*** The Not-So-Elusive Benefits of Travel Writing
*** Practical Writing Prompt of the Week: Romantic Retreats
*** Reader Feedback: Paris Attendee Gets Her Story to an In-flight Pub
Jen Stevens here — I’m filling in for Lori Allen, who’s away on her honeymoon. Lori suggested I tell you a little about myself as you’ll be hearing from me over the next few weeks.
I’m the author of AWAI’s Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program. Nearly ten years ago now, I went freelance and left my desk job as editor of International Living.
It was the best decision I ever made. Not because I didn’t enjoy that work — I did. But I wanted to write more and manage less. I craved more control over my time. As a freelance travel writer I got it — plus many more benefits as well, chief among them…
** Freedom — As a travel writer, you really can work from anywhere in the world. Since I’ve gone freelance, I’ve lived in Baltimore, Chicago, and Colorado Springs. I’ve worked from a chateau in France, a beach bungalow in Honduras, a farm in Nebraska, and innumerable hotel rooms as far flung as Belgium, the Bahamas, and New York.
** Inventiveness — As a travel writer, you can follow your whim, investigate what’s interesting to you, and be creative with what you discover. There’s really no limit to the type or number of stories you can write. I find ideas everywhere I look.
Take this one: The day before I left for our Paris workshop, my husband, our one-year-old, and I spent seven hours in the Denver Passport Office getting our little guy the passport we’d applied for by mail three months earlier (but which had never arrived).
The waiting room was packed full of people in our same boat. So rather than sit idle, I spent the day interviewing them. I figure there’s a story in the fact that US passport processing is backlogged by months and months — but the State Department won’t tell you that. What might have been a day of pure drudgery turned into something much more interesting.
** Travel perks — As a freelance travel writer I get invited to all the events sponsored by my local tourist board, I’ve enjoyed complimentary meals at restaurants, I’ve been flown to Mexico and pampered for a long weekend — all-expenses-paid… the list goes on.
Plus even when I’m not traveling on somebody else’s dime, I’m usually able to recoup many of my travel expenses by writing about my adventures.
Some years back, I took a two-week vacation with my family to a fabulous beach in Central America. I “worked” for the first week — interviewing a few people, seeing some houses on offer, sampling the beer, tasting the local lobster. And then I spent the second week doing nothing but enjoying myself, feet in the sand.
I made enough on my stories from that trip to more than cover the airfare for me, my husband, and our son. Plus I’d arranged for a reduced “press” rate at the bungalow where we were staying. All told, we enjoyed two weeks of bliss for about what we’d have paid for a weekend at Disney Land.
** Tax breaks — Now, I am not a tax professional. And every individual’s situation is different. But I will say: As a freelance travel writer, I have been able to write-off the purchase of my camera, innumerable airline tickets, various meals, subscriptions to magazines I do or may write for, my in-home office, my computer… you get the idea. The US tax code benefits the wealthy and the self-employed. And I am happy to take advantages of the breaks I’m entitled to as a freelance writer.
Now, I could go on and on about why travel writing is so great. But I’m not going to. You already get the gist or you wouldn’t be reading this newsletter.
I do want to say, however, that if you’re not yet enjoying the sorts of benefits I just described… you really could be. Should be. And it’s a lot easier than you may think.
If you simply learn a few important tricks of the trade about putting an article together and about dealing with editors — exactly the sorts of things you’ll find documented in our archives — then you’ll be well ahead of the majority of new writers (even seasoned writers) out there.
It’s true! You wouldn’t believe the stuff that landed on my desk at International Living (and at the publications where I worked as an editor prior to that). But follow the advice you’ll find in those archived articles, and I assure you: You’ll avoid all variety of mistakes and increase your chances of landing a by-line many times over.
And if, instead, you’re a person who learns better not by reading, but by doing, then I’d encourage you to join me in Portland this July. I’ll be hosting our last Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop of the year there — and it’s guaranteed to jump-start your career.
In fact, you can read on below for a note from one of our Paris workshop attendees. She’s not a writer by training. But she was with us the week before last, wrote an article during the workshop, and she’s already got a publication interested in it.
I’ll be back tomorrow (that’s not a threat!) with a follow-up to my article from last week about selling to newspapers. I’ll give you some more specific advice about how to “localize” your articles and make more money from them.
Guest Editor, The Right Way to Travel
P.S. Know a friend or two who’d enjoy the freedom and independence of a writer’s or photographer’s life?
PRACTICAL WRITING PROMPT OF THE WEEK:
Yesterday our Featured Publication was a bridal magazine — a niche occupied by an increasing number of publications, most (if not all) of which buy travel articles.
Do you know a place near you that would make a good honeymoon escape? You needn’t live on a beach to find a suitable story.
This weekend, find one (or both) of these things:
* A B&B or boutique hotel that offers something special for a wedding-night escape (could be a package deal… could just be a nice place to stay on a wedding night).
* A list of three things you’d recommend visiting honeymooners do in a destination near you (could be your hometown, a neighboring city, a “vacation” lake, a state or national park…) and a suggestion or two for where these lovebirds might stay.
Armed with either of those two things, you’ll have in hand enough material to write an article.
You might gear the hotel bit for your local paper or city magazine. These days, most publish a special section they call the “wedding guide” or the “bridal guide” at some point during the year. Do some digging and find out if your local publications do this — and if they do, when they come out. And then find out how you can contribute. (Hint: Often these special sections are put together by the marketing department and not the editorial staff. You may need to pick up the phone and ask who you’d talk to about contributing.)
And as for the advice for honeymooners about what to do and where to stay… write it up — just as you would any travel article. Only keep in mind that you’re writing to newlyweds who may be more interested in the “quiet retreat” than the “family-style getaway” and choose your details accordingly.
Look through yesterday’s Featured Publication to see if it might be an appropriate place for you to submit your story. Check Writer’s Market. Or do a Google search for “Bridal Magazines” and “Honeymoon Magazines” and find some other possible outlets that way.
I wanted to thank you again for such an outstanding course in Paris. A publisher for in-flight magazines has accepted to read my article on the Best Vintage shop in Paris, they said they don’t normally take unsolicited articles but would take mine. I haven’t heard back yet as to whether they will use it but keeping my fingers crossed!! I’ll let you know as soon as I hear.
— Mirella Rugolotto
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]