Travel Journalism is a rewarding and exciting career that builds a lifetime of memories. If you picture yourself in far-away lands absorbing cultures most people only read about, travel writing is the perfect way to realize those dreams. Starting a career as a travel writer is no different than any other career choice – most new writers don’t have years of experience. Bill Gates started Microsoft in his garage. You can start in your own home town.
Spend a little time researching and Google “things to do” in your hometown. Choose any attraction or event in your area and make plans to go. Bring a camera and a notebook to document as much as you can. Remember that someone somewhere will have to *travel* to get to your hometown in order to see what you have seen. You can never take too many notes and pictures. What you think may be irrelevant at the time may turn out to be a key point when you sit down to write about it. Absorb the sights, sounds and smells in a way that you will be able to describe later. Listen to people speaking to learn how they react and comment on various aspects of the location. You can write an in-depth story of a particular outing or something you like to do that makes your hometown stand out. Here is an example of something I enjoy that my hometown offers. Tarpon Fishing at Boca Grand Pass
Make a list of your favorite places. Write down where you like to go for dinner, nightlife, parks, fishing or any activities that have multiple options in your area. Go to each of these places and collect menus and flyers to refer back to for details. Here is an example of a simple and quick review that is very easy to publish: Romantic Dining in Cape Coral, Florida Making the Decision When you decide to begin travel writing ask yourself what you expect in return. Are you looking for a hobby? Is a new career your goal? Do you want to travel the world and share your experience with others? No matter what your reasons, you will get out of it what you put in. There is a lot of competition in travel writing, being prepared will fast track you to where you want to be. Having something to say about what you have seen and done is not enough. Knowing how to say it and how editors want you to say it is the way to get published. Preparation Diving in headfirst is a perfectly fine way to begin. Starting a blog is a good way to see your work in print. The only problem with a blog is that you will get very little feedback. The feedback you do get will be essential useless if not counterproductive. A story that is completely un-publishable which gets a comment from a reader like “Great story. I love that place too.” can give you confidence that will prevent you from getting published. Networking with other professional travel writers is the most valuable tool you will ever have. Writing workshops can be very helpful in learning techniques; although most are a waste of money. MatadorU has the best “non-workshop” program that I have seen in the 30 years of my career. They offer a comprehensive course at a very low price. The problem with most online courses I have found is that the material is easily forgettable. MatadorU has professional editors that critique your work and help you create publishable work in a way that you never forget. The best part of MatadorU is the networking. You are in a group with professional travel writers for life. There is nothing in a writer’s toolbox that can compare with being able to chat with writers for publications like National Geographic Traveler or Forbes Travel and getting feedback from them. Tools of the Trade A laptop computer is better than a desktop. Travel writing often involves travelling and writing simultaneously. Flash drives are important to store your research and articles. Backups can save a lot of head bashing against hotel room walls. A small digital recorder can make life simple. Sometimes taking notes is inconvenient but a digital recorder can add life to your work with easily forgettable details. We tend to absorb the larger aspects of events. The little things will add spice to the story. Making a recording of details will allow you to add information to an article that brings the reader there. For example a quick recording like (The smell of cotton candy, sausage and onions frying and sawdust are strong. I hear mechanical sounds and rhythmic clicking followed by girls screaming, Voices keep repeating “try your luck only a buck”.) are details that can be added to a piece about a carnival. A digital camera is important for two reasons. Many publications will require photos along with the story. Having plenty of pictures to refer back to will help recall the finer points of your experience. These items with a strong support team and network of writers will quickly bring you to your goals of being a successful travel journalist.