Most people dream of being a travel writer—imagine getting paid to travel the world. Travel writing can become a full-time passion if you like, or merely something you do on the side…a way to justify a vacation and defray some of the costs, maybe write off your trip on your taxes.
With this career, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to get out and see the world…in a way you never could as an ordinary tourist.
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Benefits of being a Travel Writer
How would you like a trip to Cancun, at no charge, where you and your spouse would be wined and dined over a long weekend at a new, luxury hotel?
Or maybe you’d be more enticed by a complimentary rafting expedition down the Amazon in Ecuador’s untamed rain forest?
Perhaps a no-charge cruise to Europe’s most romantic cities?
Those trips might sounds like daydreams, but they are all money-free travel perks freelance writers have taken advantage of.
And not only did those writers travel without paying a dime, they got paid to write about their experiences, too.
If you’ve ever dreamed about living the romantic life of a travel writer, you don’t need to wait years to enjoy it.
See the articles below for more information on the travel writer’s life.
Wandering is our specialty. Since my husband, Chris, and I left the States at the start of 2013 with not much of a plan and a whole load of ambition, we have resided in seven homes and explored countless destinations in the two countries—Costa Rica and Nicaragua. During our travels we have rescued hatchling sea turtles from hungry birds…observed the most achingly beautiful sunset from a Pacific beach…and encouraged a sloth as he crept between trees…
When my husband, Gary, and I retired part-time to Panama it was to escape bleak Canadian winters. We spend the summer months in Canada and when the first snows come, we fly south. Panama, with its magnificent beaches and warm climate offers daily sunshine…inexpensive living…and leisurely hours just sitting on our terrace watching the iguanas and the birds. If we want to venture forth we can hop in our car and tour the countryside, walk near the village of Cerro Punta in the high country, browse the marvellous and modern library in Boquete, or attend the delightful flea market near Dolega.
Every morning, my husband, Mark, and I wake up to a view of Cuenca’s Old-World charm…majestic cathedral spires rising before us. Then we take our morning walk along the Yununcay River where cultured gardens line the bike and walking trails. Ecuador reminds me of Italy. We spent time in Europe as a young couple and planned to retire to Italy…until we discovered Ecuador. We fell in love with the cobblestone streets, terracotta-roofed brick buildings, colonial churches, plazas, outdoor cafés, and wrought-iron balconies draped in bougainvillea. Mark and I retired to Cuenca, Ecuador, four years ago on a pensioner’s visa which we live on. Our monthly budget is $1,317 a month—my husband’s pension from UPS—but we earn that much or more on our new incomes.
This summer, I got an email from a stranger offering me a free stay in a gorgeous French countryside cottage. I was welcome anytime, the kind and excited woman told me, and so was my world-traveling dog, Luna. Her cottage, which was spacious and beautifully appointed, was in the Loire Valley—a part of France known for its castles and sweeping landscapes. A well-traveled friend of mine told me it was the perfect place for leisurely bike rides and warm croissants. Similarly, a month or so later, a restaurant in Italy reached out. They would love to have me come for dinner and they wanted to know if I was planning a trip to Bolzano—the intriguing Italian-German part of northern Italy—anytime soon. A few weeks after that, another restaurant, this time in my favorite European capital—Paris—sent me a fancy invitation to a VIP tasting event.
Five years ago, I was the lead copywriter and content strategist at an advertising agency in Denver, Colorado…coming in as early as 7 a.m. and leaving sometimes as late as 9 p.m.—and rarely ever got a real break. Now, I’m sitting in a sunny top-floor apartment in the Swiss Alps, writing this to you. I can see a waterfall from my window and, only a few steps from my door, I could be on a hiking trail that leads to a Swiss ski town or a 360-degree panorama of the mountains. All because I am a travel writer.
As a 14-year-old schoolgirl, I didn’t know life would turn me into a travel writer and a wine enthusiast. So I didn’t appreciate Bad Dürkheim as much as I should have. When you’re treated to a meal inside the world’s largest wine barrel, you should at least remember what you ate and drank.
My next trip is Las Vegas. No complaints—I’m one of those sinners who enjoys Sin City. The trip is for an International Living conference where I’ll speak on Italy and its sweet life. I’m not wearing my travel-writing hat for this conference, but I’ve visited Italy so many times—at least 20—I’ve gained a great insight into places unknown to the tourist hordes.
For as long as I can remember I talked about becoming a writer when I retired, but I wasn’t convinced I was any good. When I was laid off from my banking job, I wasn’t particularly interested in another high-stress job in financial services so I gave writing some serious consideration.
Silence…the morning air is fresh and pure. Sitting in a rocking chair on the porch, doing some morning reading, I hear a rustling in the mango trees nearby. Then there’s a thud, a mango hitting the ground. But it didn’t fall coincidentally. It was intentionally dropped. Suddenly the silence is broken by the culprit—the deep bellow of a howler monkey. It is mango season in Costa Rica, and the capuchins and howlers have set up camp in the mango grove on the property where we’re currently living on the Nicoya Peninsula.
I used to think that teaching English was the only way to survive financially as an expat, but, boy, was I wrong. When I first made the move to the fairytale city of Prague, I jumped right into teaching English, like all the other expats in town. Mostly it involved meeting up in eclectic and bohemian cafés and classic Czech pubs for one-on-one conversation practice and free coffees or beers courtesy of my student, in addition to my payment.
Mexico City is like a large European city with a tropical jungle twist. It’s also one of the largest cities in the world, but you wouldn’t know it from the cool, calm atmosphere that presides over the Roma Norte neighborhood where I am staying for a few nights. My life has a travel writer takes me to great places like this all the time. I’ve explored the bohemian cafes of Prague…the seductive beaches of Portugal…a seaside village in Turkey…and the neighborhoods of Buenos Aires.
“Yeah, right.” That’s the first thought I had when I discovered a lucrative writing discipline…way back in 2001. (Get the full details of that writing discipline in a free report when you sign up to the free Fund Your Life Overseas daily e-letter) I just couldn’t believe that it was possible to “make great money…writing just a few hours a day…from anywhere in the world.”
When I was 10 or 11 years old I had a vision that I would grow-up be a freelance writer, and live on top of a hill overlooking the ocean. My vision has come to fruition in Venice Beach, California, for $2,500 a month…St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands for $800 a month…and most recently in Sesimbra, Portugal, just 30 minutes south of Lisbon, for $400 a month.
I started my blogging career as a creative outlet when I became burnt out working for large apparel corporations. I had always enjoyed writing and design and, through my blog, rediscovered what I loved about fashion in the first place—the artistry and glamour of what designers could do. I thrived on the pace…the scene…what a designer would create and what inspired them to do it.
On Saturday mornings I wake up with the sun in the small town of Kleinheubach, Germany and spring out of bed to get my cakes and pastries in the oven for my blog, Baking My Way Through Germany.
Liz Carlson has raced sailboats in Italy, explored the Greek Islands by scooter…floated in the Dead Sea…ridden donkeys in Jordan…road tripped around Iceland…and slept in 15th-century Tuscan farmhouses. And that’s all in the past year alone.
Around the world, tour operators, hotels, cruise lines, and resorts are fighting for your vacation dollars. They have to pay big bucks to buy ads in magazines and online…and they do so. But some “good press” can be invaluable to their campaign as well. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico is a case in point. It’s long been a destination for expat retirees and visitors from Mexico City and around the country.
If you’re ready to move overseas…with all the promise it holds of warm weather, being your own boss, and working just a few hours a day…but the prospect of actually packing up your worldly goods and getting on that plane sounds intimidating, let me tell you something. You have a sister.
I’m a writer. And in the age of the Internet, that’s a great thing to be. I didn’t plan it that way, of course. In my case it was just dumb luck. After a dozen years as an undergrad searching for something to hold my interest long enough to actually get a degree, I stumbled on journalism.
Every time I open a travel magazine I flip past the first pages of advertisements, pass the index and the editor’s notes, and head straight to the contributors’ page. This is the page with the list and photos of the writers contributing to the issue at hand. As long as I have been devouring travel magazines I have wondered about the lives of the travel writers. Who sent them over?
Most days here are beautiful: warm and sunny, with a pleasant ocean breeze sweeping in from the Gulf of Thailand. In the evenings, vibrant splashes of magenta, fiery orange, and bright pink dance across the sky as the sun sets over the water. Everywhere I look, I see coconut palms and sandy beaches. Some call it paradise. I call it home.
I’m a very lucky guy to be doing what I’m doing, and there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t remind myself of that. Sometimes I say it to my wife, too, but she already knows how lucky we are. My wife and I moved to the island of Penang in early 2010. A small island—15 miles long and 12 miles wide—on the west coast of Malaysia, Penang, which is connected to the mainland by a six-lane bridge, is just two hours’ drive south of Thailand.
Who doesn’t dream about traveling to exotic places, far away from the humdrum of their everyday life? It’s a great escape. I spent 22 years working in retail, dreaming about the places I wanted to go. Instead I was stuck inside a mall, often working double shifts from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Something kept telling me there had to be a way I could enrich the quality of my life.
Not everyone looks forward to getting up and going to work. But I’m not complaining. The most difficult task I need to tackle today is to finish packing a suitcase. So I’m having a very leisurely breakfast before heading to the airport for a flight to Barcelona, one of the world’s most electrifying cities. Even though I’ve done it countless times before, I’m really looking forward to…
A symphony of monks chanted as we sat kneeling on the grass. I held the wire rim of my enormous cylindrical paper lantern and waited for the cue. Finally, in one synchronized movement, a sea of hands—belonging to individuals from countless countries and cultures—let go.
Although my wife, Suzan Haskins, and I write a lot about retiring overseas, we’re not officially retired. We write for a living, and even after we do reach official retirement age, I’d be very surprised if we didn’t continue our work writing, editing, and traveling. We know more and more folks in the same situation. They have no intention of retiring in the traditional sense and will probably work at something well past any official retirement marker or milestone they may pass.
I’m very lucky to be doing what I’m doing. I’m even luckier to be doing it from where I’m doing it, which right now is Ecuador. I’m a writer, and I trained a long time to do this, although not really on purpose. And I never thought it would lead me overseas. My undergraduate training was in journalism. Just the facts, ma’am. Who, what, when, where, how, and why…and maybe a job at the local newspaper. (Remember newspapers?)
I pull back the curtains, feel the crisp refreshing air, and look out over the waterfront at the colorful buildings of this Art Nouveau town…excited about the “work” day ahead. I’m in picturesque Ålesund, Norway. This jewel-like coastal town is the gateway to Norway’s spectacular Geiranger Fjord making it the perfect base from which to explore the region—and that’s my job for the day.
As a travel writer, I am constantly seeking to discover hidden gems, places the majority of travelers don’t know about and unique adventures. My recent trip to eastern Germany was no exception. Everyone knows about German beer, but did you know Germany’s State of Saxony has an 850-year-old wine-making history?
One advantage of living in Europe is that cheap airfares make the rest of it so accessible. I’ve just got back home to Ireland after an unofficial three-day jaunt to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. This tiny country holds the title for the highest per capita consumption of wine in the world, so there was a good reason to go bar-hopping.
There is no time clock but you work 24-7… No cubicle but you must have a computer… Your commute occasionally takes 10 to 12 hours, and sometimes it takes days off your calendar. You must be fluent in hand gestures and you better have a strong stomach and a good memory.
“Wait, what? Don’t move to Argentina, you can’t speak any Spanish!” Everyone reacted the same way when I announced I was moving. My Spanish education consisted of one class I took for a few months when I was 11 years old.
How would your 2014 be different if you had a portable income? For a start, you would have a lot more choice and options for living overseas. You could decide to live by the beach or in a quiet mountain town in your favorite country abroad—part-time or full-time. Or, you could fund your travels around the world.
Like many, I have said that someday I would like to write a book. The idea remained just that for years. There was never enough time to squeeze anything else into an already hectic schedule, making it easy to keep on postponing. As
soon as I made way for a new freer lifestyle, I decided to see if I could be a writer.
On a lazy weekend afternoon when I was 13, I thumbed through my school geography text book, pausing from time to time to admire the amazing photographs of some of the wonders of the world. I was inspired. So began my dream fantasy to visit these wonderful places myself. Today that’s exactly what I do.
“Follies are the only things that one never regrets,” said Oscar Wilde. Agreed. But travel writers needn’t look far to find excuses for their follies. After all, writers have a reputation for eccentricity. Whatever bizarre situation you find yourself in—and if any awkward questions arise—you can always blame it on the job. Why were you buying contraband from gypsies in the Czech woods? (“It’s my job.”) How come you spent half the night in a Berlin anarchist squat? (“It’s my job.”)
The ocean breeze blows in through the open door as I sit in my rocking chair—a surprisingly favorite Nicaraguan furnishing. Sunlight glitters on the ocean, almond and coconut trees sway in the wind. This is my office for today, a four-bedroom house right on the beach that we rent for $350 a month. Previously we spent time on the shores of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, beneath the shadow of three majestic volcanoes…swimming in one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, shopping in the local markets, and interacting with the indigenous people who still wear their traditional clothing and speak Spanish as their second language.
Earlier this month, I spent a long weekend watching birds and Monarch butterflies. I took part in a few hikes, went on a boat tour, and attended a few lectures—all centered around birds. Being close to hundreds of birds and thousands of butterflies was a thrill…but also how I make a living. Being around animals and interviewing experts about animals is joyful. Then sitting down to write about my findings allows me to relive the experience all over again.
After doing some research online, which included International Living, I moved to Cuenca at age 54. I planned to travel throughout South America, but I just loved it here, feeling no need to go farther south. Then, six months later, at age 55, my teacher’s retirement kicked in, so I could qualify for a pensionado visa, living off my retirement income.
It’s a weekday morning in the early fall and I’m standing on a mountaintop in the Swiss Alps. I’ve been hiking all morning, passing through tiny villages with dark-roofed homes and small chapels whose bells sing out every hour to remind us of the precise time. I’ve walked through fields of wildflowers that overlook snow-capped peaks and past a dozen waterfalls both small and large. And for the past hour I’ve been navigating thin pathways that wind across a barren high-altitude landscape dotted with leftover snow.
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