Travel Writer The Buzz


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 newspapers.

"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 about!

Links

International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association
Read some examples of travel writing

Society of American Travel Writers
Promoting writers and bloggers for the travel industry

Travel Writers Exchange
A resource for information and inspiration for travel writers everywhere