Most of my readers don’t know this about me… I was a lobbyist before I became a full-time travel writer. And yes, it’s true, politics is like watching sausage being made… you really don’t want to see what’s on the inside.
Even after years of success, I knew I had to come up with an Exit Plan. This was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I’d heard the phrase, “If you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life.” I wanted THAT job, and my passion was travel, so I set out to make that happen.
My plan was to first become a travel writer by getting my first article published, then to get perks using my bylines, then get paid for my articles, next was fully-paid press trips, and my ultimate goal was to be able to quit my lobbying job for a full-time travel writing career.
Bingo! It took a few years, but I worked the plan, starting with the Ultimate Travel Writers’ Workshop in 2011. Now I’m living a life so fabulous I have to sometimes pinch myself to make sure I’m really not dreaming. I travel around 50% of the time to the most exciting places on earth and I’ve actually had to turn down press trip invitations.
This is me on my seven-day, fully-paid press trip to four islands in the Azores last month:
Here are eight characteristics that really helped me implement my Exit Plan. They can work for you, too.
1. Desire. I really, really wanted the travel writer’s life and was not going to just dream about it. It WAS going to become a reality.
2. Determination. You need to be strongly motivated to succeed. It’s not rocket science, but you have to do the work; no one is going to just hand it to you, but there are people and programs that will help you.
3. Distinguishable. Make your writing different or distinct. First of all, your perspective is unique because of your background and experiences. Second, thoroughly research your target publication to understand their style and what they’ve already published. Your story – and perhaps even more important, your query – should be original and intriguing.
4. Diligence. Maybe you don’t know where to start or have writer’s block. Make it a point to sit down at least 30 minutes a day to write. Jot down ideas or an outline, or get an inspiration from a photo you took. More often than not, that initial 30 minutes will transition into hours once you get on a roll.
5. Dependable. Always – and I do mean always – adhere to the editor’s guidelines and deadlines. If you can submit your article early, do it. If you get a last-minute assignment, do it, and become that publication’s go-to person.
6. Discouraged… don’t be. We were all beginners at one time. Think about starting small, in your own backyard. Do you have a popular downtown area? Maybe try a roundup of “Top 10 Best Things to Do (or Eat or See, etc.) in (your city)” and see if a local or regional magazine or newspaper would be interested.
7. Delight. Don’t forget to be ecstatic and celebrate every small accomplishment along the way. Your first stories may be unpaid, but they will give you the much-needed bylines you absolutely need to continue. Be a glass half-full person!
8. Do. As they say in showbiz, “80% of success is showing up.” Most everyone tells me they’d love to have my job but are not willing to make it happen. It can happen for you. Are you willing to “do?”
Was it an Exit Plan from the drudgery of lobbying or Entrance Plan into the delight of travel writing? I’ll let you decide that for yourself. I know what I think.