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I recently caught up with a nurse colleague I’d worked with many years ago. We started chatting about life and my travel writing. Intrigued, she asked what I loved most about my new profession.

I had a difficult time answering that question. Not because there aren’t many aspects of travel writing that I love, but because it’s impossible to choose just one.

When I began my transition to travel writing five years ago, I had no idea that my life would profoundly alter in so many ways—and all for the better. I couldn’t have imagined nor predicted the rich and life-enhancing changes I’ve experienced and continue to enjoy every day.

1. Total Freedom

Though I loved my 34 years of a rewarding nursing career, my life was always structured around a schedule and tethered to a time clock. I had two weeks of paid vacation a year and even then, I had to compete with other nurse colleagues for time off, especially around the holidays.

Today I have the complete freedom to travel when I want, as long as I want to, and set my own travel and work schedules. And since I’m my own boss, I don’t have to compete with anyone else for time off.

2. Ability to Work from Anywhere

On a recent long flight to the Caribbean, I took out my laptop and finished two travel stories along the way. But the plane isn’t the only place I work these days. I’ve written stories on trains, road trips, cruise ships, oceanside balconies, at the pool, and even in my own backyard in San Diego.

3. Travel No Longer Costs a Fortune

I admit, I love luxury travel. But staying at five-star oceanfront resorts or upscale ski villas during high season can get quite pricey.

Within the last year, I’ve been invited to amazing destinations like Mexico’s Riviera Maya, the Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic, Hawaiian Islands, and California wine country. Each of these trips was covered in full—including travel. The tourism boards who hosted me paid for everything in exchange for my published stories. When I think of what this would have cost out-of-pocket, it’s mind-boggling. And it’s all part of the blessings and perks that are out there for us as travel writers.

4. Getting Paid for My Stories

If hosted travel isn’t amazing in its own right, getting paid to share stories about some of my favorite destinations is the icing on the cake.

Being able to craft a pitch and write a story that editors want and readers enjoy is fun and exhilarating. Getting paid to write those stories means that as a travel writer we not only bring value to the table, we are rewarded for our work.

5. Seeing the World Through a Different Lens

One of the most profound changes that occurred after I became a travel writer was that I began to see the world in a different way. I loved digging into the history of a place, finding the magical “story within the story” and I started to notice things that I surely would have missed as a simple tourist.

The more I traveled, the more I was exposed to other cultures, savoring their unique cuisine and sharing pieces of their lifestyle. It made me want to experience even more. Why? Simply because these types of opportunities for travel writers enrich our lives in ways we could never have imagined.

6. Relationships Forged Along the Way

Perhaps one of the best and most unexpected perks of becoming a travel writer is the magical friendships we share with the people we meet along the journey.

Press trips and professional travel writing organizations have given me the opportunity to meet and bond with my fellow writers, and the information we collectively share is priceless. Likewise, the fascinating individuals who’ve become part of my stories—eclectic chefs, inspiring women winemakers, adventurous expats, and those who’ve managed to overcome tremendous adversity. They’ve all touched my life in countless ways.

An unknown author once said, “Sometimes in life, a sudden situation, a moment in time, alters your whole life and forever changes the road ahead.”

The world of travel writing has done this for me. And I know the same is true for so many of my friends and colleagues. How do you join in? By following your heart and taking that first step.