1. Become a great writer
Don’t forget the ‘writer’ part of ‘travel writer’. As such, you won’t just tour the world, stay at expensive resorts and eat caviar while recording your thoughts in between flights. Forget that cliche. You will have to be able to craft stories that are interesting, intriguing, stereotype-bashing, opening discussions or highly commercial at times. Being told by your mother that you have talent is not enough. You must train your writing skills just like you flex your muscles at the gym. Write every day, write in weird locations, write poetry, listicles, novels, well-research articles, essays, travelogues. Work on your unique style and then learn how to change it so that it can fit different publications’ tone of voice. And remember to read what others write – it gives you good karma.
2. Invest in your education
Signing up to MatadorU’s Advanced Travel Writing course was an investment that paid off in less than 5 months. From the beginning, I was offered to write paid pieces for Matador Network, interacting with an awesome and supportive editor from the real world. The course’s super detailed theory helped me polish my writing skills, even when it came to writing prose. It also taught me what payment I should expect for my work, where to position myself and what are the different publication’s rates. I built connections with other writers, took great opportunities and even found a sponsor for the MatadorU’s Filmmaking course. If you are serious about becoming a travel writer then you should invest in your education. MatadorU is just one option I can personally vouch for.
3. Explore your own country
Don’t expect to travel non-stop. The majority of work will most likely come from being in your own country. Knowing the culture well and being able to demonstrate that is key to convincing editors to consider your work. Start from the city where you live, take your camera and imagine it is your first time there. Where would you go?
4. Build your own brand and portfolio
If you don’t have a personal website then it is as if you don’t exist in the professional world. Building a good portfolio from scratch takes at least a year. Put only your best work in it, even if that leaves just five pieces. Be accessible on social media and try to build great Facebook, Twitter and Instagram numbers. Interacting with other professionals, pitching ideas and tweeting requires more time than actual writing but this is how you get all these amazing jobs that can send you on press trips and get you published.
5. Think about the value you bring to others
Forget about what you take from travel writing. That kind of thinking won’t get you far in your career. You are interacting with the world in the most beautiful way. Knowing you are giving something useful to it is empowering. Ask yourself what problems you want to solve – poverty, climate change, sexism, animal abuse, overworking. Be an influencer and challenge your readers’ beliefs. Your writing can inspire, provoke or change lives. And when strangers start telling you how you have influenced them in a good way you will understand your new super power and the responsibility that comes with it. Being into politics will definitely make you a better travel writer.
6. Don’t write travel ‘porn’
Travel porn is a funny term introduced by Matador. It has nothing to do with filmed sex. Simply put, generalizations, creating caricatures of people, using cliches and too many adjectives are signs that your travel writing is bad. Get personal, paint pictures with words, get into these details, make your readers feel something.
7. Create a hit list of publications and editors
Forget about National Geographic and Lonely Planet. Scratch them off of your hit list and stick to just reading them. Here is why – everybody who has ever dreamt of becoming a travel writer wants to write for them. But only a few chosen ones do. There is just too much competition. Do your research well and start with the small outlets first. Make sure you read them before sending your pitch. Every publication has its own tone of voice and as a travel writer, you must offer diversity to get more jobs. Don’t expect editors to reply fast, even when they might be interested in your work. Sometimes this can take months so keep pitching.
8. Don’t give up
Travel writing is not just a dream job. You must be exceptionally hard-working and patient to succeed at it. And when you do, there will be plenty of unpleasant situations to deal with like getting hate comments for your work. You will receive a lot of criticism and if you take it personally it will ruin you. Accept every difficulty as an opportunity to learn and advance your skills. Listen to other people’s opinions but don’t necessarily agree with them. Thank those who intentionally bring you down. Nana korobi ya oki – fall down seven times, get up eight.