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How to Start Travel Writing

Travel writer seems like a dream job. It can be your reality if you’re willing to commit to a consistent and patient pursuit, following a simple, but not always easy, series of actions. There is no mystery in how to start travel writing. The steps detailed below have been tested, proven and resulted in the people who determinedly follow them traveling the world to write about their experiences.

What it’s really like taking a beginning travel writing class

If you have no experience as a writer or working in the media, that’s ok. Many successful travel writers – including TravelWritersUniversity.com co-founder Noreen Kompanik – entered the travel writing profession from completely unrelated careers. Kompanik was a registered nurse.

Her story can be your story.

Noreen Kompanik
Noreen Kompanik, co-founder of Travel Writers University

Exhausted from 30 years spent working in hospitals, Kompanik was looking to leave the profession. She was in her 50s, and while the idea of retirement was attractive, the idea of sitting around all day with nothing to do wasn’t. But what to do? She did love traveling, but that gets expensive fast and Kompanik couldn’t afford to travel as a lifestyle.

A friend of hers came across something called “The Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program.” The program claimed to be able to introduce anyone – regardless of background – to the field of travel writing, allowing them to start receiving free travel and paid assignments writing about destinations and attractions.

NO EXPERIENCE REQUIRED! GUARANTEED!

Kompanik was sure the program was a scam.

She only agreed to attend one of “The Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program” in-person workshops because it was taking place in her hometown of San Diego and she wanted to expose to her friend all of the ways the course was a rip-off.

And then she attended. And it all seemed so simple. This how to start travel writing. What before seemed like a fantasy – someone else’s fantasy – became a possibility.

The event organizers were legitimate. The steps outlined clear and repeatable. This wasn’t a bunch of nebulous, opaque, woo-woo, motivational mumbo-jumbo, this was detailed and concrete. A roadmap designed for anyone to be able to follow and become a travel writer.

If you put the work in and follow the steps.

Kompanik became energized to try it for herself. The very next day she started following the steps. She put the work in. Success came slowly, but it did come and gradually built. In a few years’ time, she was earning hundreds of dollars for her stories, had written hundreds of articles for print and online publications, and was traveling the world – all expenses paid – being invited by hotels, wineries, cruise lines, resorts and tourist destinations to write about their offerings.

She now earns five figures a year from her travel writing and takes upwards of 25 all expenses paid trips each year to Europe, the Caribbean and all over the United States to write about her travels.

Would you be shocked to learn that “The Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program” how to start travel writing online course costs less than $200? The very same course Kompanik took to launch her career.

The truth about becoming a travel writer

Kimpton Vero Beach
Kimpton Vero Beach Hotel Spa

Now, make no mistake, “The Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program” isn’t a get-rich quick scheme. It takes months of hard work before traction towards becoming a professional travel writer takes hold. Those months can be frustrating. Life can get in the way and derail efforts.

Also, importantly – candidly – the course is not designed to launch full-time, primary income careers as travel writers. Full-time salaried staff members like those at National Geographic magazine or Travel + Leisure are exceptionally rare. Those jobs are filled by longtime professional journalists who’ve spent decades pursing them.

“The Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program” doesn’t promise to help participants land those positions – no program possibly can – it is geared toward freelance work. Freelancing involves writing for a variety of publications, constantly “pitching,” presenting your ideas for suggested articles to editors. It’s a hustle. When successful, it can provide good side income. Maybe $1,000 a month for those who are successful and aggressive with their pitching. Maybe more.

Again, a rarified few can earn a primary living from freelance travel writing, but “The Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program” doesn’t promise that either. It promises to instruct anyone on how to become a travel writer, how to establish your first few bylines – published stories – and how to start generating side income and begin receiving opportunities for all-expenses-paid travel. Travel writers are largely paid in experiences. Even at the tippy-top of the profession. If you want to get rich, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Pitching as a travel writer

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Launching a successful freelance career as a travel writer comes down to pitching. Freelance travel writers are constantly sending story ideas to the editors they’ve already worked with and new editors at different publications. This is a weekly, if not daily pursuit. It’s similar to a sales job in many respects. Freelance travel writers are constantly “knocking on doors” – digitally – emailing editors ideas story.

Like sales, pitching is a numbers game. No one is 100% successful. No one is 50% successful. Even good pitches are often declined – or no response is ever heard. If you have a hard time with rejection, this may prove difficult for you. Pitching is especially challenging when beginning travel writing because you don’t have any “clips” – published examples of your work.

Plus, where and who do you even pitch? What do you pitch?

Use common sense here. There are thousands of travel publications online and in print. If you’re a beginner with no professional writing experience, start small and work your way up. Your first byline isn’t going to come from The New York Times or Fodors.com.

Many travel websites include information on who and how to pitch them on the site. Look for the “contact” tab. Find an editor’s contact email. Some sites include a “write for us,” “submit stories,” “contribute” tab or something similar. Those are a great places to start.

Do some digging. You’ll need to pitch numerous outlets as a beginner.

Keep your pitches brief – 100 words or so. In the subject line of your email, write: Story pitch – HERE’S MY IDEA. Make it catchy and related to the publication’s subject matter. Don’t pitch a website dedicated to Disney travel an idea about an African safari.

“Story pitch – Why is everyone talking about this new Miami hotel?”

Make the subject line of your email catchy. This is your first opportunity to let an editor know you’re a good writer, and have a good knack for story finding and storytelling.

In the body of your email, briefly introduce yourself and your idea.

Begin by pitching story ideas related to what you know best – your local area and trips you’ve taken. Where you live may seem mundane to you, but chances are, something close to you that you know well is seen as a tourist destination or attraction to other people. That may be a city, a festival, some historic marker or museum, a park – who knows – but use your expertise as a local in telling the story of this place to entice editors.

Pitch, pitch, pitch.

Target outlets likely to be interested in this subject. Outlets you may have never heard of. Again, use your common sense and dig. Start with smaller outlets. Keep pitching.

Your first few stories may be for publications with a small readership. You may not even be paid to write them. That’s ok. As a beginner, what you need most are bylines and practice.

The more you pitch, the more you write, the more relationships with editors you establish, the more likely they are to take subsequent pitches, the more you learn, the bigger and better the publications become you can pitch, the pay will increase, the “press trips” – invitations to visit and write stories – will come. Like any other pursuit, start small, build a foundation, work the process, commit, stick with it, grow.

Take your travel writing to the next level with Travel Writers University

Kristi Dosh and Noreen Kompanik, founders of TravelWritersUniversity
Kristi Dosh and Noreen Kompanik, founders of TravelWritersUniversity

If you’re serious about how to become a travel writer, TravelWritersUniversity.com is an invaluable resource. The website and affiliated Facebook group are designed for entry level and early career travel writers who’ve gone through “The Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program.” TravelWritersUniversity.com was designed to pick up where “The Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program” leaves off.

TravelWritersUniversity.com offers monthly “Roadmaps” written by experienced travel writers covering everything from how to improve your pitching to writing tips, conducting interviews, developing your own travel blog or podcast, maximizing social media posts to receive travel perks, taking better travel photos and how to enter travel writing niches like cruising, food and wine, art and spas. Nearly 100 “Roadmaps” are archived on the site, available only to members.

TravelWritersUniversity.com also offers monthly “Bonus Articles” written by industry experts with even more hints, tricks, tips, hacks, advice and insight to help start your travel writing career.

Also included are the incredibly valuable “Featured Publications.” Each month, TravelWritersUniversity.com interviews a travel editor about her or his publications with tips and insider access on how to pitch that outlet! Again, nearly 100 publications have been featured on the website providing a great place for beginning travel writers to find those crucial first few clips to get their career started. Additionally, in the Travel Writers University Facebook page – the Travel Writer’s Café – each and every Friday we publish a “Freelancer Friday” roundup of writing opportunities culled from our contacts inside the business. From a “Freelancer Friday” Travel Writer’s Café post, one of our members landed a story in National Geographic magazine!

The biggest question when thinking about how to become a travel writer is where and who to pitch. TravelWritersUniversity.com and the Travel Writer’s Café lay this information at your feet.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Travel Writer’s Café offers a supportive community of travel writers on the same journey you’re undertaking, experiencing the same roadblocks, pursuing the same objective. Co-founders Noreen Kompanik and Kristi Dosh – along with the other members – are constantly providing encouragement and answering specific questions members have about whatever challenges they’re facing.

TravelWritersUniversity.com further offers travel writing retreats and one-on-one coaching to help advance your career.

Access to TravelWritersUniversity.com and the Travel Writer’s Café requires an investment of only $49 per month or $399 per year.

How to start travel writing? There you have it.

Author

  • Chadd Scott is an arts contributor with Forbes and the founder of See Great Art, where he writes about his travels from big city museums to small town galleries in search of great art.

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