Your Dream Vacation…Free

Last summer, I spent an action-packed month flitting around Europe following my lifetime passions of travel, history, and track and field.

How did I pay for it? I found 11 different magazines willing to send me checks in exchange for articles about my experiences.

I visit Europe every year for four weeks by selling enough articles in advance to pay for the entire trip. I even manage to bring in a good income over the following year when my stories are being published. I’ve had a four-figure payout or two.

Over these four weeks, I visited military museums in Budapest, Paris, London, Duxford, and Norfolk—often with personal guided tours by experts or the museum curators. On one bright sunny day, I watched 2,000 Englishmen re-enacting a 600-year-old battle on a vast field in the picturesque English hamlet of Tewkesbury.

A few days later, I paid homage to some of the original Knights Templar at their immaculate and emotive marble crypts in Temple Church, London. These fabled men at arms were the subject of one of my magazine articles.

A week later, I browsed the plethora of packed bookstores at London’s bustling Charing Cross Road and visited six of its most famous museums and galleries on a roundup assignment for a U.K. Travel magazine.

In Birmingham, Paris, and Monaco, I sat in the press box right above the finish line at three of the world’s biggest track and field meets—the Diamond League series. Occasionally, I would stroll into the press room to refuel from their gourmet buffet or to interview some of the world’s most famous professional runners, jumpers and throwers. Among them, Jamaica’s double Olympic sprint champion, Usain Bolt.

Every now and then, as the track events unfolded in front of the roaring crowd (track and field is huge in Europe—often with 40,000 people in the stadiums), I was reminded of how lucky I was to be seeing these events. It was my writing that got me here.

Later on my tour, I rambled around Paris revisiting some of my favorite haunts from previous years: the Champs Elysees, the Eiffel Tower, the banks of the Seine, and a museum or two.

But, without doubt, the standout event for me on last year’s Europe trip was attending a memorable event called War & Peace. Every year, in the lush Kent countryside of southern England, over 3,000 military vehicles gather for five days of over-the-top battle re-enactments and armored vehicle maneuvers.

I had a blast walking around the encampments, meeting military enthusiasts from around the world and watching an unbelievable array of tanks, trucks, jeeps, armored cars, and soft-skinned vehicles clattering and clanking around the muddy fields.

But this trip wasn’t just a once-off.

My travel writing career started five years ago in Portland, Oregon, when I attended a Travel Writer’s Workshop. I sat at the front of the class, absorbed the information, and a month later had my first byline…and I’ve never looked back.

Since then I’ve been published 700 times in more than 160 different magazines, in-flights, newspapers, and online travel magazines. And with that sort of oomph behind my query letters, these days it’s much easier to get assignments.

In fact, I now have to be more selective with my time. I’ve been turning down more press trips than I’ve been accepting. Even better, I have mastered the travel writing game so well that I can virtually choose where I want to go, sell assignments before I leave, and arrange complimentary accommodation and entry into tourist attractions—all before I leave. I am living my dream.

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