Travel writing isn’t all about wavy inspiration, notebook scribbles in cafes, filtered photography and following your creative calling. It’s not about those things at all. It’s about writing and travelling. Easy.
I promised a practical guide. So here it is:
- Set up a blog on a site like WordPress
- Write something about travel
- Post it online
- Encourage people to read it using social media
- Repeat 2, 3, and 4
- Gain more followers
- Develop enough influence to make money through advertising, free stuff and affiliate marketing
Seems simple? It is actually yeah, that’s why literally everyone is doing it. So, a bit more specific advice can be useful. Read on reader.
Travel writing: “Find a niche”
The most repeated cliché of travel writing. But what does it actually mean?
Travel writing boomed, back in the day, with the beginning of this thing called the internet. The early bloggers caught all the good content. And basically, by now, there is not much left to cover. That’s why you see thousands of the same articles. 1001 things to do in every place ever. Unless you explore some uninhabited lost corner of the world, you can bet somebody has already written about your seemingly unique experience.
So, if all the content is taken, how can I be original?
Your style. It doesn’t matter so much what you’re writing but how you’re writing it. Your niche is the honest embracing of your unique voice. But don’t just throw your voice onto the page. Refine it, label it and market it to the world in a clever way. Tell people why they want to hear your story over someone else’s.
Reading isn’t writing, but it’s the closest thing to it. It’s the subtlest way of learning good writing skills. All the boring stuff, grammar, punctuation, spelling, seeps in without you realising. New vocab, in the context of a book, slots into your mind. With reading, complex sentence structures make sense naturally.
And, of course, there’s that overused, golden word: inspiration.
Reading shows you that writing is possible. That people are doing it, doing it successfully, making money from it, creating literature from it, living their life through it. Books are evidence of writers. Articles are signs of voices behind the computer screen. Typed up and perfected versions of scribbles just like your own.
By reading, you realise that there’s a movement, a trend, a bandwagon – and you are totally welcome to jump on it.
Travel writing 101: to be a travel writer, you must write.
It seems obvious, yet a lot of people still don’t do it. Writing can seem like a mystical, romantic, wonderful thing. Right up until the moment you sit down to do it. Then it’s just tedious.
Once you have declared all your scribbles of inspiration, you have the convert it into real sentences. Sentences that other people want to read. You need to write between the moments of hazy inspiration. You need to stare, tired-eyed and bored at a screen.
You need to type one letter after the other; that’s the process of writing.
It’s not sipping red wine in an attic room. It’s not staring mysteriously out of café windows. It’s definitely not tapping on a typewriter at midnight with a cigarette in your mouth. Because that’s just impractical and loud and how do you even post it online and you’re not Hemmingway, and no one will buy it and just no, use a laptop.
Be inspired yes, then write – then cross it out, then throw it away, pick it back up, scribble more, hate it, love it, type it up, edit it, delete it all, recover it, change it, rearrange it, title, header and paragraph it, indent first lines and post.
And you’ll have created something new and whole. And probably a notch or two below what you hoped it would be. But at least you’re doing it.
Actually, don’t just write, write well
People don’t write well about stuff they don’t care about. That’s why the second biggest travel writing cliché is…
Write what you love.
Sometimes you will stare bored and tired-eyed at a blank page. But hopefully, you won’t always stare bored and tired-eyed at a blank page. Because then what are you doing? Get a proper job. One that at least pays you well for being bored.
People don’t become travel writers for the money. Because there isn’t any. The early bloggers took it all. But you can have freedom. Freedom to do what you love; write for a living, travel for a living and earn enough scraps of money to both travel and write with said freedom.
That freedom can only come from enjoying what you’re doing. So, what do you love? Great. Now write about it. And, who knows, eventually you might become one of the few that makes the big bucks.
Travel sometimes, or all the time, it doesn’t matter
Travel writing 102: to be a travel writer, you must travel.
To be fair, the travel part isn’t as important as the writing. Because it suggests, you should live some constant, nomadic, free-wheeling’ life. But we’ve all been somewhere. We all live somewhere. Somewhere there are things to do and see and eat and drink and watch and experience. So, write about those places.
Regardless of what travel writing sometimes suggests, the answers aren’t all in a lost temple of south-east Asia. Or on a mountaintop in Peru. Or in a buzzing, underground bar of Berlin. Your life doesn’t have to be half as exciting – just write about it well.
But a life that in some way encompasses travel does inevitably help. This could mean taking a day trip on the weekend. Or bringing a notebook on holiday. Or taking travel photos when you walk your dog. Your boring route to work might be an enticing pathway to “self-discovery” for someone on the other side of the world.
“Embrace a travel perspective in everyday life, and you’ll always have something to write about.”
I just said this right now.
Or if you want to travel the world with a bag on your back, sleeping on trains, exploring temples, climbing mountains and partying all night – good for you. That’s great too. Have a blast.
Is this practical guide practical enough?
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