Canadian Artists/Canadian Copywriter
How To Get Started
The Importance Of Good Writing
What To Take On Your Trip
Your Travel Itinerary
Write, Write, Write and Sell, Sell, Sell

Most people enjoy reading about far off lands and different ways of life -- so trust us on this one. There's a huge market out there eager to read the musings of a travel writer. Of course, like every other form of writing, travel writing is a 365-day a year occupation -- and the money may not be the greatest -- but hey, what about those perqs!

What does it take to become a travel writer? First off you must be a very balanced person with a zest for discovery. tourist picYou must also be robust, possess a good degree of marketing skill and, of course, be an impeccable writer. Since you will be describing a lot of different countries, your ability to paint a picture with words will make people look forward to reading your articles.

Of course, once the locals discover that you're a travel writer, you will be welcomed everywhere you go. Nothing will be too much effort when they believe you will write generously about their country or restaurant or local folklore. Of course, like Spider Man says: with all this newfound power, there comes a tremendous responsibility. As a travel writer, you must realize that your words will impact people greatly. One bad word from you and the restaurant or resort you write about could lose business.

Yes, there are a lot of perqs to being a travel writer, but travel writing is an occupation that demands a great deal of effort.

tourist pic


If you're a neophyte to travel writing, your first priority is to find someone who is willing to pay for your articles. May we suggest that your first tourist pic trip be in your mind -- and your first sidetrip be to a library. There, you can pick a travel spot that interests you -- then absorb as much as possible about the destination. While you're learning, consider who to ask for more information -- such as the local Travel Counsel or the consulate. The government is a fountainhead of information and if you're pressed for information, you can always write to the International Association of Convention and Visitors Bureau. It's affiliated with over 140 countries worldwide.

The next step: start writing! Write as much as you can. Write articles. Write press releases. Then re-write them all. Be authentic. Now, here comes the hard part. What do you with them? After you've written everything you possibly can about the destination, examine your work objectively. Are your words as good as the travel writing you read in newspapers or magazines. Whose style does it remind you of? Who might be interested in printing this material? What kind of publication would print it? Once you think you have a handle on who might be interested in your writing, send your material to the editors and explain that your writing is a sample of your work. Would they be interested in more? If the answer is yes, and you get an assignment, congratulations! You're on your way!

Once you have your assignment in your hands, your real work will begin. you will want to know everything about your destination before you go. you will need brochures, maps, previous articles by other travel writers. That way, you will have a framework for what you want to write about -- then once you get there you can fill in all the blanks. What are the local facilities like? What are the people like? What are their customs, their beliefs, their mores?

So if you want to reach the calibre of Stephen King, start writing. Write about anything you wish -- then keep your writing in a safe place for future reference. In a speech to a group of "wannabe" writers, Samuel Clemens (alias Mark Twain) asked his audience who wanted to be a writer? When everybody in the audience raised their hands, he said "All right. Why aren't you all at home writing? Every business has its professionals and its amateurs. When amateurs write, they use the "shotgun" approach, writing about any topic under the sun, hoping that somebody out there will pay for their writing. The professional, on the other hand, is a "marksman". With a thorough knowledge of the market s/he is writing for, the professional writer does the research -- and keeps his/her ear to the ground throughout his or her career to know who's buying what.

To get a good feel for the writer's market, study a periodical by the name of (oddly enough) the Writer's Market. The Writer's Handbook is also a handy guide for professional writers. Another book called The Literary Market is also a valuable resource -- as are dozens of other literary sources. Once you have picked out some periodicals which might be interested in your writing, read each of these issues thoroughly. Often, you will find that the advertising in these magazines will give you clues as to who is reading these periodicals. The ads will address what interests the readers most. For example, are they interested in the price of a vacation or are they interested in getting the best -- for which money is absolutely no object? You might also consider other magazines or periodicals which have nothing to do with travel. For example, if you're black, would a black magazine be interested in your trip -- perhaps if it was a trip to discover your heritage. If you travel to a city which also happens to be holding a major sporting event (such as the Super Bowl) would Sports Illustrated be interested in your piece? What if the airline pilot on your flight was a colorful personality? Perhaps a magazine such as Air Line Pilot would be interested in your work.

The bottom line is that the professional keeps his or her ears and eyes open constantly. There's always a spot for a travel writer and the travel writer always has his or her ear to the ground. Also, remember to keep your rights to the work you are writing. You can always pull it out of the drawer and massage it to submit to one publication after another.

the importance of being prepared

Once you're ready to take your trip, be as prepared as a regular tourist -- then be even more prepared. Why? You're a professional, remember? On every trip, something always goes wrong. But as a travel writer, it's important that you keep all the little snags to a minimum. You have to concentrate on writing. This means making doubly sure that your passport is in order, that you've got all the necessary shots. It means choosing your itinerary well and holding to it! It means getting your plans straight -- knowing what places you're going to visit at your destination and what you're most interested in seeing. Some travel writers will go with the tourist bus while others will prefer to seek out the backroads and visit with the locals. Will you need a guide? Will you be needing informants? What kind of clothes will you wear? Do you have the proper currency. Do you know the daily exchange rate? Will you be comfortable with the language? Do you need an interpreter? There must be a thousand items on your check start planning well in advance for your trip.

what do you take on your trip

Four items are invaluable. First, credentials. you will need something that identifies you as a bonafied travel writer. Take along a letter from your assignment editor or published articles or transcripts of speeches you've presented. Get a business card printed -- then print the backside with the language of the country you're visiting (which is easy to do with any home computer). you will be glad you brought your identification -- because it's amazing how many doors a tiny little card can open. Secondly, bring your camera. You may not be a great photographer -- but your pictures won't necessarily be for publication. Photos will be a great way to remind you of what you saw and what you will write about. They're handy to have when every detail must be right. Thirdly, you will need a portable tape recorder. you will want to record your interviews with the locals -- again just to get every word and nuance right. And finally, you will need all the accoutrements of the writing trade -- which these days boils down to a compact computer with a built in modem. With this kind of equipment, you can file your stories from anywhere in the world.

Your travel itinerary

Okay you're on the road. You're ready to write about everything you see. Every good writer keeps his or her eyes peeled for a story. You have a choice of two types of stories to write. The first is the straight ahead type which includes a description of the destination, its hotels, its restaurants, etcetera. Okay, maybe it doesn't sound interesting, but it's what a lot of readers are looking for. They just want to know how your trip was. Another type of story focuses on the "unique" angle -- something different or special about the destination or perhaps even the trip itself. Sometimes the smallest happenings can turn into a very interesting story. For example, if your car broke down on your way and you tried to get it fixed in a small town, it could mean some great, light reading -- just the thing to perk up someone's day as he or she says "ah, yes... that happened to me!" Remember that whenever you meet somebody, there's always a story in it. And always be gracious. As w'eve said earlier, when people discover you're a travel writer, they'll go out of their way to regale you. A word of caution. though. When you're in another country, be aware of their beliefs and customs -- and never attempt to go against the grain. For example, when it comes to alcohol, a Muslim will be deeply offended if you offered him a drink while, on the other hand, a Bavarian would be deeply offended if you refused his offer to take you to a Pusch Garten. Remember, everywhere you go, go with the flow!

write, write, write and sell, sell, sell

As we have said, writing is a twenty-four hour, seven day a week, 365 day a year occupation! Every writer writes every chance he or she gets. Every writer saves his or her material, fervently believing that someday their scribblings may be worth money. When you're trying to sell your material, know the importance of a query letter. Send a letter to an editor (and always address it to the right editor -- or at least someone on the staff who can forward it to the right party). The query letter can be invaluable. It will tell you whether or not you're going in the right direction. Sometimes, an editor will make other suggestions -- which can help in your efforts. Always send a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) with your query. And remember, if you're a writer, you will have to deal with rejection. Every writer has enough rejection slips to paper the walls. For more help in coping with this dreaded "fact of life", see Dealing With Rejection. All the best of luck in your travel writing plans! Start packing and bon voyage.

More Information

When you're planning your trip, here are some websites to help you work out the details.
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