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They say the average person eats 10,354 chocolate bars in a lifetime.

I’m certainly doing my share. Only thing is – I get paid for it because I’m a travel writer.

One of the cool things about being a travel writer is that it often leads you down unexpected paths. In my case, it led me down the path to chocolate. For the last few years, I’ve been the National Chocolate Examiner – a delicious title if I do say so myself!

You may be wondering what chocolate has to do with travel. Consider this, almost every destination has a local chocolate shop and most have an interesting story. I’ve written about chocolate shops in Asheville, North Carolina; Grapevine, Texas; Wellsboro, Pennsylvania; Key Largo, Florida; and Deadwood, South Dakota – just to name a few. And it isn’t just an American thing: I’ve written about chocolate shops in numerous international destinations including Germany, Norway, Canada, and Peru. Of course, I had to sample chocolates at each shop…all in the name of research.

Sampling chocolate is awesome, but indulging in chocolate spa treatments like cocoa massages, chocolate facials, and cocoa body wraps at The Hotel Hershey’s Chocolate Spa is even better – and I’ve done exactly that on numerous occasions. Of course, while I’m there it’s absolutely necessary to sample the chocolate martinis – it’s important to be thorough.

My chocolate column has resulted in invitations to some incredible events. In New York, I’ve met celebrity chefs and chocolatiers who shared their sinfully delicious creations. Ben & Jerry’s invited me to visit their headquarters in Woodbury, Vermont where I sampled ice cream fresh off the production line and worked with other writers to create a flavor of our own. On a recent return trip to Ben & Jerry’s, I interviewed a flavor guru responsible for developing all the new flavors we love.   And Mars Chocolate invited me to tour its M&M factory in Hackettstown, New Jersey where I watched all the little M&Ms marching down the conveyor belts for their paint jobs.

One of my favorite chocolate themed travel experiences was Chocolate Week at the Cotton Tree Lodge in Belize where I harvested cacao straight from the trees on a jungle farm, learned about traditional chocolate-making, and even made my own chocolate from bean to bar.

Upon learning of my title as National Chocolate Examiner, one of my editors recently said, “Being a chocolate examiner is probably the only job better than travel writing.” I’m very happy to have both – it’s a delicious career.

My advice for getting started as a travel writer today:

1) Pick a travel-writing theme. You don’t need to be a chocolate examiner or a beer sampler or travel the world in search of hotels with the best views. But when you have a theme like this (even if you’re just writing for yourself at first), it gives you a focus. It helps you take that first step toward travel writing and eventually opens doors for more invitations and experiences.

2) Put yourself out there. Everyone says this but I also found it to be true. Just getting started is the hardest part. Once you take that first step, you’ll find the ones that follow are much easier.

3) Take photos. Even if they’re bad, you’ll get better over time. I take photos instead of notes in a lot of cases (especially when I’m in a hurry). I photograph chocolate spa menus, so I can remember prices and descriptions. I take photos of street corners, so I can remember directions. I also take photos that help me research things later — ingredients I might want to look up for their medicinal properties when I’m back at home on a computer. Take photos for the fun of it and for the memories. But also for your notes. You’ll be happy you did.

Travel writing is the best job in the world and anyone can do it. Find out more, here.

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