Are You Mad Enough To Be A Travel Writer?

Writer´s Corner


The website Tripbase offer information for would-be travel writers, on the whole very sensible and useful for prospective scribes.

The introduction -The harsh realities laid bare- is both sobering and spot-on: Travel writing is a tough and competitive business, a trade for which one needs to have plenty of persistence and low financial expectations – the payscale the site offers for different jobs such as guidebook or feature article writing is very interesting and pretty acurate. Prospective Paul Therouxs are advised that a fat bank account helps in the initial stages. An antipathy to a regular family life is almost a must-have. A fair amount of luck is also needed to make some kind of success.

I can only confirm this. It’s a long slog, but an interesting one. Here´s an interview by Rolf Potts about my work.

Even after being widely published for almost a decade, making a living from travel writing alone , if I were to choose such a path, would still be difficult. There just isn’t enough well-paid work going round for everyone anymore. In the face of collapsing print-runs and less interest in in-depth reportage, magazines and newspapers rarely send freelancers on lengthy assignments these days.

Branching out into other writing jobs has enabled me to make a modest but decent living and enjoy an absolutely amazing life, packed with countless special and often amazing and outlandish experiences. Right now, with the print media industry in partial meltdown, most seasoned journalists advise to branch out into other aspects of the trade.  If you have written a guidebook, try and sell articles on the same subject, become an expert in that subject rather than in writing guidebooks. Take photos or film while researching a travel story. Explore online and digital possibilities, that market is slowly getting serious.

For me, the greatest benefit to being a freelance writer is the ability to choose the story, and for the most part, the angle. I see the world and I write about it and I am grateful for almost every platform I am being offered for what is essentially my experience and my opinion.

Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond and brother of famous travel writer Peter Fleming wrote in 1962, “Above all, being a comparatively successful writer is a good life.”

To all the prospective travel writers out there, enjoy the road and, if you really can’t cope with the ever-decreasing rates offered by guidebook publishers or commissioning editors, be sure to write a good spy novel.

Photo of a travel writer about to catch sunburn by Luke Duggleby, captured on the way to Ko Tonsay, Rabbit Island, Southeast Cambodia, on assignment for the Asia Wall Street Journal, 2010 .

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