Imagine being whisked off to a faraway country on someone else’s dime. Your only responsibility is to write a captivating and panoramic portrayal of that place.
Your loose instructions are to write in such a way that the reader feels like they are walking right alongside you.
If so, you might have what it takes to become a travel writer.
But don’t get too excited yet! The road to becoming a travel writer is not an easy one, and not everyone succeeds at this venture.
Find out if you have what it takes to become a travel writer and if this is a path you want to full-heartedly pursue.
Quintessential Qualities of a True Travel Writer
Passion for travel and writing
Travel writing is a career fueled by passion. Without that devotion, the writing is likely to fall flat and fail to inspire your readers to set off on the path you have paved.
Whether you are writing about skiing in the Swiss Alps, sailing around the San Blas Islands, indulging in champagne from Champagne or simply enjoying restaurants in your hometown, passion must seep through the pages and onto the hands of your readers.
An eye for detail
Whether you are on the other side of the globe or down the street from your house, travel writing is contingent upon your ability to see and record what the average person is likely to miss. Your job is to paint a picture with your words by using unique sensory language.
Your reader should not only be able to see the place, activity, food, accommodation or landmark you are writing about, but also be able to smell, feel, taste and hear it.
If you are not self-disciplined and self-motivated, travel writing is not for you.
As a travel writer, you are going to be working constantly. This is not a job where you clock in from nine to five. It is solely up to you to keep diligent notes, meet deadlines, apply for writing opportunities and submit your work regularly to various relevant publications.
The life of a travel writer is often a solitary one. Oftentimes, you will be traveling near and far on your own to capture the story you have been assigned to write.
You must know how to fend for yourself and live out the experiences that you intend to inspire others to do.
An unwavering persistence
The idea of being paid to travel is one that has captured the imaginations of millions. Travel writing is highly competitive, especially opportunities that cover all your expenses and pay you to write.
Like any job, though, you have to start somewhere and work your way up.
You must find your niche, create your edge and find a way to stand out amongst the millions who are trying to do what you want to do. The path to becoming a successful travel writer is not an easy one, but with a lot of persistence, it is absolutely possible.
A curious and creative mind
The mind of a true travel writer is curious, creative and constantly weaving stories from seemingly invisible threads. A travel writer is searching for the magic in a place, culture or experience that flourishes just below the surface.
The story, article or review that will stand out is the one that sparks the reader’s own innate sense of curiosity and ignites the imagination.
Write Around the World: 18 Steps to Becoming a Travel Writer
How to Develop Your Travel Writing Craft
1. Write every day
The only way to get better at something is to do it… and to do it a lot.
Even if you don’t have an assignment or paying writing gig, you should still be writing all the time. Being a travel writer is more than a career, it is a way of life.
2. Always have a notebook handy
Whether you are traveling or not, you should always have a notebook and pencil (or pen) handy.
Note taking and travel writing go hand in hand. A quality piece of travel writing will include highly specific details, which you can keep track of and access from your handy notebook.
This one probably seems quite obvious, but being a travel writer does not necessarily mean you have to travel to exotic and faraway places.
Traveling is anything that happens after you walk out your front door. You cannot write about the world around you unless you step out into the world.
So get out there!
Travel writers are usually self-taught. The greatest teachers are other travel writers.
Reading blogs like FluentU Travel Blog, magazines like National Geographic Traveler or annual anthologies like “The Best American Travel Writing” will provide inspiring and informative examples of different types of travel writing you can learn from.
5. Train yourself to see the world through the eyes of a writer
You need to start seeing the world beyond the surface. It is your job to bring to the surface what most people are likely to miss.
The key is often to make the ordinary extraordinary. You must train your brain to be present, highly attuned and almost obsessively observational.
6. Take photographs
Taking photos captures moments and details so you can write about them later. If your photographs are good enough, you can even include them with your finished copy.
How to Create a Travel Writing Portfolio
7. Build a personal website or blog
Building a diversified portfolio is of the utmost importance if you are going to grow into a successful travel writer. No one is going to hire you just based on your word that you are an amazing writer. You must be able to prove your talent and abilities.
The more experience you have and pieces you have written, the more of a competitive edge you will have when trying to land an incredible travel writing opportunity.
Creating a blog or simple website portfolio is the best way to catalog your work. Wix and Weebly are two free and easy-to-use website builders. They even have pre-made templates specifically designed for creative portfolios.
8. Write for any travel-related publication that will publish your work
When you are first starting out, it is best not to be too picky. Until you build up your portfolio and reputation, it is a good idea to seek out less competitive publications, online or print, that will publish your work, paid or unpaid.
The initial stage of becoming a travel writer should be focused around practicing your craft and testing the waters in all different travel-related outlets. Being less selective will help you build your portfolio and prepare you for those dream travel writing opportunities.
9. Give yourself assignments
An effective way to focus your energy and attention when traveling is to give yourself specific writing assignments.
This is a great exercise that will help you grow as a travel writer. It is also a way to craft stories for your portfolio that will demonstrate your voice, talent and interests as a travel writer.
10. Develop a social media presence
Your online presence is key as a travel writer. You want to start building a following and an audience. Proving that you have an interested following is also a leveraging tool you can use when applying for competitive writing jobs.
Through social media, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, you can share your portfolio link and published articles. Nearly everyone is on social media, and you never know who will come across your work and decide to hire you.
Connecting with other traveler writers, editors and travel publications is also important and can be easily done through social media. In many cases, it is all about connections and who you know.
11. Explore all sub-genres of travel writing
Travel writing is actually a pretty broad genre. It includes sub-genres like first-person narrative stories, destination guidebooks, destination articles and reviews. Travel writing also includes travel blogging, interviews, historical and cultural articles and even current event pieces.
In the four years that I have been working as a travel and freelance writer, I have written articles related to surfing, nature, food, health, lifestyle, adventure tours, eco-friendly accommodations and international volunteering opportunities. I have also written a variety of how-to pieces for travel blogs, websites and print publications.
While I know what my end goal is, I have remained open to all different types of travel writing opportunities as they have presented themselves.
It is a good idea to test several of them out and see what really sparks your passion and fits within the realm of how you want to work. Being able to write multiple sub-genres will definitely increase your chances of earning a livable wage as a writer until you can afford to be truly selective.
How to Get Published
12. Make a list of publications you want to write for
It is wise to establish what types of publications you would ultimately like to write for.
Not only is this a wonderful way to set some travel writing goals, but it also motivates you to practice writing stories that could one day end up in these publications.
13. Learn how to pitch a story
Before you decide to submit a story or an idea to a specific publication, it is important to do your research. You need to make sure that your piece meets the style of the publication you are pitching to.
Remember, most publications receive hundreds—if not thousands—of emails and pitches monthly, so you want yours to stand out.
Every publication is different and attracts various types of readers. Knowing the publication’s submission guidelines, editorial style and the target audience is key to successfully pitching a travel story or article.
14. Apply and submit constantly
For both longer-term writing jobs and singular article or story submissions, you will likely have to apply and submit to dozens of job listings or publications before you even hear back from one.
When I first started writing as a profession, I did not have a portfolio or any professional experience. I applied to all different types of writing jobs. For every ten or so applications I submitted, I probably only heard back about one. Even then, I often did not hear anything for weeks. I even accepted writing jobs that I did not particularly love just so that I could start gaining experience and adding to my writing resume.
Do not get discouraged, though. The more you put yourself out there, the better chance that someone will reply. My persistence and hard work paid off, and yours will, too.
15. Accept rejection as an opportunity
Every time a publication rejects your pitch (which will happen a lot) you have an opportunity to learn and improve.
Rejection does not mean that you are a terrible writer. Do not take it personally! It just means you need to keep practicing, reading, experiencing and following your dreams.
If you are lucky enough to get any feedback from a rejection, learn from it.
16. Enter travel writing contests
There are travel writing contests taking place all year long. You just have to find them.
This is a unique submission opportunity that could end in prize money and a feature in a travel publication.
17. Seek out open submission opportunities
Sometimes exposure is more valuable than monetary compensation for your work. There are plenty of travel blogs, websites and journals that accept travel-related articles and stories on a regular basis.
If getting paid to travel was easy, everyone would do it.
While you can definitely find work writing about travel-related topics, landing a travel writing job that pays for all your expenses and offers a paycheck is reserved for the crème de la crème.
If it is your dream to become a travel writer, you can make it happen! Follow this guide, and you will see your name in print in no time.
In fact, you could see your name in print right here on the FluentU Travel Blog! Check out how to apply to be a long-term travel blogger here.
Jenn Parker is a native Floridian who has been living in Costa Rica since 2010. She is an avid writer, traveler and nature lover on a mission to surf the earth and share her stories. She writes for multiple publications, including a collaborative blog called Ocean and Oak.
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