When you have no money, energy, or free time, the thought of starting out as a travel writer can be quite daunting. But after attending the 2013 Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop with Great Escape Publishing in Boston, Mass—listening avidly to past attendees’ success stories and instructors’ step-by-step plans on how to make it happen—I knew I could make it work in my life, too.
Eventually, I left my retail job as manager of a high-end jewelry store to make this dream of traveling the world a reality.
The central theme during the three-day intensive workshop was about taking action once I returned home. My personal life was in a precarious place—I was willing to do the work necessary to make it happen.
Below you’ll find some habits I adopted that helped along the way.
You don’t need to travel to get started as a travel writer. The more I explored my hometown and surrounding areas, the more great stories seemed to jump out at me. I was surprised to learn how wonderful and interesting Saratoga and the Upstate New York area actually is.
Starting local helped me build a network. It was easier to visit places in person. I could introduce myself to key players in the tourism industry, explaining I was a freelance travel writer and photographer living right in town or just a short distance away. Tourism boards and PR folks were always happy I’d reached out to write a story about them.
Sometimes, looking at the big picture was overwhelming, seeming as if it was light-years away, even impossible to reach. I found it less intimidating to think about writing short articles when I first began. I didn’t feel guilty asking for small favors—like the entrance to a museum, an appetizer or drink at a restaurant, a free ticket to an attraction. Once I felt comfortable with those little things, I upped the ante, requesting a free overnight stay or meal in exchange for PR.
Get Your Name Out There
No one knows you until they know you. I needed to introduce myself, talk to potential clients about what I could offer. Sometimes, I honestly knew more about what they needed from me than they did. I always made sure to offer clips to any relevant stories, as well as a Dropbox of photo essays so they could get a better feel for my writing and photography style.
Choose Several Niches
In 2013, when I first started to search for interesting stories to write about, I had no idea where to begin. I thought about all of the things I love: photography, cemeteries, ghost hauntings, gardens, museums, food, and interesting people. For me, it was difficult to choose just one.
I decided to keep myself open to every kind of writing. I wanted to include all sorts of places to visit and explore. An interesting thing happened when I approached my travel-writing career that way. Doors opened for me—one opportunity led me into another adventure, over and over again. There were moments of good fortune everywhere. PR contacts around the country would call or email, asking if I had an interest in going somewhere or doing something I’d never even thought of before.
I always said yes, even when I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy the experience. And 99% of the time I was intrigued enough to find a story angle, pitch a publication, and get at least two or three stories accepted. Saying yes meant I didn’t have to regret missing out on something that might have been amazing, either. Ignored opportunities, to me, are the worst.
Enjoy the Ride
Travel writing is so much fun. Although there’s a good deal of work involved, and sometimes things don’t always go according to plan, it’s worth every minute. For me, the world of travel writing has enriched my life with interesting people, amazing places, and diverse experiences. I wake up in the morning with a plan, a purpose, and a smile on my face. I wouldn’t have it any other way.