You might think that travel writers explore the world for free, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Levonne Apesy separates the fantasy from the facts about this sought-after career.
The reality of the travel writing industry is quite opposite to the pretty picture that the mind conjures when considering this profession.
Let´s dispel some of the biggest myths of travel writing.
Travel writing: The fantasy
You may imagine that as a travel writer, your visa application will go through effortlessly since you are on a paid working holiday.
You will be flown business class to the remote destination of your dreams, where your extensive adventure is entirely subsidized.
Once home, your scribbles about this fascinating destination capture the curiosity of editors far and wide.
They bid against each other to lay claim to your invaluable article.
As expected, their readership eats your words like candy, eagerly awaiting your next contribution.
Right? Sadly, no.
Truth is, if this were possible, no wanderlusting, literate human on earth would ever take an office job ever again!
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Travel writing: The cold hard truths
A writer usually pitches an article once the trip has been completed, so costs are covered entirely by the writer.
The exception to this are writers who are sent “on assignment”, though these are usually longstanding contributors, and the publication will have commissioned them to write the piece.
As for the dream of sponsored flights and hotel stays, The NY times states that it… “will not publish articles that grow out of trips paid for or in any way subsidized by an airline, hotel, tourist board or other organization with an interest, direct or indirect, in the subject of an article.”
Editors are inundated with pitches and the reality is that they don´t need you, you need them. The pecking order places the editors on top!
Even established and successful travel writers receive more rejections than paid work, so thicken your skin and prepare to re-work your articles as needed.
Successful travel writers are travellers who write and not writers who travel.
As The Guardian sums it up:
“Travel journalism is hard work and the pay isn’t always great either.”
A good travel writer knows that…
- A crucial element to success as a travel writer is to offer a fresh angle on your content.
- A good writer can describe a destination well. But an experienced traveller can pick out the unique qualities of a destination and offer an interesting perspective based on this knowledge, which makes a far more captivating (and saleable!) article.
- You will need to pop your ego neatly into your back pocket and subscribe to what the industry requirements are to succeed in selling a piece of writing.
- Keep in mind that 90 % of this job is marketing yourself and crafting your pitch accurately, and just 10 % is actual writing.
Our advice to travellers: get out there and enjoy the simple pleasure of earning your dream job!
About the Author
Levonne Apsey has a background in travel and animal behaviour, and spends most of her time in far-flung places like the jungles of the Amazon, often in the company of wild animals. She loves nothing more than long-distance inter-continental travel.