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Travel writer Tim Cotroneo finds his best stories when connecting with people on his travelsWhen the owner of the 54-foot catamaran told me that his first boat had crashed in the Bermuda Triangle, I flashed back to something I had learned when I first started travel writing: “Keep your eyes and ears open for spontaneous travel articles.”

Since hearing that piece of advice at a GEP travel-writing workshop back in 2011, I’ve discovered that articles that pop out of nowhere often become my favorite travel-writing memories. 

I was on a Caribbean press trip, sailing with six other travel writers from St. Thomas to the neighboring island of St. John. And the more the catamaran owner talked, the more excited I got about his story. 

I learned he was the first entrepreneur to offer snorkeling excursions to cruise ships docked out of the Charlotte Amalie Harbor. But the icing on this travel-story cake was learning this boat captain’s last name. Here I was, sailing in the rum-drenched waters of the Caribbean on a boat driven by none other than Captain Morgan.

Hardly a trip goes by that I don’t meet someone new or discover an interesting venue that evolves into an article I can sell.

On a trip to Anguilla, I interviewed the golf professional on the island’s one-and-only golf course. I pitched the story of her bringing the sport to the island to her college alumni magazine. Bingo! This publication compensated me with a major payday. 

When I returned to Anguilla three years later, I replicated this exchange—this time with a new golf professional, new college, and new paying alumni publication.

During a discussion with the assistant general manager at a luxury hotel in the Bahamas, I learned that her first Caribbean job was working as a personal chef for Richard Gere. Ding, ding, ding. My travel-writer alarm went off. I placed this article with a business magazine for entrepreneurs.

While on a press trip in Loreto, Mexico, I struck up a conversation with the food and beverage manager at the resort the travel writers were staying at. He shared that he was also the resort’s tequila sommelier and that his restaurant offered guests 38 different types of tequila. 

When I asked where he was born and raised, he answered, “Tequila, Mexico.” Ding, ding, ding. A tequila sommelier from Tequila, Mexico, worked perfectly for the bar business magazine I pitched it to.

Whether you’re penning local stories at home or writing aboard a catamaran driven by Captain Morgan in the Caribbean Sea, it pays to always be on the alert for spontaneous travel articles. 

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