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How Travel Writing Works

The Glamour Factor

The image of the lucky travel writer on an all-expenses-paid trip isn't a reality for most.
The image of the lucky travel writer on an all-expenses-paid trip isn't a reality for most.

Websites like The Travel Writer's Life promote the idea that travel writing isn't just a viable career, it's a glamorous one at that. Get paid to see the world – it's not exactly a hard sell. Not only will you get paid to travel, goes the pitch, but resorts and hotels will be more than happy to foot the bill for your accommodation and dining in their pursuit of a positive review.

There's some truth to all this, according to Tim Leffel, but only for a lucky few. Resorts and hotels do indeed invite travel writers for all-expenses-paid sojourns, but only if you're writing for a famous guidebook or travel magazine. And those assignments are few and far between, even for established writers. He quotes the famous contemporary travel writer, Pico Iyer, who reported that his first assignment writing for the Rough Guide series involved "covering 80 towns in 90 days while sleeping in gutters and eating a hotdog once a week" [source: Leffel].


Still, there are some scribblers out there who seem to be living the dream. In an article published on the site Freelance Travel Writer, Megan Wood talks about the path she took to fulfilling her lifelong dream of being a travel writer. After a stint in the Peace Corps, she took some courses through an online school called MatadorU. In short order she was publishing articles and had launched her career as a travel writer [source: Wood].

But glamour and remuneration aside, if you have an itch to travel and an urge to be read, the Internet provides that peerless tool of self-publishing, the blog. There are countless travel blogs out there, and some of them are very successful. So successful that one of them, Grrrl Traveler, poses the question, "Will travel bloggers and social media kill guidebooks?" Her answer: mostly yes [source: Kaaloa].

And is it possible to earn money as a travel blogger? Again, yes. It took Matt Kepnes just 18 months to make a living from his blog Nomadic Matt. But he's not just a writer; he's an entrepreneur who uses his blog as a means of selling e-books and other travel-related products. Still, he's doing it, and he's not the only one [source: Clark].

Author's Note: How Travel Writing Works

If the digital age is in the process of transforming travel writing as we know it, think of what will happen when space tourism takes off! The blogosphere or twitterverse (or whatever replaces them in the decades to come) will be rife with tips on the best freeze-dried ice-cream to pack, how to pee in zero gravity and what SPF you need outside Earth's atmosphere. Come to think of it, will travel writing survive, or will we be sending holograms of our adventures recorded by the cameras embedded in our eyes? I'm optimistic — the written word has come this far; surely it'll make it to Mars. And beyond. It's only a matter of time before we're reading about the "Top 5 Things to See on Ganymede Before You Die" (on your way back home).

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  • Brettell, Caroline B. "Introduction: Travel Literature, Ethnography, and Ethnohistory." Ethnohistory. (1986): 127-138. (Jan. 7, 2015)
  • Campbell, Mary B. "The witness and the other world: exotic European travel writing, 400-1600." Cornell University Press, 1991. (Jan. 7, 2015) writing&f=false
  • Clark, Dorie. "How to Make a Living from Blogging." Forbes magazine. July 24, 2014. (Jan. 9, 2015)
  • Elsner, John. "Pausanias: a Greek pilgrim in the Roman world." Past and Present. (1992): 3-29. (Jan. 8, 2015)
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