When I first retired from teaching public school music, I relished days filled by long lunches with friends, afternoons spent leisurely reading Southern Living while sipping sweet tea, then preparing a nice dinner for my Silver Fox (a.k.a. my husband of 47 years).
But after a while, a restlessness crept in… and I knew I needed an alternative retirement.
Of course, travel writing keeps me busy during retirement—but it does so much more than that, too. Here are a few of the ways that travel writing has enriched my life, and why I plan to continue for the foreseeable future…
1. I stay interested and interesting.
I have 13 grandchildren, but I’m not the kind of grandmother who knits, rocks in a rocking chair, watches soap operas, and waits for someone to call or drop by.
I love people and their stories. I love seeing new places, eating new dishes, and delving into history. I need regular stimulation to satisfy my insatiable curiosity, but I also love sharing my knowledge. When I’m the only travel writer at a dinner table, I enjoy inserting fun insights into the conversation.
2. I satisfy my desire to continue teaching.
I loved teaching music to children, but basically, I enjoy the whole art of teaching ANY SUBJECT. Now, I view my readers as my students.
Generally, a teacher does an enormous amount of research and preparation before facing a class and then uses varying methods for imparting his/her knowledge to the students. As a travel writer, I follow a similar process—I learn all I can before I reach a destination, ask tons of questions, and take dozens of photos while I’m there. Then I return home and figure out which stories will fit which publications… and start writing to share my knowledge.
3. It gives me a way to nudge others out of their ruts and routines.
So many of my friends have habits of going to the same restaurants over and over and to the same beach or mountain resorts for vacations year after year. GIVE ME VARIETY!
It’s a good feeling when I see my friends step out of their comfort zone at my urging, try a new place, and then come back telling others how good it was. As a fun side benefit, I’ve been asked to be a guest-speaker for several women’s conferences and civic clubs. People are curious, and even a bit envious, about this “gig” they hear me talking about and sharing on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
4. It’s a fun activity I can share or do on my own.
Most of my travel writing covers my beloved Deep South. I can drive a few hours in any direction and see a LOT that just begs to be described in an article. In many cases, my Silver Fox enjoys going with me as my chauffeur, my extra photographer, an additional set of eyes and ears, and the “keeper of my sanity.” But, when he’s unavailable to join me, we’re both comfortable with me striking out on my own. It’s my home turf.
Travel writing is also something I can often do while inviting a friend, or better yet, a child or grandchild, to tag along on my explorations. Their reactions and insights invariably enrich my articles.
5. It stretches my travel budget.
Teacher retirement and Social Security are great to have, but they don’t allow for an unlimited amount of money to be spent on travel…
But with complimentary hotel nights, meals, and attractions provided by tourism representatives, I can easily take trips worth $1,500 or more… and spend only $100 on gas. Plus, any paid stories I write put money back in the budget. Win-win!
6. It contributes purpose and meaning to my life on a daily basis.
I love looking at a calendar filled with upcoming press trips, writing deadlines, and days for querying and searching out new publications. It seems that I always have something to do or learn that can help me become a better travel writer.
I still have time for occasional long lunches with friends and reading Southern Living. And somehow, those times seem even sweeter when they’re surrounded by days of stimulating my brain with travel writing.