Travel writing: making money while on vacation?

It is certain that writing is not an easy field, and with the current economic slump, challenges in this field are being emphasized even more. However, I don’t want to discuss the economy.  There is enough chatter about that already.

It’s 1:25 a.m., and I feel like discussing magazine writing.  Now there’s a broad topic!  The possibilities are endless, right?

Sitting on your perch (favorite office-type chair), you ponder the possibilities. Perhaps you are a travel enthusiast, and you cannot imagine doing anything finer.  This might really work well, especially with all the frequent flyer mile incentives that many of the airlines offer.

When researching your options,  Hawaii is always a good idea.  You log onto cheaptickets.com, find a great rate, locate a package deal… three nights, four days, and you are as good as gone!  Think of it… a vacation while earning (potential) money!  This is going to be golden!

The flight over is fantastic.  There is very little turbulence and you are eager introduce yourself as a “travel writer” to anyone who asks. Admittedly, it does sound grand, and every time you utter the words, “travel writer,” the oo’s and ahh’s are hard to contain.  You will get comments like, “Oh, that sounds fabulous! A vacation while you work,”  or, “I wish I could write.  I am so bad with words,” or, “I am so envious…I always wanted to be a writer.”  You feel a deep sense of pride well up as you grin and happily agree.

After the airport madness, you finally make your way to the hotel with the taxi cab driver from hell, and just when you are ready to scream, you pull up to this amazing seaside resort. Oh yeah, this resort far surpasses your wildest fantasies, and the view balcony is nothing short of stunning.  What a career!  Most people only dream about having a job like this.

Of course, before you left you did your homework, and researched the places you would go, and the things you would cover on this trip.  I mean–it is so important to know your market, and to have a solid story that you can pitch to an editor.  Equally important, you must know your magazines voice.  For example, it’s doubtful that Sports Fishing Magazine is going to be interested in the history of poi, nor is Good Housekeeping going to get excited about an article written about the rain forests in Kauai.

None of those topics appeal to you anyway, so you have decided to try your luck with restaurant reviews.  Given the fact you are a food enthusiast, and truly enjoy gourmet cooking, this might prove to be quite rewarding!

There is a world famous chef who runs the restaurant in the resort you are staying at, so you have scored!  Your article will be just what this guy needs to promote his newest creations.  Of course, your disappointment runs deep when you get to this tropical resort only to discover that the National Association of Restaurants is having a week-long convention, and interviewing the head chef or even a bus boy during this busy week will not even be remotely possible.

Game play #2 has to kick in…

You probably want to stay clear of a obscure topics or a story that is simply not relative.  For example, it’s doubtful that you are going to find a magazine back in the mainland that will print a story on Hawaiian antiques at the Waioli Mission House of Kauai. Remember too that while you are doing a story on Hawaii, Hidden Europe, a magazine exploring the cultures and customs of Europe is not going to find your local island discoveries remotely interesting.  In short, don’t waste your time.

Now, given the fact you are giddily exuberant about your travel discoveries, keep in mind that a magazine that usually publishes articles between 1,500 and 2,000 words is not going to share your thrill as you submit a 4,000-word manuscript!

The reality is that if you are going to pursue travel writing, you need to do a lot of research, do all of your homework before embarking on this potentially exciting career, and find your niche.  After all, if you have never held a fishing rod in your life, writing a story like, “North Shores Best-kept Secret:  Ahi, the Yellowfin Jackpot,” will not be very convincing.  Even if you are traveling, it is always the best idea to write about something you are familiar with.  If you were a floral designer in a former career life, you might want to consider doing an article on Hawaiian wedding spots.  When you write about something you have expertise in, then it becomes easy to look for new angles for your story.

When researching, you may want to utilize these resources:  Travel Industry Association of America (www.tia.org), Travelwriters.com, or the World Chamber of Commerce Directory (www.chamberofcommerce.ccom).

… and look at it this way, if all else fails, you have at least enjoyed reveling in paradise while sipping coconut juice on a white sandy beach, listening to palm trees sway and ocean waves break against coral reefs, while racking up your credit card.

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