By Jennifer Stevens in Colorado Springs, Colorado
You don't need the literary flair of Frances Mayes to be a successful
travel writer. (I'm not saying it wouldn't help -- I'm just saying it
What you do need to make it in this business, however, are a few
important traits and a handful of proven techniques -- all of which
you can learn with a little effort.
Do you have what it takes? Let's find out. Answer "yes" or "no" to
each of the questions below:
- Are you interested in exploring new places and discovering the ways they're different from your home? You'll have more success -- and, indeed, a more enjoyable travel experience -- if you don't always try to get things done "The Texas Way." Instead, are you ready to take pleasure (and find humor) in discovering what makes every place unique?
- Do you enjoy meeting new people?
- Are you opinionated? In other words, are you able to articulate why, specifically, you think one place or experience is superior or inferior to another?
- Are you persuasive? You'll need to sell yourself, your ideas, your articles, your photos. You need to be able to line up in your own mind -- and in the mind of your buyers -- the reasons why they will benefit from what you're offering.
- Are you observant? Do you pay attention as you travel to what you see, hear, feel, smell, and taste around you? (Or are you willing to learn and hone this skill?)
- Are you willing -- indeed, even eager -- to travel on your own (or with friends and family) without relying on a pre-packaged trip or tour? Are you willing to make your own travel arrangements and even play some of your travel "by ear," perhaps forgoing reservations occasionally so you stumble upon lesser-known villages, cities, hotels, restaurants, shops, markets, and such as you discover a destination?
- Are you polite? Believe it or not, a certain measure of success as a travel writer or photographer is due to common courtesy. The more pleasant and easy you are to work with, the faster and more regularly you'll land by-lines and perks, the more welcoming people will be when you get your camera out.
- Are you willing to read and do research? You needn't learn everything there is to know about a destination before you write about it or photograph it, but you do need to give yourself some context in which to place your own observations. And, you'll want to make sure your time on the ground in a place is well-spent. So a bit of research ahead of time -- online, in the library, and through personal contacts can help enormously.
- Are you able to follow directions? For example, the writers who do what a publication's Writer's Guidelines suggest find more success, faster, than those who do not. So, even though you might have a full-length article in mind, if the guidelines say, "Start by submitting a short piece for our 'Postcards' section," are you ready and willing to do that?
- Do you subscribe to at least three travel-related publications and read at least one travel article a week?
How many "yes" answers do you have?
How many "no" answers do you have?
The more yes's you have, the more success you're likely to enjoy as a
That said, any "no" you may have listed certainly indicates an
obstacle you can overcome if you're willing to try.
Editor's Note: Meet Jennifer Stevens and find out how to turn your
travels into paychecks and free trips at the one and only Ultimate
Travel Writer's Workshop, this July 26-28, in San Francisco, CA.