Look around you. Do you see the same old walls, the same tired people
and the same drab environment? Get out! Travel! Hop a plane, train or automobile
and take off -- after all, life is short.
Consumers need to know what to do and where to go, and guidebooks, hotel
reviews and tourism articles help them make informed decisions. What's more,
an established travel writer's expenses are usually paid for (read: free travel).
For the footloose and fancy-free, travel writing can be a subsidized way to
fuel your passion -- and have a great time!
"It may not be a wonderful living, but it's a wonderful lifestyle," reports
Lucy Izon, author of Izon's Backpacker Journal. Izon, a 20-year travel writing
veteran, warns the writer's life can be a hand-to-mouth existence. "This isn't
really a secure way to live," she admits.
A writer's life borders on nutty. Fledgling writers compete for bylines,
desperately striving for good-paying gigs. Although established writers can
make good money, most writers start by selling articles for low (or no) pay
and begging for print exposure.
Since freelancers only get paid when an editor likes the work, beginning
freelancers may earn part-time wages for many years until they've established
their niche. "All I can say is that travel writers, like other journalists,
don't make huge salaries. Like most 'fun' jobs, satisfaction is high, salary
is not," reports Sarah Haw of the American Society of Travel Writers (ASTW).
Income can be sporadic, especially while you're establishing your business.
"It would take years and years to get up to $100,000 a year," says Izon.
Security aside, Izon's done some really cool stuff. She's visited Europe
40 times, stayed in a yurt (collapsible tent) in inner Mongolia and hiked
Nepal. In between her various adventures, she writes syndicated budget travel
columns for major newspapers, including the Toronto Star and the Los Angeles
Times. What's even more amazing is her success grew from a happy accident
that changed her life.
Izon was 24 and ready for a break. She had worked for every network and
longed for a European road trip. Before she left, fate came knocking. An editor
asked if she would write six travel columns targeted towards young travelers.
Before Izon knew it, her travel article was syndicated in major North American
"I agreed to do six columns and it mushroomed," she admits. Unlike today's
acceptance of cowboy consultants and home-based businesses, freelancing was
considered risky business 20 years ago. "When I started this, freelancing
was uncommon," she says.
Today, Izon travels a maximum of two and a half weeks every month. Her
itinerary, though exotic, is demanding. In a four-month span, she visited
Australia, San Francisco, Great Britain, New Orleans, New York, the Caribbean,
Mexico and Hawaii.
Editors don't give such yummy assignments to greenhorn writers. Izon spent
years impressing editors and writing well. "This career is 50 percent what
you do and 50 percent who you know. It's really important to have positive
relationships in your field," she advises.
When she's not contracting malaria in Asia or sailing on a Russian icebreaker,
Izon has an incredibly normal and structured work life. "I treat my home like
an office and keep a 9-to-5 schedule," says Izon. During her valuable home
time, Izon writes articles weeks in advance and furiously catches up on correspondence.
Are the unstable pay and strange hours worth it? You bet. "The best jobs
are the ones you create," Izon says.
Write about what you love. Enjoy backpacking around a well-hidden stream?
Dying to share your youth hostel finds? Write down your experiences and send
them to your local editor, school paper or community magazine. You won't get
paid much (if at all) for your fledgling attempts, but it will help you get
your foot in the door.
"You can start [being a travel writer] even from summer vacations. Send
travel articles to your school or local newspapers," advises Izon.
Ready to plunge into the travel writer's life? Whether you choose to trek
Nepal or ski Whistler, your winning prose can transform into a viable income.
Pack your suitcase and get started -- there's a whole world out there to write
International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association
Read some examples of travel writing
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Travel Writers Exchange
A resource for information and inspiration for travel writers