The Travel Writer's Life: An Interview with Workshop Attendee
THE TRAVEL WRITER’S LIFE: AN INTERVIEW WITH WORKSHOP ATTENDEE, SANDRA KENNEDY
TWWTT: Sandra, before we get started, tell us a little bit about how you developed your love for travel and, in particular, travel writing.
SANDRA: The travel bug bit me hard during a trip to Europe when I was twenty and inspired me to seek an international teaching position. Nearly two years later, I landed a teaching job at Colegio Roosevelt in Lima, Peru, followed later by teaching positions at international schools in Portugal and Paris for several years.
Summer vacations provided plenty of time to explore as a local the countries I was teaching in. During these vacations, I sought out unusual and offbeat destinations. It was natural for me to bring along my camera, notebook and pen on these adventures, and I started writing human-interest stories – uncovered during these trips – for local English newspapers.
That’s when I discovered my real passion was writing about and taking photographs of the people and places I encountered on these trips.
TWWTT: You seem to have bounded onto the travel writing scene after attending the Great Escape Publishing’s workshop in Buenos Aires this past March. What made you decide to attend that workshop?
SANDRA: I had always wanted to explore Buenos Aires… and, of course, I was hungry to learn more about travel writing. When I came across the ad for the Ultimate Travel Writing Workshop in Buenos Aires while surfing the Internet, it was literally one of those “ah-ha” moments – the ideal way to fulfill both of those desires.
In order to get a sense of experiencing the city as a local, I rented an apartment in Buenos Aires for the week before the workshop started. Then, when I moved to the lovely hotel in Recoleta where the workshop was held, I really felt like a tourist. It was a perfect blend and allowed me to see Buenos Aires from two distinct perspectives.
TWWTT: For the sake of others who may be considering a future workshop, what did you come away with that accelerated your success at getting your travel articles published shortly thereafter?
SANDRA: Each of the presenters had unique insights into travel writing to share with us – from the actual processes of becoming a successful travel writer to personal anecdotes and practical tips that they’d picked up over the years as professional travel writers.
Meeting the other workshop attendees added so much energy and stimulation to the experience. Unique article ideas sprouted from the brainstorming sessions. And the feedback from the panel reviews of the assigned writing was particularly valuable.
Not only did I come away with a lot of valuable practical information about travel writing, I actually felt I’d gained years of experience during that week.
TWWTT: And, judging from the success stories you’ve shared with us the past couple of months, you came away from that week in Buenos Aires with several good article ideas – the mark of a professional travel writer and something the Great Escape Publishing’s travel writing course and workshops really emphasize.
SANDRA: Yes, to date I’ve had articles published in The Traveler, International Living and Escape Artist. Four articles were a direct result of the Buenos Aires trip: “Renting an Apartment and Living Like a Local” and “Buenos Aires’ Best Street Fairs” have already been published; “Taxi Tango” is scheduled for publication; and another article, “Bouquets from Argentina,” is currently in an editor’s hands.
TWWTT: Now that you’ve established your qualifications as a professional travel writer with those publication credits, what other travel opportunities have opened up for you?
SANDRA: For starters, in November I went to the Riviera Maya near Tulum, Mexico. Backed with “confirmation of assignment” letters from two editors, I was comped a five-day stay at the Eco Tulum Resort and Spas, with accommodations at the rustic and luxurious Azulik Villas overlooking the Caribbean. In addition to the free lodging, I received all meals, a massage by a Mayan Shaman, three hours of “purification” in an indigenous sweat lodge, an hour in a dry flotation tank in the jungle and, of course, activities like snorkeling and kayaking. As a bonus, my husband and I renewed our marriage vows with a Mayan Shaman and a Spanish translator.
Then, in January, my husband and I will be staying – again for free – for four nights at the Ashley Inn Resort in Cascade, Idaho. The resort is preparing a full itinerary for this trip… an individual, rather than a group, press trip. It will involve visiting surrounding ski resorts and scheduled interviews with some of the town’s people.
This is a particularly exciting trip for me, since I love the story behind the Ashley Inn Resort and the town of Cascade. When Boise Cascade, a large lumber company, pulled out of the town in 2002, Cascade faced imminent economic decline. But some enterprising citizens decided to save the town by building the Ashley Inn Resort and, now, it’s starting to thrive as a tourist destination. I’ve just got to share that story with readers.
TWWTT: Those are the types of “perks” we talk about in our travel writing course and workshops and one of the most appealing reasons for becoming a travel writer. What encouragement can you offer beginners who may feel these opportunities for free travel are discouragingly far down the road?
SANDRA: Keep trying and have fun. Getting published requires a lot of perseverance and enthusiasm, but the thrill of seeing your first article – with your byline – in print makes it worth the effort.
And, borrowing words from the workshop, “write, write, write.”
TWWTT: Beyond the obvious rewards – the satisfaction of seeing your travel articles published and the opportunities for free travel – what do you enjoy most about being a travel writer?
SANDRA: Travel writing has given me a deeper sense of my surroundings, as well as what’s going on behind the scenes. I love the learning that goes along with travel – reading about places in books, magazines, newspapers and on the Internet. Then being able to check out for myself where in the world such-or-such a place is and what’s happening there. It keeps my synapses hopping!
[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.]