“It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Now is as good a time as any.” — Hugh Laurie
The people who decide to take the leap to become a travel writer—who take that first step by investing in themselves and signing up for a course, or overcome their fears and send out that first query letter—are amazing.
I say that without having read any of their writing; nor have I seen their photographs yet, or heard about all of the beautiful and exotic places they’ve visited or plan to visit. What I already know is amazing about them is that they are taking a chance and trying something new, putting themselves out there, and pursuing their passions.
Like all of us, they’re living their busy lives—there’s too much to do and never enough time. They take care of aging parents or grandchildren (and sometimes both), work full-time jobs and side hustles, and try desperately to squeeze in a workout or a movie or a quick cup of coffee with friends.
And yet, these folks have made the conscious decision to carve out the time to devote to become a travel writer and make their dreams come true.
The thing is, no one was born a great writer or a great photographer. Successful writers and photographers are made.
It’s the result of people taking the first step, and then the next step and the next, to make it happen.
So, how do successful writers get from here to there, from barely staying afloat some days to getting paid to travel around the world?
The answer? They start small.
As a mountain biker for more than 20 years, I can tell you that I did not just wake up one day and hop on a fat-tire bike to ride to the top of a mountain. I started out on flat gravel roads, building up mileage, becoming more familiar with the gear, and improving my reaction times.
Then, I took my first real ride, and it was a grueling, painful, terrifying trek. I fell repeatedly. I had to stop to adjust my bike and drink water and eat snacks. I got completely lost because I was so much slower than my fellow riders. It was a roller coaster of cursing and weeping and throwing my bike down in disgust.
It also made me incredibly happy and satisfied to reach the end of the trail. And so, I followed that ride up with another and another. Over the years, I’ve also taken lessons, hired trainers, and attended workshops, all to continue improving. I’ve connected with other women who mountain bike, seeking their advice and learning from their experiences, applying what I gleaned toward slowly improving.
The result? I’m training once again for a 100-mile race to the top of a 13,000-foot mountain at the age of 52, after having survived cancer twice and gone through 15 major surgeries.
Travel writing works exactly the same way. First come the ideas: I want to write about my trip to Paris, or my vacation in the Everglades was so wonderful that I long to share the experience with others.
Then the work begins: What to focus on in the story, how to structure it, which details should be included in a query, what publications would be interested. These are all components of putting together a successful career as a travel writer.
It might sound like a lot, but it’s really not so intimidating when you take things one step at a time.