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This pandemic has changed everything, and will probably continue to do so for months to come. Travel writers face an uncertain future.

As we all know so well, travel is one of the worldwide industries hit the hardest by the COVID-19 virus. As people stop traveling, and FAM trips and press trips are canceled, travel publications become an iffy proposition for writers. I haven’t had a travel editor respond to a query in weeks.

It’s time to diversify your writing, find new and timely topics to write about, and new publications to pitch. In the past few weeks, I have written more non-travel articles than I have travel articles. Look for stories in new genres, areas where your previous life experiences may help you find new topics. 

I’ve used my experience as an active adult to write a story on fitness for people over 50 years old. Here in my new home of Florida I found a story on diseases and blight impacting Florida palm trees. Another story is Florida eco-adventures away from crowded tourist areas and theme parks, especially now that the parks are closed. It’s still safe to go kayak, bike ride, or wilderness hike. Still another article and video is about native plant landscaping, and how it’s relatively inexpensive and good for the environment. 

All of these are non-travel stories that are finding homes with new publications, and expanding my reach as a writer.

As travel writers, we are going to have to step out of our comfort zone. Not only do we need to find new things to write about, we have to find new publications that will commission our work.

For me, finding new topics is easy. As a career television journalist, I’m used to being on the lookout for stories, and have experience at research and tracking down new sources of information. Finding the new publications is the hard part.

The other challenge is to find these stories nearby. Just like the rest of the world, our travel options are limited these days. As writer Theresa St. John has preached for years, think local, local, local. Find local stories, and hopefully find local publications that will pay for your work.

All of the above stories are local for me. The palm tree article was inspired by something I observed literally in my own backyard. I recognized the story, and connected with University of Florida professors doing research on the subject. The native plants story was an idea germinated by the experience of a friend and neighbor. I told the neighbor’s story, and rounded it out with an expert from a local native plant nursery.

We are living in a different world than we experienced just a few short weeks ago. COVID-19 has changed our lives. Some of these changes will probably be long-lasting. As writers, we have to change with the times.