Home > Uncategorized > How I Became a Travel Writer

How I Became a Travel Writer

October 19, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

About a week ago, the web content and marketing manager at Portland, Oregon’s Powell’s Bookstore invited me to become a guest blogger on the store’s website. I was asked to write about my career as a travel journalist — specifically, how I’d managed to made it happen.

Before I started writing the post, I decided to go online for inspiration. I’ve seen countless how-I-did-it essays on freelance writers’ websites in the past, and since I wasn’t entirely sure where to start my own story, I figured I’d take a clue from those who’d gone before.  As I soon found out, however, that’s a hellava lot easier said than done.

And why’s that? Well … my own how-I-did-it story is rather long. As of this morning, I’m already more than 1,500 words into the post, and I haven’t yet said word one about travel writing. Bad times for me.

At any rate, here are the first few paragraphs; I’ll post a quick note sometime later this week if the (significantly abridged) Powell’s essay goes online.



I’ve been working as a freelance writer — on and off — for more than a decade now. I’ve been doing it seriously — meaning professionally, and full-time — for almost five years. But throughout my entire career as a music journalist, during which I was also an occasional lifestyle and features writer, I don’t believe I was ever seriously asked how I’d gotten my job. It would come up occasionally, of course, but only as a way to break the ice during an awkward conversation. I could be wrong here, but I’m fairly certain I was never approached by a journalism student or a would-be writer who really, truly wanted to know how I’d built my career, and how he could do the same.  

But about two years ago, while I was working as the music editor at a newspaper in Pittsburgh, I decided to take a slight occupational detour. I was sick to death of writing record reviews. And even though I’d only been on staff for 14 months, the experience of spending 40 hours a week in a high-paneled cubicle was draining my soul of nearly all its joy. So I decided I would become a travel writer.  

It’s been an interesting couple of years, to say the least. Since waving goodbye to my cube, I’ve written a guidebook for Avalon Travel Publishing; I’ve contributed to two Lonely Planet guides; and I’ve had travel articles published everywhere from a magazine in the U.K. to the Sunday edition of my own hometown’s daily newspaper. I’ve studied the craft of freelance foreign correspondence with journalists from the Christian Science Monitor, The Economist, and the BBC. I’ve travelled to Thailand, Italy, Turkey, the Czech Republic, and Germany. And believe me when I tell you this: I’ve entertained dozens of emails from would-be writers, all of them interested in learning how, exactly, I managed to secure so many travel writing contracts. At first, I responded wholeheartedly to every last email, but for the most part I’ve since stopped. I can’t seem to rationalize spending so much time on a non-income generaing activity. But in the essay that follows, I’ve done my best to explain how it was that my current career came about. Please be aware, though, that this is not your average service-journalism piece. It’s actually more of a brief autobiography than a how-to, and to a large degree it focuses more on how I went about my career than exactly what it was I did. I hope you find it useful.    

[TO BE CONTINUED … ]                

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. writinggb
    October 19, 2007 at 4:51 PM

    Thanks for posting this! Good timing as I am starting to look into doing some travel writing myself. I’m not sure I’d be doing the sort of thing you do (travel guides, etc.) I’m thinking more of travel essays. I’m an academic with tenure, so I’m not looking to make a living at this kind of writing! But I am really enjoying reading travel writing right now, and I’d like to try my hand at it….

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your story!

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