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Three Steps to Break into Travel Writing

The question of how to break into travel writing is one that gets asked again and again. The good news is that the advent of blogs and content hubs make it even easier these days to develop clips, practice writing and earn a few bucks. The bad news is you will still need to develop the core skills of a travel writer to find success: traveling and writing.

Step 1: Become a Traveler

Here’s the first step. Pay attention, now, because it’s one word and you could miss it: travel. It sounds obvious, but many aspiring travel writers become so concerned about how to get hotel rooms comped and sweet magazine article deals and how to write the perfect query letter that they forget the most essential ingredient to a travel writer’s success.

Before you even consider anything else, you need a passion for travel. More than that, the need to travel should be so overpowering that you don’t care if you make money doing it. You simply need to travel.

It doesn’t need to be exotic. It doesn’t need to be a trans-Atlantic cruise. You should be happy even taking a daytrip two towns over. You just need to find your joy and you place as a traveler. Do that before you even think about writing. Keep a journal, take some nice pictures, and travel as if that’s the only purpose to your adventure.

Step 2: Become a Travel Writer

Next, you should write about your travels. You don’t need a class to tell you how to do it. You need practice. You need to write, a lot. Often. Much like travel above, you need to write because you love it, because you can’t imagine not writing. You should become a travel writer for your own bliss before you become a travel writer for profit.

If you write for the joy of writing, you will become a better writer. Write until you find your voice, or that special mark that tells the reader, “I know who wrote this!” Write like you would tell your friends or your mom about your trip. Write until you enjoy reading your writing, until you smirk and snicker and tear up.

Step 3: Get Published as a Travel Writer

It used to be extremely difficult to become a published travel writer. As a beginner, it was an uphill battle of traveling and writing and querying and begging before you landed a paid gig that put your byline in print.

Now there are several ways to get those first crucial clips, and in many cases you don’t even need anyone’s approval:

  • Start a travel blog. Pick a theme, such as travel with kids or travel by region, and create a blog. You can get a free blog at a site like Blogger or Wordpress. It takes literally a couple minutes to set up, and they are very easy to use.
  • Write for an article submission site. Sites like Helium and Hubpages allow users to register, and writers can earn money with the articles. There is also a nice list of article submission sites that allow writers to get a share of the Google ad revenue at AdMoolah.
  • Look for sites seeking online travel writers or bloggers. The benefit of this method if you are writing for a company that will already have a name for itself. The nice thing is that many sites look more closely at the travel experience of an applicant than they examine the writing credentials.For example, About.com hires writers and section editors.
  • Approach your local newspaper. Many times, newspapers do not have a dedicated travel writing staff. Contact your paper’s feature editor. Inquire about being a stringer to write about weekend events and festivals, or to provide travel articles on destinations of interest to the readers. If the editor wants to see clips, offer to write a couple just to pique his or her interest. If she decides not to use them, you can always use the articles in one of the media options listed above.
  • Pitch smaller magazines. Yes, it would be nice to land a feature in National Geographic Traveler. But as a newbie travel writer, you won’t. Make your peace with that, and concentrate on breaking into magazines if that is your goal. There are many smaller travel magazines, or even non-travel magazines with travel sections, that are much more likely to publish the work of an unpublished or rookie travel writer.