“If they knew my age, they would reject my stories.”
“I’m too old to be starting out as a travel writer.”
“Will I be able to travel with my arthritis?”
“No one cares what a great-grandmother has to say.”
These age-discriminating thoughts and many more almost kept me from becoming a travel writer.
I was an ageist, against myself. And my story isn’t unusual.
I planned to travel using my nest egg after early retirement. But then a broken neck, hip replacement, a sick child, and 2008 took my nest egg and five years of my life.
Left with only Social Security, the wind was gone from my sails leaving me with a sick-old-lady attitude. My orange leather recliner; binge-watching Netflix; comfort food; a glass of wine; and boredom became my constant companions.
How I left ageism behind
At 62, when a friend suggested I try my hand at travel writing, I believed I was too old to start a new career. I thought only young and energetic people got bylines and free trips so I ignored her. Through 63 and 64, I was still using my age as an excuse for giving up. I had a bad case of “old pitiful me.”
So instead, I wrote a few TripAdvisor reviews of local restaurants—anonymous and unpaid.
The friend that thought I should write convinced me to go to an Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop and loaned me money for expenses. I was 65 by then. I was convinced I’d be the oldest attendee and that I’d be the only one that hadn’t been published.
Of course, I was wrong. There was plenty of grey hair, a walker or two, even a visually impaired writer with a guide dog. The group was a mélange of age and experience. By the end of the first day, I was on fire, and my inner old-codger had left the building.
A travel writer’s life
Today, at 68, I’m into my fourth year as a travel writer and photographer. These past few years have been the best years of my life.
Each day brings something new to discover, photograph, and learn about. My writing is well received, and that is very satisfying.
I’m traveling as much as I wish, domestic and international. All my travel expenses are either comped, reimbursed, or earned back with fees paid to me for stories, photos, videos, and maps.
I’m a regular contributor to four publications and work with 24 others on assignment. I’ve topped the “200 published stories” milestone. And more than 20 CVBs and PR companies have worked with me on press trips.
In all that interaction, the only time my age was an issue, was to certify I was the legal drinking age.
If you think you’re too old or infirm to be a travel writer, I say you’re wrong.
• The industry doesn’t give a hang about your age—they care about your competence. Meet deadlines and deliver what you’re assigned. Write the stories you promised for press trips. Represent publishers and CVBs in a positive and professional light.
• Physical limits are not an issue. A travel writer’s life is flexible, moldable, and completely customizable. Travel and work at your own stride. Myself and many of my travel-writing buddies have taken time away or slowed the pace to resolve health issues. It’s a part of life at any age. As a travel writer, you make your own schedule and set your personal goals—that could include six weeks for a hip replacement or three months for hiking the California Coastal Trail.
• Your life experience gives you a significant advantage over “young and energetic people.”
• Your work experience gives you an advantage, no matter what field. Many travel writers pursue a writing niche based on a lifelong career or hobby.
You are never too old to live a travel writer’s life. This great grandmother does, and these years have been among the best years of my life.
My advice is simply to get started.