by Liberty Stembridge, Lifestyle Columnist
Published in Lifestyle on 20th November, 2018
As the name suggests, a travel writer is a person who writes about travel, but it's also much more than that. The job comes with the opportunity to travel the world, and get paid to do so. You have the responsibility of describing far off realms that many of your readers will never see, while also preserving the historical and cultural context of the region accurately.
For many people, it's a dream job, but it feels impossible to reach. In reality, you can - but you do need to be highly self-motivated and dedicated. You'll need to love writing not just for money, but for fun and have enough passion for your chosen subject that you can withstand the sacrifice that the pursual of a career such as this demands. With a good attitude, plenty of persistence and some creativity, you'll be jetsetting off to Fiji with your notebook in hand in no time at all.
Any writer worth their salt will know the value of reading, and reading widely. You may pick up travel magazines or books once in a while, but in reality, if you want to really up your game and become a travel writer / blogger, you need to be reading as much as possible and be reading a variety of different books. Expand your worldview, look into books about marketing and business to find out how best to sell yourself as a travel writer, look into books about history so you can provide more historical context to your travels, look into books about self-development and psychology to better understand your own brain and the brains of others, and how you can become a more confident writer, and better listener. And of course, it goes without saying - read and analyse the works of other travel writers you admire to inform and inspire your own work. Stay forever a student.
In the famous words of Epictetus, "If you wish to be a writer, write." Sounds simplistic, but is surprisingly difficult for many writers to wrap their heads around. Even if you feel like you have no ideas, you've been stuck in one place for months, keep on writing, it doesn't matter about what. Write about the history of your hometown, or your thoughts on philosophy, or even just a mundane day in the life. What's important is that you keep your writing muscle well toned, even if you're not writing for a living just yet. Create a blog and set yourself targets to update it as often as possible, even they're not the most profound or well thought out posts.
We live in a digital age, and having an online following is more valuable than ever. If you ae able to build up an audience of people who read and engage with your work, you'll not only gain more attention and reach, but you'll look far more legitimate to any potential employers. Grow big enough, and employment may not be such an important goal anymore, as the number of people earning a living from blogging grows and grows.
It might seem easy to just create an Instagram account, link it to your blog and away you go, but now that everyone and their mother is on social media, the space is getting a bit saturated. You'll need to know the tactics to use to get noticed, and how you can stand out from the crowd. There are plenty of places you can look to find out how to market yourself online and build up an audience.
Every successful writer has a long history of odd jobs and many failures. You don't become successful straight away and so often, you'll need to start from the ground up. If you want to start getting paid as a travel writer, aim to just get paid as a regular writer first. The discipline and organisational skills you learn from your first writing job will stand you in good stead for the rest of your career. For many travellers, finding work online is a dream come true, but it's not as difficult as you might imagine. There are plenty of sites out there to find freelancing opportunities, and with a bit of self-promotion, you should be able to land yourself a job fairly quickly. Of course, you may not be making enough money to sustain yourself straight away, but that's okay - it all comes with time.
Confident in your writing prowess and ready to start taking it to the next level? Start off by pitching to magazines, any magazine you can find that might have a vague link to travel. Don't start off with the biggest and best travel magazines, as they are likely to be inundated with thousands of messages from wannabe travel writers every day, and as a fellow newbie you'll find it much harder to stand out from the crowd. Instead think out of the box, and target the smaller magazines that aren't specifically about travel, but might have travel sections or would run a piece about travel. Study these magazines carefully, look at what they are already producing and ask yourself how you could provide value and get their readers interested. Come up with a few ideas, write up a pitch and away you go! Don't get too disheartened if you get rejected, this happens to every writer - just keep trying and eventually something will stick.
As with any creative job, your portfolio is important. Being able to show that you have a consistent track record of well-written and successful pieces makes you much more likely to get a job in the field. It doesn't have to be fancy, there are now plenty of websites that will pretty much do the work for you, all you have to do is source your articles and add them in. If need be, work for free to build up your portfolio - not only will you get more experience, but you'll hopefully have some impressive pieces, with you accredited as the author.
This goes without saying, but you should be aiming to travel and write about your experiences as much as you can. This is not only good practice, but shows any potential employers that you mean business. Plus, you get a great excuse to whittle away all of your savings on place tickets and no-one can judge.
Finally, although of course your most important asset as a travel writer is your ability to write, knowing your way around a camera is another valuable skill. Many magazines love pictures to accompany their stories, and if you are able to provide, that makes you all the more tempting. Plus, reading massive chunks of text just gets boring after a while, and if you're trying to build up an audience, no matter what platform that's on, being able to entice them in with some gorgeous shots of a beach in Hawaii is a plus.