I met Sandra Kennedy when she came to the Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop in Buenos Aires back in 2005. She barely said a word while she was there. And during workshop peer reviews, she didn’t even read her piece aloud.
But she was listening and observing. And less than four months later, using what she’d learned at the workshop, she was published three times AND invited on an all-inclusive press trip to a Caribbean resort and spa in Mexico. She wasn’t able to go on that trip because of Hurricane Wilma, but it was the start of a long string of invitations that led to later press trips and published articles. (All told, she’s written her way to 36 different countries.)
Today, Sandra supplements her retirement income with her travel articles, and is generally having a great time living the travel writer’s life. Scroll down to find out where she’s been lately, how she found such incredible success, and how you can supplement your income…
Director, Great Escape Publishing
Finding Passion (and Travel) in Writing
An interview with travel writer Sandra Kennedy
BONNIE: Hi Sandra. Last time we caught up with you, you’d been on a number of press trips, including five nights in a Patagonian eco-resort in Chile, three trips to Ecuador, a five-day stay in an Amazonian lodge, two nights in a resort and spa with complimentary dinner in Seattle, among others. What are you up to these days?
SANDRA: Well, I just returned from a month in Portugal and am working on three articles for editors. I had an amazing individual three-day paid trip to the Schist Villages in Central Portugal. And in September, I took a fantastic trip to Alaska on a small cruise ship.
I am enthused about future possibilities of returning to the Amazon; perhaps doing a trip to Bolivia, teaching English and writing about it in Spain and Ecuador (still just possibilities), and perhaps a cruise back to Alaska in September.
BONNIE: Are your trips to Bolivia and the Amazon press trips? Where did you find them?
SANDRA: The trip to Bolivia, arranged by Adventure-Associates (a tour company in Ecuador), is an individual press trip, as is the Amazon trip. I still have another individual press trip with Kapawi Lodge all set up. I arranged that trip through my connection with the editor at Luxury Latin America. I hope to go in the next year.
BONNIE: Are you travel writing full-time, or do you use it to supplement your income?
SANDRA: I am supplementing my retirement income. And it feeds my soul-passion for travel, writing, and photography. Years ago, I taught in American International Schools in Paris, Portugal, and Peru. I also taught in the United States for years. This is my third career. I love it. At times, I write full-time for weeks after a trip. Writing is a great way to keep traveling. I find writing, teaching, and travel gigs as a direct result of my relationships with the managers and staff I meet while on assignment. For example, when I was in Chile, the hotel manager and I just hit it off. He contacted his director and they offered me a summer job teaching their staff English.
I network a lot wherever I go, which leads to more possibilities and on-assignment trips. It is a matter of being creative. But trips aside, I do take my writing and photography seriously and usually write two to 10 articles per assignment. I contact editors before my trip and query for articles.
BONNIE: How many articles do you generally get published after a trip? And do you stick with the same publications each time, or do you fan out to a broad range?
SANDRA: It ranges from two to 10. Getting 10 articles is unusual. However, for my north to south Ecuador trip, I wrote about 15 articles including hotel reviews, features, and a personal narrative. Transitions Abroad, The Times Community Newspaper (here in Oregon), and LuxuryLatinAmerica.com were the publications I wrote for. I generally also try to fan out to new publications.
BONNIE: How do you get article ideas before leaving on trips?
SANDRA: My pre-trip research involves the internet, library, tourism bureaus, magazines, and newspapers. The ideas come easily. For example, in preparation for my Portugal trip, I researched the Schist Villages, world-acclaimed hostels, living like a local in an apartment located within Lisbon’s historic area, extraordinary hotels, pousadas, and restaurants — all good article topics.
BONNIE: What’s the next dream you’re pushing for?
SANDRA: I am hopeful about all the above possibilities as well as expanding my writing into new publications such as Afar Magazine and others. Also, I would like to go with Global Exchange on a Reality Tour to Iran and write about it. Many ideas are still being cultivated in my mind.
BONNIE: Have you any tips for writers and photographers looking to get published and go on press trips, too?
SANDRA: Read, query, write, and network at conferences, workshops, and classes. Be active on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Linked-in. Join groups such as MediaKitty.com, Travelwriters.com, writersmarketplace.com, and ITWPA . When it comes to taking photos, take time with people and ask for photos, if possible. Get close-ups and try to capture small details that add to articles.
BONNIE: Thanks, Sandra. Good luck with your upcoming trips and articles.
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]