Getting Started as a Travel Writer: Basic Tips on What You Need and Don’t Need to Begin Your Journey

By Thomas Schueneman

What does it take to effectively start your path toward becoming a freelance travel writer? What skills, experience, tools, education, and temperament are best suited for success as a travel writer?

The requirements to begin your career in freelance travel writing are pretty basic.

Most of us have heard the slogan from the popular athletic shoe maker – “Just Do It”. That’s applicable here. You’ve just got to start writing. If you aren’t interested in writing, if you can’t discipline yourself to write regularly, then you shouldn’t try to be a travel writer. Yep, that’s the hard truth of travel writing – you do have to write. But you don’t have to write a novel, you just need to take notes, observe, and write regularly.

You need to have an opinion, a voice. As you regularly write about your travels, or just your daily experiences, your voice will begin to develop in the words you put on paper. By nurturing and developing that voice, the articles that you submit will stand out and be more interesting. Editors will be more likely to take notice and publish your work. Tell the reader what you really think! (Well, within reason)

Working hand in hand with the emergence of your written voice are your powers of observation. When you walk down the street near you home, try looking at it like you’re a visitor and have never seen it before. What things do you notice that has escaped your attention in the past? Learn to exercise your powers of observation every chance you get. Watch people, notice the subtle changes in the afternoon light as summer turns toward autumn, take nothing for granted.

You now have gotten into the habit of writing regularly, you’re developing a unique writing style and voice, and expressing that voice with your thoughts and observations of the world around you. You’ve got a good start on becoming a successful freelance travel writer. There are a few more things you’ll need to complete the picture of an aspiring travel writer.

You need to be able to do some research. These days, most of your pre-trip research can be done online in the comfort of you own home. But you don’t necessarily need a computer, you can always go down to your local library to do your research. But research is a must. For instance, if you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica, you’ll want to find out the basics like climate and weather, population and culture, main tourist attractions, principal industries, government, and any additional information that may be pertinent to what you plan on writing about. You want to get a feel for the country or region and its people before you leave home. After you’ve arrived at your destination, you’ll want to seek out the unique and interesting aspects of the area and its people. Try to find things that the average tourist would find interesting and unique – dig a little deeper. Seek out and talk with the locals, read local newspapers, arrange to interview people that can help bring your articles to life – business people, historians, tour operators –  Or perhaps just the person on the street to get some of the local color. The more research like this you can put together the more saleable and unique your articles will be.

The last thing is a willingness and desire to learn. Read books and take a course on travel writing. Many good books are available on the subject. There are college level courses available as well as some excellent home study travel writing courses.
 
You’ll want to get your hands on as much travel writing as you can. Subscribe to one or two travel magazines, read the travel section in your local newspaper, buy travel books. Find out what editors are looking for in a travel article. See if you can spot the basic structure of a well written travel article. In particular, pay attention to an article’s lead; how does it draw you in? How well does it state its theme? After a few sentences, are you motivated to read any further? After the lead and theme are established, how well does the article prove that theme and paint a picture. Do you have a sense of place as you read the body of the article? Again, is the writer drawing you through the article in an interesting and compelling way? If so, how is he doing it? If not, what is lacking? Finally, how well does the writer bring the article to a close? Does he effectively reflect on the lead and restate the theme? Does he leave you with an urgent feeling inside of you to visit a destination or try an activity or find out more?

The elements described above comprise the basic structure of what most editors are looking for in a travel article. Learn to spot what works and what doesn’t. You’ll find that once you start looking at travel articles with a critical eye, you’ll start thinking like a travel writer. Before you know it, you’ll get your first byline and editors will start thinking of you as a travel writer as well! Your journey has begun!
What You Don’t Need…

You don’t need a degree in journalism or even a college degree at all (though both those things certainly don’t hurt either!). Editors aren’t going to ask to see your diploma. What they want to see are well written articles appropriate for their publication and submitted within the stated submission guidelines. You can learn how to do that without stepping inside a college classroom. (But remember, taking a home study or other type of course on travel writing can be a big help).

You don’t have to spend a lot of money. All businesses require some investment in both time and money to get off the ground, including freelance writing. But you don’t need to spend a fortune. Invest in some books, a travel writing course, and investigate some other resources available to travel writers like publisher databases, websites, etc. (find out more about these resources at   rel=nofollow http://www.TouristTravel.com/travel_writers_wanted.htm), but save your money so you can eventually travel to exotic locals rich in fodder for your travel writing.

But remember, you don’t really even need to travel; everyplace has a story to tell. Many are lucky enough to live in or near a popular tourist destination. Local excursions and your own personal knowledge and experience can easily form the basis or your travel writing career.

So there you have it, some of the ins and outs, needs and don’t-needs that will get you started on your own exciting path toward freelance writing success!

Happy Trails!

Tom is a freelance travel writer, copy writer, and web publisher. His popular website TouristTravel ( http://www.touristtravel.com) features a section of resources for both beginning and seasoned travel writers.
Tom lives and works in San Francisco and is a member of the Bay Area Travel Writers Association

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Going on Holiday? Write Travel Blogs

 
It’s human nature for people to share in the experiences of others and that’s why travel blogs are so popular.  Not everyone can afford to travel to exotic locations certainly on a regular basis so why not marvel at the experiences of those who do travel across the globe and who are willing to put pen to paper and share their adventures. I’m probably not the most well-travelled person although I hope to change that, so getting a feel for an area through the simple perspective  of another is quite frankly appealing. I have stayed in hotels and locations that are  in direct contradiction to the glossy travel agency publications and so to hear a firsthand account of a particular area is much more interesting as it denotes the human angle and not a sales one.
 
For example, I had a chance encounter with an old friend the other day and he regaled numerous stories and anecdotes about areas that I had often thought about going to, his truthful and yet enthusiastic approach to travel made me wish that I had travelled more and witnessed the same scenes as he for myself.
 
If you are going on holiday and enjoy writing, then seriously consider putting your skills to good use and sharing your stories with the rest of the world. Not only is writing a blog strangely therapeutic (dear diary syndrome) but it captures your thoughts and feelings and memories of your trip forever.  Writing a blog post is not difficult and if you haven’t already established a web presence as a writer, it really is time to do so.
 
When planning your holiday, research the area thoroughly because planning in advance will help you to see beyond the main tourist areas (unless of course that’s exactly what you want from your holiday) if you are prepared to be a little adventurous, going off the beaten track and mixing with the locals, will afford you a much greater opportunity to see the location from a more human and realistic perspective. Whilst you are enjoying yourself, allow one part of your brain to stay analytical and remember to make  notes and take photos too. Whatever your thoughts and feelings of the place, be honest when writing your travel blogs,allow your personality to shine through and connect with the reader, that’s what makes writing  travel blogs so much fun because it’s a universal connection as we all go on holidays and sharing the experience will allow you to reach out and connect with others on a worldwide scale.