I grew up in the 1960s in a Southern California middle-class community close to the beaches where most people would work all year to come on vacation.
My dad was the travel enthusiast; my mom, not so much. But she endured the annual family vacation if for no other reason than to get out of the house.
Really, I could sum my childhood travel experience up in two words: travel trailer. The old man’s “mission” was to see how far we could get from where we were and back, in two weeks.
Once I graduated and had a steady job, I started looking at airlines and nicer accommodation. That’s when the travel bug developed into a full-blown cash-eating monster. That appetite led me to learn how to do more… for less. I quickly figured out how spending less on accommodation allowed me to spend more at my destinations. I’ve slept on cots at hostels, in sleeping bags on sand dunes in the Sonoran desert, as well as booking regular rooms, then requesting complimentary upgrades and receiving them! (Tip: just ask.)
My aggressive traveling schedule ceased when I got married and started a family. Traveling was reduced once again to the annual two-week summer vacation. Which became routine–full of beautiful and fun-filled memories–but mostly routine.
One lovely day in the Spring of 2010, I became a statistic in the “50% of marriages fail” club. After taking stock of what I had left and who I was, I remembered I had something no one could ever take from me. Memories!
Time to make more. I had done it before, I could do it again. Because traveling after divorce is possible. And I did. Starting slowly, I ventured deep into the land of the Mayans to grab a front-row seat at the globally professed “end of the world” party. I have a friend who retired to a tiny island in the Caribbean off the coast of Cancun called Isla Mujeres. I chose that as my base then ventured into Cancun, rented a car, and off I went. Tulum, Chichen Itza, Valladolid, Ek Balam. The scheduled end of the world came and went just like every other end of the world prophecy did. And I had more memories.
So many people were, to my surprise, amazed at the length of vacation time I took and what I did during that time, that I decided to create a blog about my ventures and load it with colorful, rich, descriptive stories and photos. Partly to inform, but mostly to entertain and make people jealous. Jealous enough to follow. And it worked.
People became readers. Readers became subscribers. Subscribers commented on posts. I became encouraged and registered on TripAdvisor. I made contributions and included photos. More readers. More comments.
I was gaining traction as someone who wrote interesting and entertaining stuff. I was told there were actually people who made a living doing that.
I researched it, and guess what? There were! There were also a number of businesses that offered courses on how to do it. I was a subscriber to International Living magazine, and one of their recommendations was the course “The Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program” from Great Escape Publishing. It touched all the topics I wanted to learn more about, so I ordered it.
After printing it all out and inserting the pages into a three ring binder, me, my highlighter, and that notebook spent the entire weekend together. On Monday, I began my pursuit to become a paid travel writer.
The best advice I gleaned from the course, was the word “Free”. Offer your finest and best work to anyone with a publication at no cost. Then offer them more. Create a blog with an easy, catchy, descriptive title and blog your brains out. Craft posts more staccato than lengthy. (Tip: Readers, like most of us, have short attention spans, so strike the right balance between informing them, making them smile or laugh, and you can earn them as a subscriber.)
Once you have a few bylines under your belt, you can approach the publications who offer compensation for your contributions.
My first paid contribution came from an enthusiastic publisher/editor named Carol Wheeler from Mexconnect.com.
She read my submitted blog and requested articles on six topics. After I crafted and fulfilled her request, she chose one and scheduled it for publishing – as a featured article on their site!
I was stoked. Then I got really stoked when a few days after publication, she contacted me asking where I would like my payment to be sent!
During all my effort of preparing numerous articles for across-the-spectrum submissions, query letters, responses to editors, and managing “no thank you’s,” I had totally forgotten that early on, she mentioned they paid their contributors.
Once I learned I was being compensated, I posted on Facebook that all proceeds received from any travel articles for the month would be donated to the Red Cross on that tiny island that afforded me the opportunity to actually begin the journey of “living the dream.”
I now receive a steady stream of requests from editors and webmasters for specific topics of article submissions. Some I can fulfill, others I can’t. Regardless, I make sure to thank them and ask that they please keep me in mind for a future article. Activity like this pushes me forward to crafting article pitches for restaurant and resort managers, theme parks, luxury community developers, and tour packagers. Very soon, those well-crafted pitches fortified by tightly woven, informative and entertaining articles will result in complimentary visits to gain favor from a kid raised in a middle-class neighborhood in Southern California.
That small foothold of success is all you need. If you have a dream, regardless of your age or station in life, and you want it bad enough, nothing will prevent you from achieving it.
[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. Sign up today here and we’ll send you a report, Get Paid to Travel as a Travel Writer, completely FREE.]