I admit it. I’m an adrenaline junkie. If there’s an adventure to be found, I’ll find it.
If there’s a way to pay for the adventure, I’ll find that, too.
That’s why I decided to become a travel writer. I’ve been paid to swim, snorkel, and dive with all sorts of sea creatures like dolphins, sea lions, stingrays, moray eels, nurse and blacktip sharks, baby octopi, and sea turtles.
Anyone can ride a horse, but have you ever ridden a camel in the dessert or forded a jungle river, bareback on an elephant? I have.
Climb up a waterfall, white river rafting, surfing, speed-boat racing, cave tubing, rock climbing? Been there, done that, collected a paycheck.
The AWAI conference I attended in Chicago a few years ago really gave me a lot of practical advice and shortcuts that I hadn’t thought of.
Here are my three favorite tips — the ones that have really helped me gain access to travel writers’ perks and were instrumental in getting stories published upon return.
1. Know your target publications before you go.
- It’s important to do thorough research. Read their printed and online sites to see what types of articles they like, their writing style, and what they’ve already published. This will save wasting your (and their) time and mitigate rejection.
- By knowing your market, you can set up activities at your destination, interviews, photo shoots, and anything else that will ensure that you return with enough material to keep editors clamoring for more.
2. Know how to tango with tourism boards.
- Travel writers should learn the fine art of “dancing” with tourism staff. They want publicity, but have to be convinced you will deliver.
- You’ve already researched the destination to see what’s already been covered — now come up with something different.
- Grab their attention. Your solicitation should not be “me-oriented.” They want to know what you are going to do for them. Before approaching them, have your angle, lede, or story idea already in mind, and then hook them with just a taste of what you can do to promote their destination.
- For example, when I contacted Bora Bora Tourism, I told them I wanted to write something different than the stick-a-fork-in-it-done honeymoon angle. I piggybacked the TV show “The Amazing Race’s” first episode (just after it aired) which opened with contestants skydiving over Bora Bora. I told my tourism contact that I wanted to cover Bora Bora from an adventure perspective and suggested they should take advantage of the excitement generated from the show while it was still fresh in the public’s mind. It worked. I was awarded a four-day birthday adventure in Bora Bora!
3. Know what to ask for.
- First, don’t ask for freebies; ask if they have a “special rate for visiting journalists.” More times than not, they’ll offer it free, or worst case at a substantial discount.
- Don’t ask for their top-of-the-line activity or the presidential suite (unless you’re a staff writer for National Geographic!). I didn’t ask for the $3,000 helicopter skydive even though I would have loved it. I mentioned other activities that would be more likely to convince them they would get a good return on their investment.
Instead of paying a small fortune to travel the world, I turn my adventures into a paycheck. Whether you are seeking thrills, want to eat exotic food, stay in the best resorts, or explore historical sites, writing about your trips can fund your own travel dreams.
My next adventure? I’m working on an opportunity to try hang-gliding in Hawaii later this month.
Um-hum. I’m addicted to travel… and loving it!