Travel: Getting Paid for Your Passion

Many people dream of getting paid for their passion for travel. But few ever take that first step of turning dreams into reality. I’m just back from teaching at AWAI’s travel writer’s workshop. Our “students” came from all backgrounds and walks of life—and there wasn’t one who didn’t have what it takes to be a travel writer.

You too could get paid for your travel stories. But maybe what’s stopping you is those nagging questions—the ones I always get asked at cocktail parties. Like:

Q: Truthfully, is it easy to get published?

A: Yes, as long as you don’t initially shoot for the stars. Most new writers make the mistake of sending full-length feature stories to the major travel glossies. Your chances of getting published are greatly increased if you concentrate on smaller publications or niche magazines that use travel stories.

Another way to break in is with short ‘postcard’ length pieces such as those in International Living. Numerous publications pay for 200-300 word snippets about restaurants, hotels, new attractions, museums, etc.

Q: Can I realistically make a living at this?

A: I do, and I live in Ireland! And if my home was in Asia or Latin America, my income would stretch a lot further. OK, you’re unlikely to get fabulously rich from travel writing, but I wouldn’t swap my life for any other.

There are many “tricks of the trade” to boost your income. No space to go into details about press trips and getting comped by hotels here, but I’m not called the Queen of the Freebies for nothing.

Q: When you’re a first-time writer, what are the easiest stories to sell?

A: Stories about your own backyard. Editors love “insider knowledge”—and it doesn’t matter if your backyard is Chicago or Ecuador. Everywhere is a travel destination to somebody. Think of how many magazines about your own region you see on newsstands. Editors are always looking for new ideas of where to go and what to do—or a fresh take on old favorites.

Q: What special equipment do you use?

A. Nothing special. Sometimes I travel with a laptop, but I usually take lots of notes and then write up stories when I get home. But I do think a camera is essential. Most editors want photos to illustrate a story—and if you can also provide the photos, you’ve made his/her job easier.

Finally, I’m always asked where I most want to go back to. Well, if you put a gun to my head I’d say Iceland, but really, it’s impossible to answer. I’ve visited so many wonderful places, it’s like trying to choose a favorite wine, book, or piece of music. Most people have limited vacation times. They need to make the difficult decision of picking a single destination, and then hope it works out. But when you’re a professional travel writer, it’s like being given a feast—you get to visit places that few holidaymakers ever do. New Zealand…Eastern Turkey…China. I doubt that I would have ever seen any of them if not for my job.

Editor’s Note: If you’d like to learn more about ways you can pay for your life or travels overseas, sign up for Fund Your Life Overseas, a free e-letter from International Living. Sign up here and we’ll send you a free report: Fund Your New Life Overseas With These 4 Portable Careers.

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