Adventure

The 6 Things No One Tells You About Being A Travel Writer

I’ve spent the past two years working as a travel writer, and it’s been absolutely incredible.

I’ve been put up in an all-glass tiny house in the New Zealand countryside. I’ve been flown to Vegas to live it up on the Strip. And I’ve taken a chopper to a sand cay in Tropical North Queensland where I snorkelled with sea turtles, saw a real-life octopus and popped some Champagne with my pilot.

And it’s all been in the name of research.

 

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Tiny house with an all-glass twist

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If it sounds like a dream job, it was. And still is. But travel writing is also a ridiculous amount of hard work. There have been times I’ve been so stressed out I’ve started sobbing. Or when I emailed my brother 13 versions of a story to look over in a single hour. And times I doubted whether I was even any good at writing. And tbh, I still feel that way.

Being a travel writer isn’t all that glamorous. It can be. But it isn’t all the time. And while I could write a book on the behind-the-scenes of it all, I’ve picked just a few of the realities to share with you here.

These are six truths I wish I’d known going in.

You’ll need to develop a thick skin

First things first: if you want to be a freelance travel writer – a writer without a steady gig who pitches stories to various outlets as you go – you’ll need to be prepared for a whole lot of rejection.

Sometimes in the form of a curt “No, thank you”, but most often in the form of silence.

You’ll spend hours and hours crafting what you think to be the perfect pitch, even suggesting exactly why the story is so needed, and then…crickets.

You’ll get paid (airline) peanuts

Then there’s the whole trying to get paid for your travel words.

Because while a free eight-day cruise may save you heaps on day-to-day expenses, it’s not going to pay your rent. Or add to your savings. You’ll need to get stories published for that. And if you’re spending eight days onboard that cruise, with a $40 Uber to and from the airport, you’d better hope you’ll get more than one $300 story out of it.

Most people go into travel writing knowing they’ll be sacrificing a big pay cheque. They know they’ll get “paid” in experiences. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the hell that is tracking your expenses for tax time. Because if you haven’t been diligent about it, that can mean a whole week of (unpaid) work.

 

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And on the fourth day (and last day in Otago/Central Otago), the clouds finally parted to reveal this 💫

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You’ll always need to be ON

And then there’s the travel writer lifestyle. You need to always be alert for new story ideas. That translates into late nights to meet story deadlines and long days when you’re on a trip, often starting at 7am and finishing at 11pm.

You’ll also need to do a lot of schmoozing – be it over social media, phone, text or at events. You’ll need to stay friendly with travel destination reps who might send you overseas, as well as editors so they won’t just serve you crickets.

You’ll need to be wildly creative – again and again

Every destination has been visited already. That means a travel writer, blogger or influencer has already reviewed or photographed it. So, what makes what you have to say about it worth reading? What new angle can you find about it?

Travel writers need to think outside of the box constantly. Otherwise you just won’t get published.

I spent weeks in the lead-up to trips to TNQ and NZ South Island (both super popular destinations written about countless times) researching interesting things to do there so I could pitch stories. I ended up getting about five or six stories from both trips, but still, it was exhausting.

 

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Trying out a Mexican standing desk

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You’ll start to miss your routine

Travelling constantly messes up your routine. Your Saturday markets browse, weekday morning gym sessions, evening bubble baths – you’ll really start to miss them. And it’ll be surprising how much so.

But the upside to craving your routine is that you’ll really start to appreciate it. And that’s pretty great. Because how cool is it to get excited about being able to do your own laundry? Or load a dishwasher? (‘Very’ is the answer here.)

You’ll never take it for granted

By now you’re probably playing the world’s smallest violin for me. And I don’t blame you. I’ve done a lot of complaining.

Which is why I’m adding this point: no travel writer ever takes the surreal opportunities they’re given for granted. They all know that despite the downsides and work that goes into it, being a travel writer really is one of the coolest gigs in the world.

Sangeeta Kocharekar is a Sydney-based writer. She Instas at @sangeetatatiana.

(Lead Image: Author’s own)