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From the hot rock massage bed, I gaze out over a spectacular waterfall. Afterward, the masseuse gifts me with the round black stones because I’m writing a feature article. More soothing than the heated river rock massage was the fact that I wasn’t being charged for it. Staying in a historic inn set on a country estate in the heart of California’s wine country. Relaxing in a Red Wine Grape Seed Bath in the indoor hydrotherapy tub while gazing at a glowing fire in the fireplace. Soaking in a Chardonnay bath in the outdoor teak wine tub. How did I get to enjoy such luxury for free? For years I was a graphic designer. I learned early on how to trade my skills for goods and services. I had my own business. This combination of creativity and business skills led to the chance to become Managing Editor of a new regional woman’s magazine. A few years later, I signed on with an Internet travel magazine, where I don’t get paid for the assignments… but I calculate that I’ve received over $12,000 worth of perks from them. I keep track of my writing time and what the normal cost of each perk would be, so I know what I’ve “made” per hour. The lowest is $28, but usually it’s much more. Before I visit a luxury hotel, I ask, “Will you want me to cover the spa and restaurant as well?” This invariably leads to complimentary dinner and massage, so I can write about the experience. A lavish treat basket from the general manager awaits me in my suite. I’m treated like a queen at these places. As a travel writer, I’ve taken a Parisian cooking class, attended the 25th Anniversary Playboy Jazz Festival, and enjoyed B&Bs and luxury hotels worldwide. My favorite luxury travel and spa writing perk was when my husband and I spent a week floating French canals on a 12-passenger barge — entirely free of charge. We enjoyed two different wines and cheeses with every lunch and dinner. We were treated to excursions into the French countryside to a foie gras farm, a castle where the Crusades began, an old Roman encampment, and a wine cave that hid planes in World War II. We bicycled along the canal roads and returned to soak in the barge’s hot tub. That same week I had an opportunity to visit a southern California celebrity spa. I passed that assignment on to a writer friend. Can’t be everywhere at once! All in all, I love visiting luxury locations, being treated like a queen and not paying for it when I write for the spa industry. It’s always easier to get there if you have a road map… an expert can make it a lot easier to get started. But I’m here to say that even if all you’ve ever written are Christmas letters to family and friends, you can do this. [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.]

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