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Am I a real travel writer if I don’t travel anywhere? mary charlebois

When I first started out, writing about home felt like a compromise – a concession made because I lacked the money to fly to Venice or cruise the fjords. With no bylines, I couldn’t seek out press trips, and my travel budget was $0. 

Great Escape experts advised, “Go local.” 

So, real travel writer or not, I forged ahead with local stories, determined to get published. 

My first ink was for a local newspaper covering nearby music, art, entertainment, and food. For that first story, I previewed a hometown dance concert’s 34th year. My second story detailed a local music festival honoring the music of Bob Dylan. A neighbor was the producer; he readily granted an interview. 

Each month the local paper accepted the stories and photos I discovered around town. Acceptance of my work month-after-month was a confidence-builder. I began to query local stories to non-local magazines and websites – and they were accepted. 

Since I started to write travel stories from home, I’ve had 70+ published, and all but three are regional topics. Eighteen were in a local paper. The rest went to publishers around the world. Meanwhile, I’m proud to call myself a “local travel writer” these days, because my local stories, photos, and videos are the reason for my success. 

write travel stories from home
Feeding giraffes at a local wildlife preserve.

Here are three things that I appreciate about writing locally:

1. Getting the story is easier and cheaper 

Asking for an interview from someone I’m familiar with 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 or attend our numerous food, wine, art, and wildlife festivals. 

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

No matter where you live, there is something interesting, fun, new, picturesque, tasty or just plain weird. Find it, photograph it, and write about it. 

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, the niche lightbulb came on, and I had an ah-ha moment: This is my niche. The remote, wild, northern California coast, a place people put on their bucket lists.

I’m now a go-to writer for Mendocino County California travel stories. Consider being the same for your area – after all, you already have an all-access pass. 

3. I fell in love with my own backyard

Every day, I fall in love all over again with my home and neighbors. 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 peruse the wildlife. 

Vineyards, wineries, and ranches have become much-loved overnight getaways (on the house, of course). Lodging, eateries, and shopping have taken on new meaning as I look at them from a visitor’s point of view. I’ve met remarkable people and made lots of friends.

Also, I’m proud to tell our 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. I do explore and write about other locales now, but most workdays are spent traveling the streets, backroads, and trails of Mendocino County. 

Being a “real” travel writer isn’t determined by the place you write about. Go local. After all, no one has better access than you. 

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