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My wife and I like to escape Seattle’s rainy winter — it’s almost mandatory for Seattleites to take a “sun vacation” during those short, gray Pacific Northwest days in December and January.

This past winter we did an eight-week stint in S.E. Asia, spending the first 12 days in Singapore. We lived there for three pleasant years about a decade back, and wanted to see how much it had changed. Going as a travel writer was a great excuse.

My first order of business was to rustle up some stories to defray the costs of our trip — hopefully paying for most of it — which worked out nicely.

Here’s what I arranged:

  • An assignment about Singapore’s Hawker Food Centers for an upscale lifestyle magazine…
  • An article about Singapore’s best ethnic restaurants for an online food magazine…
  • A piece about Singapore’s Top Ten tourist attractions for an in-flight magazine…
  • And a story about Singapore’s luxury hotels for a travel newsletter and an online travel magazine.

With these articles pre-assigned, I now had the collateral to request complimentary meals, accommodations, and entry to tourist attractions. After firing off requests to restaurants, hotels, and tourist attractions, we met with great success.

We arranged six complimentary nights in three boutique and luxury hotels, including Hotel Fort Canning and the Pan Pacific Hotel, and enjoyed several memorable meals — free of charge — at some of the island’s most eclectic ethnic restaurants, like Samy’s Curry House and Blue Ginger.

As my wife (a professional travel photographer now) and I dined at some of Singapore’s most famous restaurants, we were closely attended by the restaurateurs, who fussed over us, explaining each dish, pouring our drinks, and clearing our plates the moment they were empty.

We sampled the divine world-class curry buffet in the Raffle’s Hotel Tiffin Room and ate some superb Peranakan dishes (a delicious fusion of traditional Straits Chinese and spicy Malaysian food) at Blue Ginger, and tried the endless spicy and hot varieties of curries and rice at Samy’s Curry House, eating with our hands off huge banana leaves. Here, they scooped the food from large buckets and plunked it on our banana leaf “plates.” Great fun!

Staying at the luxurious Pan Pacific Hotel and Hotel Fort Canning, we experienced over-the-top hospitality by our hosts, had hotel tours, and were treated to gourmet meals in their first class restaurants, even meeting the chefs.

And on top of all that, we also scored free entry into 12 of Singapore’s attractions, including the Singapore Flyer, Sentosa Island, Asian Civilizations Museum, Chinatown Heritage Centre, Singapore Duck Tour, Singapore Red Lantern Tram Tour, Jurong Bird Park, a Singapore Symphony Orchestra concert, Singapore National Museum, Little India, and a few others.

As we cruised around Singapore Marina Harbor in an amphibious “DUCK” that doubled as a tour bus, gawking at the impressive Singapore commercial skyline, I was reminded that this is exactly how I want to spend the rest of my life… unchained by a regular 9-to-5 job, with no soul-destroying commute and no office politics (although, if truth be told, I work harder and longer as a travel writer!).

When I took the AWAI Ultimate Travel Writing course in July 2007, I never for a minute thought that I would eventually be spending 150 days on the road each year traveling around the U.S.A. and many other countries, all of it paid for by someone else. 

I never thought this would be my life, but I’m certainly enjoying it! All because I took a 3-day travel writing course.

[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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