re you looking forward to retirement? I did. There was a mental countdown that last year of school; 179 more days…98 …23 …1! I could hardly wait, but a friend asked, “If you retire, what will you DO all day?? You’ll be sooooo bored.” I tried hard not to explode with laughter — I was drinking wine at the time!
I knew I’d never be bored. I can spend 24 hours on Ancestry or entire days sitting on a rock and photographing wildlife. I happily sit on the beach and read. There are hundreds of places in the world to see. Retirement would finally give me the time to do things I wanted to do. A job was holding me back.
Do What You Love
Lots of folks look for a second career after they retire. It may be for money to fill the gap between social security and budgets or something to pass time. Many retirees take classes, get part-time jobs or volunteer.
I love writing, photography, food, wine and travel. These meshed together in my mind—become a travel writer. I started planning and reading travel articles. I signed up for travel writing newsletters, took photography classes, and finally felt ready to contact an editor with an idea.
The First Step
To become a travel writer, you need to READ TRAVEL ARTICLES. Reading is how you understand the mechanics like the lead, sub-headings and the sidebar. It will help you distinguish between good and mediocre writing. Plus, you will realize that even those mediocre writers are placing articles, and you can write at least that well!
You must be computer literate. Take a class if necessary. Learn to type, save files, rename files — mundane things which are really important to a writer. AND you have to accept that you’ll never be paid what you are worth. You won’t get rich travel writing, but you will do awesome things, go interesting places and meet fascinating people.
Have an opinion! You can’t just say a place was nice and had good BBQ. You must be able to write that a place had The. Best. BBQ. in town! The meat was crusted with a bark filled with sweet heat from the dry rub and so tender it melted in your mouth—no chewing needed!
You don’t have to leave home – every town is a “tourist destination” for someone! You just have to give editors what they need. And that’s easy when you write about what you know. As you develop your skills and have published articles to your credit, you will be able to apply for “fam trips.” First, you will be invited to visit an area to learn more about it (become familiar). Then you’ll put your writing skills to work, telling your audience about the place. Finally, you’ll tell people where to play, stay, and what to eat (and drink!)
Pay Your Way with Benefits
Fam trips are wonderful, but they don’t happen all the time. You will pay for most trips, so plan accordingly. You go places that interest you, even if it isn’t free, and you look for stories along the way. I find myself writing about a place months later when an idea pops into my head. I always take plenty of photos, so I am ready to illustrate my work.
You begin to travel differently—you have more exciting encounters when you are paying attention to a place’s sights, sounds, smells and tastes. You become a part of a place, giving you a richer experience.
There are advantages to having a travel writer and photographer business, like a legitimate excuse to write off a new camera or lens, travel costs, and tours as a business expense. Being a travel writer also gives you an excuse to talk to anyone and everyone—it’s called research!
Tips for Becoming an In-Demand Writer
When you create something, do your very best. Proofread, run spell check, read it aloud (your ears will catch errors your eyes and mind miss!), and have a trusted friend read it. Follow the guidelines of the publication you write for to the letter. Provide clear, publishable photos. Like “ready to wear clothes”, make your articles the perfect fit. When you become “the complete package”, editors will love you, and you will have a secure future.
Is Writing for You?
So—do you have what it takes? Maybe. Listen to yourself telling someone in your town where to go, what to order, and what to do after they eat. Have their eyes glazed over? Or are they smiling and nodding their heads? Maybe even taking notes. You may be on your way to becoming a travel writer!
I could write so much more—as a teacher, I’m just full of advice! But I’m off to Alaska tomorrow, so I gotta run! There are whales to see, mountains to climb, and dog sleds to ride!
Jo Clark had a slant toward marketing in her Radford University MBA program, taught marketing classes and had a marketing company. She has taken award-winning photographs since buying her first Minolta (film). So, it is no surprise selling travel is her second career! Follow her travels on Facebook at Have Glass, Will Travel. On Instagram, her screenname is JoGoesEverywhere (she sure tries!) And be watching for those dogsled photos!
Text and photos by Jo Clark