How to make a career in travel journalism


Your long-time dream job begins with an assignment to some undisclosed, tropical destination with an exotic-sounding name – a place with coconuts and palm trees. After interviewing the locals about a quaint tradition that makes the place charming, you head to one of the destination’s most well-known restaurants, which serves food specific to that region. After a few more days of field work, you lounge on the beach while the sun and sea breeze caress your skin and the ocean water cascades over your body as you soak up the last day of the assignment all in the hope of getting paid for the article that is the culmination of your hard work, even though it is hardly like working. If you are one of the few lucky travel journalists, this description, though exaggerated, might resemble your life.

Travel writing can be one of the most exciting, adventurous jobs for those who like to get outandabout. However, the reality for novice writers or those looking to break into the field is that cushy positions within travel magazines are very few and far between. In fact, when writers do get hired full-time to these posts, they are often veteran writers who have worked in the field for a number of years, often earning a name for themselves through freelance or contract work. Aspiring travel journalists can find an opening into this genre of writing in a few ways though.

  • Thank heavens for the blog. The blog, in many ways, can open doors for those by showcasing not only writing skills but also a breadth of knowledge and experiences. Maintaining the blog by writing at least once a week is also important.
  • Within the genre of travel writing, find an area of interest, or a niche. Be the expert in this area, and let your expertise show in the writing.
  • Before starting a writing assignment, always send a query letter because the publication might not accept open submissions or another writer might have already covered that topic.
  • When pitching an idea, make sure to familiarize yourself with the types of articles written in the magazine and the reader demographic before submitting your idea.
  • Anyone with writing skills can do travel writing, but when writing articles in this genre, it involves more than just hanging out at the local hotspots and discussing them. Be a journalist and ask the who, what, where, and how questions that reveal information about the locale and the people who live there year-round. Focus on subjectsthat most writers do not cover when normally writing about a given area.
  • Understand that like any job, in its initial stages,travel writing is also going to be a financial grind. Very few publications will pay freelancers an advance or travel pay, so much of this money will come outof your own pocket.
  • Read guidebooks. Guidebooks are a good way for inexperienced travel writers to get up-to-date travel information.
  • While a degree in communications is not mandatory for travel journalism, as these journalists come from all walks of life, a degree in the subject might help those understand how to write articles from a journalist’s point-of-view.For example, the University of Southern (USC) master’s degree program –a very popular program – focuses its pedagogy on teaching students how to think to ask the right questions (click here if you are interested in USC’s communication master’s degree). Additionally, colleges and universities offer degree programs that almost always end with recruitment and a job placement.

First and foremost, travel journalists need to have a love of the work beyond the monetary rewards because of the time, energy, and expenseneeded to invest in the occupation, even when it seems that your efforts are fruitless.

While the jump from freelance or contract journalist to full-time writer with a publication might seem out of reach and almost not worth the energy, the advantages of working in this field are numerous.

For one, by traveling to other countries and learning about the lives of others, one’s perspective on world events becomes broadened. More importantly, travel journalists have the opportunity to parlay their experiences into other positions within media, not to mention the opportunities to become bilingual. You do not initially get to that all-expenses-paid working vacation with travel journalism, but by the time that you have reached full-time writing status, you would have racked up a number of worthwhile adventurous experiences that make the occupational investment priceless.