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Become a Travel Writer
or at least find out if you have what it takes

It's not particularly difficult to become a travel writer - the harder part is getting paid for it!

There are several roads to travel writing but mostly you'll end up on one of these two.

1. You can take a travel writing course. This will fast-track your travel writing career but takes money, discipline and commitment.

2. If you're not ready for a full-blown course you can teach yourself, starting with the do's and don'ts below.

Basic Do's and Don'ts of Travel Writing

1. Do your research beforehand
If you're planning on being a travel writer, even for a few stories on the road, research intensively before you start. The more you know beforehand, the better the questions you'll ask and the understanding you'll bring to a situation.

2. Write everything down.
Keep a travel journal. You don't know what you'll need later - include thoughts, smells, sounds, descriptions, emotions, costs... anything and everything that strikes you and that can provide detail. Don't forget people's names and titles. The times I haven't done this, I've regretted it.

3. Plan your article before you write it.
Sitting down and waiting for inspiration to strike is something best left to amateur novelists. Be systematic. Outline you beginning, your  middle and your end - and everything in-between. You'll find the more time you spend on the outline, the less time you'll need to spend on the story.

4. Know your audience.
If the publication is aimed at upper income spa-lovers, you won't get far with an article on choosing the best backpack. Nor will the editor - whom you really want to please - think you're very professional. Pitch your tone and voice at the appropriate level.

5. Put people in your story.
There's nothing more boring than a long litany of facts. Interview people and use what they say give your piece more punch. Don't just describe a place - look at it through someone's eyes. Show, don't tell.

6. Edit yourself.
Don't ever think your first shot is your best shot. Read your piece out loud, and rewrite what sounds long, unclear, convoluted, pretentious. Remove extra words. Pare down. Prune.

7. Get it right.
Be certain of your story. If you're quoting someone, use their exact words, in context. Double-check any facts or figures. If you get a simple number wrong, there's no reason for the editor to trust the rest of your story.

8. Take photographs.
At best, many articles will earn you more money if accompanied by high-quality photographs. At worst, you won't be able to place a piece without submitting visuals. Read the various writers' guidelines to see what editors want. 

9. Recycle and rewrite. 
You shouldn't submit the same travel article to two publications - unless their markets are so different there is no chance they'll overlap (I never submit simultaneously, no matter what). What you can do is rewrite: change your angle from singles to families, from winter to summer travel, from a whole city to a small neighbourhood.

10. Grow a thick skin.
The process of submitting and writing a travel article means you will get rejected, more than you can imagine. But if one editor rejects a query, send it on to the next one, and the next one. At some point your supply and the market's demand will meet. Be stubborn and tenacious. And remember - the more articles you sell, the better-known you'll become, and the easier it will be to sell the next one.

11. And finally - travel!
Travel, and travel some more. Sitting in that cozy café in Paris for a month acting like a starving writer will keep you just that - starving. Grab your travel journal, pick up your backpack, and hit the road!

Think all this through. 

By then you'll know whether you still want to be a travel writer, whether you want to go it on your own, or whether taking a travel writing course is best for you.

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