Fish Funerals and Free Caribbean Vacations

This morning I refereed an argument over whether or not Yoda could make a whale levitate. Over the years, I’ve been summoned from my desk to host fish funerals, build Lego towers, examine worms, wipe bottoms, wipe tears, sing to stuffed animals, slurp pretend soup… You get the idea.

These interruptions are rarely convenient. Yet, they’re one of the things I appreciate most about “the writer’s life.” I take generous advantage of the fact that I control my schedule. And you should, too.

I also like to travel. I work much of the time from my home in Colorado (where my tax-deductible office is exactly 11 steps from my bedroom and has a million-dollar mountain view).

But, I’ve also worked from Vail, Denver, and Leadville…from places like Santa Fe and Las Cruces in New Mexico. I’ve toted my computer to France, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Germany, and the list goes on (and on). In the last 18 months alone, I’ve found myself typing in Toronto, Belize, Cape Cod, Omaha, Nicaragua, Ireland, Santa Monica, Chicago, Raleigh, Boston, Florida, Las Vegas, San Antonio, and Ecuador

Advice: Go. Take your computer with you and see some of the world. Visit with friends and family—work in the mornings and spend the afternoons doing something fun. You can. You should.

In fact, armed with a few simple secrets, you can actually get paid for those afternoons of fun.

Let me explain…

Because I control my schedule, I can carve out time for lots of different kinds of writing.

But what I really like to do is write travel articles.

That is, articles geared for visitors, about wherever I happen to be. I like to do this because when you travel with an eye to writing about a place:

a) You experience it in a richer way—you notice more, you have an excuse to meet people, you’re automatically more engaged …

b) You can often cash in on great freebies. Because organizations are eager to get “good press,” they’re often willing to invite travel writers to sample what they have to offer, free. Over the years, I’ve cashed in on everything from all-expenses-paid trips to the Caribbean to complimentary zoo tickets. (And then I’ve been paid to write about my experiences.) People are writing me checks to go on vacation.

Plus, you don’t actually have to travel to do this, either. You can just as easily write about what there is to see and do right near where you live. Once an airline magazine paid me $950 for five paragraphs and a handful of photos about a tourist attraction 14 minutes from my house. Not a bad haul for an afternoon spent out with my kids…

These days, so much of what publications (like our own, International Living) are looking for is short-and-sweet, so you don’t have to invest hours on end in front of your computer. Often just a few paragraphs will land you a by-line. And once you have a few little pieces under your belt, you can easily start cashing in on those perks I mentioned.

Advice: Branch out. Take advantage of the doors travel writing opens—and the time it leaves you to walk through them. So many people are lashed to their desks. You don’t have to be. Set yourself free…you may just be surprised at where you end up (and that somebody is actually paying you to be there).

Editor’s Note: If the type of lifestyle Jennifer just told you about has struck a chord, make it your goal this month to make a concrete start on your new life of free flights, discounted hotel stays and complementary meals. Speaking of free travel perks, this very special video about the “Red Carpet Passport” disappears midnight Thursday. Don’t miss out; watch it right now for free, here.

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