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How to Become a Travel Writer by Learning from the Best

Women on the Road

Have you ever wanted to travel and write? As you leaf through your latest Lonely Planet, do you ever ask yourself "How can I get paid to travel?"

You could become a travel writer...

how to become a travel writer

Everyone has their own path.

Mine started half a century ago (ouch!).

Ever since I learned to hold a pencil, I knew I wanted to write; and as soon as I was allowed out of the house on my own, I knew I wanted to travel. These two threads have followed me through life and are responsible for the wonderful life I have today.

I took my first travel journalism course as part of my high-school correspondence education and over the years, I kept studying. Online writing classes. Travelogue writing. Workshops. Mentorships. University classes. Anything to become a travel writer or find travel writer jobs. I eventually became a political journalist and communications specialist but kept writing about people and places in my spare time, in the evenings and on weekends. After a long and happy career, I veered back towards my first love: writing about travel, which I now do more or less full time.

Become a travel writer - old portable typewriterWhen I first started as a travel journalist, this was my 'computer'.

Still, I had to keep studying. Journalism and travel writing are different beasts and I had to learn, like everyone else.

Each time I take a good course, I learn something new. (Of course there are plenty of poor online writing courses – often taught by people who know the theory but may never have actually sold a storythemselves.)

So I wasn’t altogether surprised when Nomadic Matt wrote to tell me he was launching a new travel writing course and asked me if I'd test-run it in exchange for an honest review. (You do know Matt, right? The most famous travel blogger in the world?)

Before I could say a word, he said, “David Farley wrote it.”

BOOM! Got my attention, Matt!

In case you haven’t heard of David Farley, he’s the one we all want to grow up to be: the New York Times, AFAR, The Guardian, The Washington Post and so on. He’s everywhere – it’s hard not to run into him when you’re looking for good travel (and food) writing.

Or, if you’ve studied writing in New York City, you might have caught him teaching a course at Columbia or New York University… You get the picture. He’s that good, and has been making a living from his words for two decades.

When Matt tells me that David is teaching his writing course, that’s a course I want to take. So I did. Here's what The A to Z Guide to Travel Writing looks like:

Week 1

  • An Introduction to Travel Writing
  • How to Create a Travel Story
  • The Anatomy of a Story
  • The Different Types of Travel Stories
  • Travel Writing Resources

Week 2

  • How to Be Descriptive in Your Writing
  • The Revision Process
  • Editing Your Work
  • Grammar Dos and Don’ts

Week 3

  • An Introduction to Writing for the Web
  • How to Write Engaging Content
  • How to Write Viral Content

Week 4

  • Memoir and Personal Essays
  • How to Create Perfect Story Arcs
  • The Challenges In Writing A Memoir
  • The Research Process

Week 5

  • Freelance Writing
  • Making Money via Ads
  • Tours, and More!
  • How to find and pitch editors
  • How to Write a Book Proposal
  • How to Self-Publish an eBook on Amazon

Here's just a little bit of what you'll learn:

  • How to write a great travel story, with the emphasis on story − because good travel writing is good storytelling
  • How to make your story even greater by learning how to shape and edit it, taking out words that don't belong, restructuring... all the things that will make your writing jump off the page
  • How to make your stories saleable so that outlets actually want to PAY you for them
  • Speaking of saleable, you'll also learn how to pitch a book proposal (since Matt and David Farley have both written books successfully, they'll share their their own book proposals with you)
  • How to turn this into a profession by finding paying work − enough to make a living writing about travel.
  • The differences between writing for print and writing online − because they are quite different. Writing for the web is actually more difficult, but there are specific techniques you'll learn that will make your writing magnetic for online readers.

Taking the equivalent of a university-level course but working at your own pace makes everything easier and if you need help as you go along, both the dedicated Facebook community and the scheduled live Q&A office hours will be there to help.

Here's my take on Nomadic Matt's travel writing courses

After working my way through this course, here’s what I found:

  • Solid journalistic advice – the way I was taught to write news back when facts and good writing were both essential.
  • The course ‘feels real’. No hype, no tricks. Just robust guidance on writing for print and digital.
  • Making money: oh yes, there’s plenty of detailed advice (in this case by Matt, whose success is proof of his expertise in this area).
  • Expert interviews by top travel writers you’ll recognize – Don George, Spud Hilton, Rolf Potts – filled with actionable advice.
  • All of it pulled together by David Farley. It doesn't get much better than this.
Visiting a market in Istanbul - part of being a travel writerLife as a travel writer. It's rough, but someone has to do it...

So yes, I learned plenty I didn’t know, especially about working for magazines and pitching.

But – like everything – these courses aren't perfect.

You'll actually have to do the work. You can click 'Completed' as much as you like but without grafting, you're not going to move forward. This is a true learning experience, not a quick 'get it over with' event.

And going at your own pace requires a discipline only you can exercise: you're not in a classroom so there's no peer pressure to force you forward. Your success will very much be up to you.

"I'd give the writing course lots of stars, especially if you want to write creative non-fiction with travel themes for publication in serious outlets." (A  private comment to me from a well-known published writer)

An oft-published writer for whom I have huge respect said this about the writing course: "It's a course that takes work, and requires a desire to write well, besides the usual 'make money at travel writing' things I see. I'd give it lots of stars, especially if you want to write creative non-fiction with travel themes for publication in serious outlets. Most courses that claim to teach you this are really lacking breadth and quality. This one meets the mark. The question is, will the student?"

Matt sees his courses − he also has courses on blogging, photography and video − as a complete package.

“All the courses feature in-depth units where we pull back the curtain on everything,” Matt told me. “Our video tutorials, resource guides, dozens of expert interviews, lifetime access and updates as well as homework make the courses a full package for anyone wanting to make a living in the world of travel writing or blogging.”

He’s right. In my book, your money will be well spent.

Click here to find out more about this travel writing course. 

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