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From my first writing trip, I enjoyed free travel and scored 15 bylines...Travel writers don’t have a precise profile or job description. They come in all shapes, sizes, and economic circumstances. They don’t spend all day in one workplace—instead, they make their own schedules and determine their personal rate of pay.

I’m a single, 68-year-old great-grandmother. Social Security is my only income. Here’s how I customized travel writing to make my dreams of world travel a reality…

Starting local on a limited budget

My first year as a legitimate travel writer, I didn’t travel more than 30 miles from home. My retirement income didn’t allow any sort of travel budget—zero, nada, zilch.

So I focused on my region, the Mendocino Coast, home to waves, wildlife, wilderness, and wine. I wrote local stories for local papers about things I discovered in the neighborhoods, parks, trails, events, and festivals.

Eventually, I got the nerve to pitch my local stories and photos to non-local publications. They were accepted.
Altogether, I collected 13 local-story bylines for my portfolio in the three months following the Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop that year.

My first free travel perks

The Mendocino Coast is captivating and scenic, but I wanted to see more and write about more of the world. Would someone fund my wanderlust? With no wealthy relatives or winning lottery tickets on the horizon, I needed to get that free travel I heard about at the Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop.

As I learned, I’d have to ask for those press trips, fam trips, press passes, and complimentary accommodations, tours, food, drink, and adventure.

My first efforts asking for journalist assistance were for a long weekend in San Francisco’s Japantown—a 3.5-hour drive south of my home.

I secured an assignment from a hotel review site. Then I reached out to Visit San Francisco, PR companies, tour companies, and Japantown hotels. I told them about my trip and assignment and asked for media accommodations and press passes.

Asking (and my strong portfolio of published local articles) paid off. I secured three nights in two hotels, parking, a Japantown food tour, three breakfasts, one lunch, one dinner, a MUNI Pass, and an interview with the local cultural council.

The value of the trip, door-to-door, was $1,103.54. My cost out-of-pocket was $140. I sold 15 stories over the following months—each one discovered during my first self-guided fam trip.

Those earnings put me ahead of the game. I not only had free travel, but I also made a modest profit and secured fifteen bylines. Not a bad haul for my first attempt.

Using the same skills to reach bigger travel goals

That lovely, long weekend in Japantown had an enormous impact on my writing and traveling future. It taught me the art of securing free travel. I realized I could go anywhere I wanted, even without money. All I needed was something to offer—published stories, photos, videos, social media, podcasts, blog posts—in exchange for the generosity I received.

Since then, I’ve experienced five weeks exploring Oregon by auto, 10 days touring Northeast Coastal Florida, a cross-country train trip, and three weeks on the California Coast south of Big Sur—all 100% paid.

My grandest triumph is my “30-Days in England” trip. While all expenses weren’t covered, over 85% were. An extended stay in England has been on my bucket list for years, but the $10,000+ cost was out of my reach. I challenged myself to get at least half my expenses and excursions covered.

As I acquired England assignments, I began contacting those that could offer media assistance. It paid off in spades. While everything wasn’t covered up front, I know I’ll earn back my out-of-pocket expenses by selling the stories and photos of my adventure for months… maybe years… after the trip.

Now that I know the ropes for free travel, I’m planning one extended international trip and four or five smaller domestic adventures each year—allowing me to be on the road about half the time. All as a welcome guest and 100% paid. The rest of the time I’ll spend writing in my coastal home.

Travel writing is custom-made for me, by me.

You can make travel writing fit your dreams, too. It’s customizable, rewarding, and loads of fun. See you on the road.

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