You could speak to 50 successful travel writers and ask them about lessons they’ve learned along the way. I bet you’d hear something new from every one of them.
That’s because travel writing is for everyone. I know people from all walks of life with different skill sets and varied professions who decided to become travel writers.
We all walk different roads, but have come together in this passion. And that’s why we stick together and help each other out.
So with that in mind, here are five lessons I learned in my own journey that I want to share with you.
1. Invest in yourself.
I didn’t have the disposable income to spend on myself when I first began my travel writing journey. I was just out of a messy divorce—with nearly $38,000 in debt I’d inherited from my husband, who was a gambler.
I quickly realized that I needed to invest in learning a skill, though. I had to figure a way to dig myself out of the hole I was in, and spending money on learning a new skill set seemed to be the way to go.
Even though I was scared to draw from my 401(k), I never regretted the decision and made my initial investment back many times.
2. Don’t do this alone.
Travel writing can be a lonely road to travel down. Luckily, I learned that many others were just like me. And we wanted to make a better life for ourselves. I joined writing groups. I took part in Facebook pages and often contribute to GEP’s Travel Writer’s Café as an expert on the subject.
It helps when you’re with a group of peers who become friends and colleagues over time. Everyone brings something unique to the table, and sharing ideas can often spark something that spurs you onward.
3. Draw on personal interests.
I have many interests that fuel my curiosity. I’m sure you do, too. Becoming a travel writer allows me to write about my varied passions.
For instance, I love ghosts and cemeteries. When I visited New Orleans a few years ago and wrote a story about Cemetery No. 1, I had no idea the audience that it would attract.
Imagine my surprise when the article was published online by MilesGeek, and I received a letter from a reader. One of the photos I’d taken was of his family plot. It was currently under restoration. He issued an open invitation for me to come and meet those working on the project.
“We’ll take you to dinner and talk to you about our family history; let’s set something up!”
You can write about anything—there’s an audience out there, I promise.
4. Learn from acceptance and rejection letters.
We all want a “Yes!” reply to queries we send out during the week. The truth of the matter is this: We all get rejections as well.
When we craft an email and think our pitch is perfect, a “No thanks!” can be crushing.
I’ve learned that there is usually a good reason for a rejection email. Perhaps I didn’t research the magazine closely enough.
Once, I hadn’t gone back far enough through the publication’s past issues. I’d pitched a story the magazine had already run that year. You better believe that never happened again.
I learned to read several issues to get a feel for their voice, see who they targeted as their audience, etc.
If you do things like this, your acceptances will add up quickly, and you’ll see your rejections dwindle, becoming more infrequent.
5. Walk through doors that open unexpectedly.
I often hear the phrase “think outside the box.” This sentiment has never proved more true than in travel writing.
After I’d published a few stories and my name started circulating through town, opportunities began to arrive—mostly through email invitations.
Even though some articles were new to me—writing about something for the first time, or an in-depth piece that felt out of reach—I was always up for the challenge.
Recently, an editor asked if I’d be interested in writing a story about a historic home in the area. It was a 20-page spread and appeared in Simply Saratoga’s “Showcase of Homes”—one of the most critical issues of the year. I was a little nervous, but I’d covered architectural pieces before and I knew the couple who owned the house, so I said yes.
The piece was a huge hit! The owners invited everyone who’d worked on the project over when it came out in print. We drank champagne, enjoyed homemade wood-fired pizzas, and shared stories over chilled glasses of wine amid lots of laughter.
Your travel writing journey is personal and different from anyone else’s. The lessons you learn might be similar to mine, or could be quite different. I encourage you to embrace them all and share them with others traveling down a road of their own.
We’re all in this together.