples nearing retirement. Interested in finding something fun to do once their Social Security set in, they’d decided to attend and see what the workshop was all about.
I was there for two reasons.
A messy divorce had left me nearly destitute. And, though working 60 to 70 hours a week in retail was making a slight dent in my enormous debt, I had no real quality of life.
I also felt this burning need to travel in memory of my mom. Shortly before she died, she’d expressed regret at never wandering down the streets of Paris, holding hands with my dad. I wanted desperately to make it there for her.
I found myself determined to make travel writing the tool that would help me find a way to do both.
After three intensive days at the workshop, I believed it could happen.
Travel writing, for me, began locally. At that time, I honestly didn’t have two pennies to rub together. So, driving downtown, just a few miles away from my apartment made sense. I could park my car, then walk miles around the city, seeking out stories I wanted to tell.
Thank goodness, there were plenty.
I visited museums in the area that cost little to nothing, discovering a treasure trove of storylines in each of them.
Learning about history, dance, automobiles, and ghost stories was more fun than I’d thought it would be.
It wasn’t long before I began to branch out in my travel-writing journey. I continued to stay local but, following the tips I’d gained at the workshop, I found myself requesting free admission to attractions or complimentary meals at restaurants in exchange for an article.
I pinched myself when people said “Yes,” they’d be happy to host me.
Several times I was invited to enjoy a comfy night or two in local B&Bs, brand-new hotels, even vacation rentals just miles away from my apartment. I agreed to take pictures, write an honest review, then submit my story to publications that had already shown interest in them.
Within months, I ventured farther. Another town, a different state, another country. All of a sudden, I was a travel writer in Ireland, Cancun, then Fiji, enjoying new cultures, people, and food.
I roamed through castles, abandoned friaries, Mayan ruins, beautiful gardens, museums, and shopping centers.
I saw breathtaking scenery, historic architecture, and ancient cemeteries.
And I made it to Paris on what would have been my mom’s birthday—an emotional and joyous trip for sure.
Here’s the thing.
If you were to put 5,10, even 50 hopefuls from that 2013 workshop in the same room today, you’d probably hear how a different path brought each one to their new career in travel writing.
The journey we take is unique to our own story. Some people have a clear picture, finding their groove quickly.
Others need time to discover their niche and settle in.
For me, local travel will always be my first love.
Because it saved me from despair—in losing my marriage, my financial security, and, more importantly, my mom.
Focusing on places close to home gave me hope for the future, helped me take action, moved me forward in life. It also worked with my crazy retail schedule—something I worried about when first starting out.
It’s a big, bold, beautiful world out there. I can’t wait to see what’s next on my agenda. And even though I entertain plans to travel as often and as far as possible, I’ll always make my way home.
Maybe I’ll run into you one day. We can share our stories over wine, cheese, and crackers.
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can fund your travels and make an extra income with photography, travel writing, blogging, and more in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel. Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Five Fun Ways To Get Paid To Travel: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]