How I got into travel writing

So how did I get into travel writing?

Hard bloody work. Travel writing is not an easy profession to get into. Maybe it looks so from the outside: perhaps it seems, as long as you have a laptop and like to go on holiday, like anyone can do it.

And to some extent it’s true. Anyone can write about travel from almost anywhere in the world.

But to be really successful as a travel journalist it takes more than a few weeks abroad and a couple of hours tapping at your keyboard, waxing lyrical about the time you drank so much tequila you fell asleep on the beach and missed your onward travel the next day.

Having said all that, I would never discourage anyone from trying to find their place in the travel media. When I settled on this as my career choice I reached out to some esteemed travel writers for advice and insight into the industry.

“Don’t bother, there’s no money in it.”

“It’s a dying profession anyway, there’s no room for new talent.”

Those were some of the answers I got from the twelve writers I emailed. Only one person, guidebook author Richard Arghiris, bothered responding with something remotely positive.

After that I felt my dream was somewhat crushed, but eventually decided to power on anyway.

So I began my career at university.

I studied multimedia journalism at Bournemouth University's Media School and, rather conveniently, pretty much knew I wanted to be a travel writer from day one.

I spent those three years tailoring my assignments at university to travel-related subjects and I left the country as often as I could.

(And before anyone makes assumptions: the bank of mum and dad didn’t fund it – I worked at a bookmaker alongside my full-time study because the thought of a life without an approaching air ticket seemed unbearable.)

I interned at Absolute Publishing (now APL Media) where I worked on publications such as ABTA magazine, ASTA magazine and met the editor of National Geographic Traveller.

Later that year, during the summer of my second year of study, I went to Kenya to work on my final project, and got in touch with Richard Trillo, author of The Rough Guide to Kenya, for some advice via Twitter.

It was this trip to Kenya that led to my first paid commission (on the National Geographic Traveller blog thanks to my recently-made connections during the internship), and my contact with Richard Trillo led to some very basic, off-the-cuff guidebook updating.

From there, I finished my final year at Bournemouth and applied for an editorial assistant job with RoughGuides.com.

Now, here I am, almost three years on as web editor.

Well that was a lot of good luck too, right?

Sure, I had my fair share of good fortune – but I also worked hard to make those connections. But for some context, here are some testimonies from a few colleagues:

Richard Mellor

Freelancer for The Sunday Times, Metro, Guardian and more.

I did a journalism diploma, intending to become a travel writer. The first part of my cunning plan was to get a job in travel-based PR, and learn the industry... but I ended up doing that for eight years, due to a combination of excellent bosses, good money and concerns over journalism's job prospects.

Halfway through, I began writing on the side – with my bosses' knowledge. Some publications refused to take my work due a potential clash of ethics, but then the Sunday Times said yes, and I started a sporadic sideline.

So when I left PR in summer 2014, I already had my foot in a few doors – which was invaluable, as it was very tough at first.

Mary Novakovich

Freelancer for the Independent, the Guardian, the Telegraph and more.

I got into travel writing the way many people did: I fell into it. I started freelancing at the Independent in April 1998, subbing on news, travel and arts.

It wasn't long before the travel editor of the Sunday paper, the wonderful late Jeremy Atiyah, asked me if I fancied doing some travel writing.

We would have long chats together, as he loved the Balkans and knew I was from there. Funnily enough, my first commission was to Toronto, but it snowballed after that. Of course, by that point I'd already had nearly 15 years' experience as a journalist, so everyone knew I could write.

So if you're looking for ways to become a travel writer, or you're interested in finding out what it takes to get into travel writing, head here for starters.

Lottie Gross

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