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Mary Charlebois became a successful travel writer by writing local travel stories“There’s no way I can be a real travel writer,” I told myself. “I never go anywhere!” 

I wanted to be a travel writer, but how could I even begin? 

My travel budget was $0. 

I lacked the money to fly to Venice, explore the Balkans, or cruise to Cuba. And without any byline, press trips were out of the question.

I asked the experts what to do, and they gave me a piece of critical advice: “Go local.” 

So, I forged ahead, scouting local travel stories, determined to get published.

My first bylines came from a tabloid that covered the local arts and food scene for both area residents and visitors in my hometown. 

I gathered my nerve, called the editor, and pitched preview stories for two events. “One photo, 300 words, ink and a byline, no money,” was all he said. I submitted my work and waited, not knowing if it had been accepted until the paper hit the newsstand. I opened the paper, and there was my work on page two. I squealed. I was on my way. 

Each month, I kept getting my local stories and photos published. And with every acceptance, my confidence grew. 

I began pitching local stories to non-local magazines and websites. They were accepted… and I got paid. 

Since those first articles, I’ve had more than 80 stories published. All but three covered local topics. But only 21 stories were published locally. The rest were featured in publications from other parts of the planet for people who want to read about visiting my area. 

These days, I’m proud to call myself a “local travel writer.” My local stories, photos, and videos are the reason for my success. 

“Going local” changed three important things in my travel writer’s life: 

1. Getting the story is easier and costs little or nothing 

Asking for an interview from someone I know, someone I do business with, or someone who owns a place I frequent is much easier than approaching a stranger in a strange land. 

It cost me $0 to go rowing with a local maritime history group, interview a local chef, photograph a new hiking trail, and attend our frequent food, wine, art, and wildlife festivals. 

Local comps and perks come my way now. Accommodations, meals, excursions, theater tickets, concert tickets, wine, organic foods—all the things visitors and locals alike want to hear about. 

2. I’ve created a niche for myself 

I’d heard it many times: “Find a niche and specialize.” I was clueless at first, but as my local stories were being accepted by non-local publishers, I had an “a-ha moment.” I realized that my niche is the remote, wild Northern California coast, which is a destination on countless bucket lists.

I’m now a go-to writer for local travel stories. Consider being the same for your area. You have an all-access pass. 

3. I fell in love 

I fall in love with my home and neighbors on a daily basis. The search for stories exposes me to every nook and cranny of the county. I visit the beaches, hike the trails, find the waterfalls, and gaze at the wildlife. Vineyards, wineries, ranches, and farm-stays have become much-loved overnight getaways (on the house, of course). Lodging, eateries, and shopping have new meaning when I look at them with a visitor’s eyes. I’ve met remarkable people and made many new friends. 

I’m proud to tell these local stories. The articles I write have a purpose beyond my byline. I’m a vital part of our tourist economy and a valued member of the community.

Now I explore and write about other areas, but most workdays are spent traveling the streets, back roads, and trails of my home. 

No matter where you live, there is something interesting, fun, new, historic, picturesque, tasty, or just plain weird. Find it, photograph it, and write about it. Offer the story to a local or regional publication. 

Travel writing isn’t about where you go, it’s about where others want to go. Go local. No one has better access than you. 

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