How to become a travel writer

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D.F. was treated to a private excursion around Grand Cayman Island in the Caribbean—including a swim with sting rays. 

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J.P. glamped for two nights in a high-end yurt, on the house.

E.D. traveled by luxury rail from Cape Town to Pretoria in South Africa—three days and two nights with a stop along the way in a well-preserved Victorian town—all at no charge.

“Back then, I didn’t even know this opportunity existed. I was just wrapping up my nursing career wondering what I was going to do with myself in retirement.

J.H. drank good beer at a fine microbrewery and got the butler’s tour—all for free—and then, just like the rest of these travel writers, got paid to write about his experience.  

It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it… 

And that somebody could be you. 

Explore new places and write about your experience
Explore new places and write about your experiences

Why You Should Become a Travel Writer

I say that because you don’t need a degree in journalism or a mastery of the English language to become a travel writer. I mean, you need to be able to put a sentence together—but you don’t have to be Hemingway. 

What you DO need is curiosity and an interest in seeing new places and meeting new people. You need to be willing to share an opinion about the experiences you have. 

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And you need the willingness to learn the techniques, tricks, and secrets the pros rely on to write the kinds of stories that editors want… so you can land those amazing perks that are, indeed, on offer.

Travel writers who deliver are valuable to the folks in the travel industry who have offers of hospitality to extend. And by “writers who deliver,” I mean writers who get stories published and help spread the word about what’s going on around the world. 

Their stories help drive visitors to the places they write about. 

And the public relations officials who see that happening reward those writers with more and better offers of hospitality—it could be perks that range from a gift basket in your hotel room to a full week of being wined and dined and treated like royalty. 

If you’re interested in traveling for free and seeing your name in print, your challenge is to become one of those “writers who deliver.” 

But the good news is, that’s easier to do than you may imagine. 

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Become A Travel Writer Who Delivers

In this industry, success tends to beget success. And you don’t have to “pay your dues” for years before you can begin to see the rewards—when, that is, you apply the most effective strategies. 

My rule of thumb is three articles. Get three articles published, and you’re off to the races. 

With three articles to your name, you look serious, you feel legitimate, and—if you’re doing it right—you’ll now have a nice selection of published stories to show off to those PR folks who have perks to give away. 

Don’t start by trying to get your first article published in a big glossy magazine. Start small. 

First you land a byline in a modest online publication, and then another, and then maybe in a city or regional magazine, and the next thing you know: You’re getting paid to see the world. 

It can all happen a lot faster than you imagine—when you go about it the right way, that is. 

Travel for free to the best destinations worldwide
Travel to the best destinations worldwide

Travel Writing Workshop Experience

Take N.K, for instance, who took my workshop a few years back. She put it this way: 

“If you’d told me even three years ago, I’d be jetting around the globe on someone else’s dime—staying at a high-end oceanfront villa in Riviera Maya, Mexico…

“…lounging for free at a luxury beach resort in an oceanfront suite valued at over $1,350 a night…

“…exploring Italy’s Amalfi coast…even designing my own trips and having publishers clamoring to pay for them…

“…I’d have said you were dreaming.

“Yet here I am today with more than 600 articles accepted for publication and an in-box full of new opportunities I can take advantage of.”

Just a few weeks back, an editor reached out to her out of the blue to ask if she’d be interested in taking a trip to Senegal, all expenses paid.  

She got her start right here—and so could you.

Find your voice in your articles
Find your voice in your writing

How Do You Know What to Write and Where to Sell It?

The observation—and then follow-up question—I hear most often from budding travel writers is: “I have this story idea, but where do I sell this—and how do I do it?”

The key is to get a clear handle in your mind on what audience you’re writing for and then to match that audience with a publication those folks are reading. Then, with that target publication (or publications) in mind, dig a little. 

Have the editors posted instructions for writers? If so, great—now you’ve got insights and instructions directly from the powers that be. Follow them. 

Read a few issues (or if it’s a website you’re targeting, read through a dozen posts). Consider the style, language, tone, and structure of the stories. And think about how you could follow one of them as a model for your own. 

Pack light and write where ever you go
Pack light and write where ever you go

Become a Travel Writer Through Models

To be clear—I’m not suggesting you copy anything. I’m simply saying: If your target website publishes a lot of lists, for instance, then think about how you could frame your story idea in that same way. 

If the stories are often written in first person and include lots of anecdotes about a writer’s personal experience—well, then, that’s something you’d want to consider.

Find an example of a story you enjoy reading and take some time to pick it apart. 

What makes it enjoyable? What did that writer do first, second, third… these are hints that can help you to create a roadmap for your own story.  It’s not complicated to discern what an editor is looking for—but it does take a little time. 

Lots of writers don’t bother with that up-front investment. They’ll write a relatively generic story and send it to a bunch of editors in hopes one will take it. 

To my mind, that’s wildly inefficient. Take the time on the front end to target your story well and you’ll have more luck selling it, and you’ll likely do so faster. 

You Will Not Find a Moment of Opportunity Like This Again

If you’re intrigued by the idea of becoming a travel writer, you should know: Your timing is perfect.  

The upheaval that rocked the travel industry over the last few years effectively tossed every norm in the air. And things aren’t being put back together the “old” way. 

That’s a good thing if you’re looking to find success as a travel writer. I’ve been in this industry for more than two decades, and I’ve never seen anything like this. I don’t think we’ll see more fertile ground for travel writers again. 

Today editors are publishing not just more content, but new kinds of content, too. They’re telling stories they weren’t telling a year ago. And they’re looking for people with new perspectives to share those stories. 

There Is Massive Opportunity for Writers Like You Today 

The trick is to know how to spot it—and how to grab it. 

Travel across the world and write about it.
Travel across the world and write about it

As a Travel Writer, You Can Live a Richer Life

Travel writers are privileged to walk the world in a special way.  Frankly, it allows you to live an immeasurably richer life. When you’re writing about a place, you pay more attention to it. You notice more. You gain perspective. 

At the end of the day, it’s not the stuff we accumulate, it’s the experiences we have in life that define us. That’s what we’ll keep with us. 

And as a travel writer—you can live a life full of extraordinary experiences. And you can collect them on somebody else’s dime.  

If we’ve learned nothing else in the last year, I think it’s safe to say we all understand exactly how fragile life can be. 

How do you want to spend yours? 

Author’s Bio: Jennifer Stevens is the Executive Editor at International Living, author of Great Escape Publishing’s Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program, and creator and host of Travel Better, Sell More: The “New World” of Travel Writing Online Workshop set for August 21-22, 2021.

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