“Tell me you have a headlamp,” my friend Sarah says as I’m packing up all my things.
I shake my head no. The sun will come up long before I reach the summit. Why do I need a headlamp?
“You need a headlamp, sister. You can buy one at Wal-Mart for $10 bucks. It’s dark in the woods. You don’t want to stumble over a rock or root while you’re climbing.”
I have no experience hiking. A car accident sidelined any strenuous activity for the last few years. I’m anxious to get going again.
Sarah was right. Falling was the last thing I wanted to do.
It would be smart for me to listen to her, because she’s been hiking for years—I could learn a lot from her.
Or… I could silly-wander into the woods while it’s still dark, take my chances climbing Spruce Mountain without the proper gear, and see what happens.
Sort of like my experience with travel writing…
I attended the Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop in Boston back in 2013. At the time, I knew nothing about how to become a travel writer, only that I had this burning desire to be one.
Naturally, I wanted to travel.
But I was also recovering from a nasty divorce that left me buried in debt, so I didn’t have extra money floating around. I was going to have to make this one work, no question about it.
I listened intently to every instructor and took copious notes over the next three days.
I was determined to be the best student I could be. I wanted to learn as much as possible from folks who were willing to teach me—the folks who had already been up this hill like in my previous example.
I remember watching the success panel walk toward the table up front.
Each one of them shared their story, from the moment they’d walked into the workshop a year or two ago, up till today. They were just like me then. Hopeful. Now they had bylines, they traveled, and they pinched themselves every other minute—it still seemed unreal.
These speakers came from all walks of life. Most had no previous experience as a travel writer. And every one of them was making it work.
And when they talked about their quality of life—how it had drastically improved—I was all-in. It resonated with me.
Returning home, armed with so much information, I began working on my travel writing dreams immediately. And I never looked back.
Today I can tell you I’ve more than 300 bylines. I’ve been published in print, online, and in in-flight magazines. I enjoy many perks of a travel writer—in the form of free stays, spa visits, five-course meals, outdoor adventure, and media trips planned with my specific interests in mind.
I can tell you that my travel-writing assignments have taken me all over the U.S. and farther abroad—to Paris, Fiji, England, and Ireland—with more international trips to follow.
Who knows, looking back over the last five years, maybe I could have become a travel writer without attending the workshop in 2013. But, it would’ve been after so much trial and error.
And, perhaps I would’ve landed bylines over time, figuring out how to enjoy free stays and all of the other perks travel writers talk about on my own.
But I chose not to roll the dice and venture out alone. And I’ll always be grateful I took that leap of faith and listened to the more experienced people who tried before me.
I’ll always be thankful they were willing to share those nuggets of wisdom with 150 hopefuls that weekend in September.
I have the quality of life now that I’d lacked for a long, long time.
And Spruce Mountain? I enjoyed the summit, which was stunningly beautiful. And I didn’t fall. The 360-view from the fire tower took my breath away. It made my eyes sting as I gazed around me, happy I’d chosen to listen and learn from someone who’d gone before me, yet again.