Become a travel writer;
freelance travel writer employment,
anyone?

Do you plan to become a travel writer going to faraway exotic places or perhaps relaxing somewhere nearer to your home country, and finally when the day winds down, find yourself cozying up in front of your PC or laptop and tapping out and writing a beautiful piece about your exciting exotic outdoor adventure vacation travel?

Read this article and think again. Reprinted from the newspaper, it shows you what it takes to become a successful travel writer. I could empathize with these professional freelance travel writers and like they say, it is not all fun and games. And yet it travel writing employment has its own satisfaction. Something which an ordinary 9-5 day job just cannot compare. So read on and see whether this fit your bill, and if you are ready to become one even as I did as a part time self published travel writer, then check out the Site Build It! travel writing package and see how it can fulfill your innate need to do something more than what you can be.

Yes, reach for sky but keep your feet planted firmly on the ground. Nothing beats passion and determination for that all important successful ingredient. Of course here is some reality check. Still those people love what they do. No regrets here!

Jan.


Writing while traveling
Saturday September 2, 2006

Imagine being paid to travel. Sounds like a dream job. Well, maybe not after Tan Lee Kuen discovers that travel-guide writing is no vacation.

Patrick Horton was in the Balkans for three months, traversing Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina for Lonely Planet's 9th edition of Eastern Europe. His job is to travel, but he keeps a gruelling schedule that few can keep up with.

On an average day, Horton wakes up at 7am, has a cup of tea, plans his itinerary over breakfast before heading out of the guesthouse by 10am. When in Sarajevo, he made sure to visit every single one of the labyrinthine cobblestone lanes of Baèarija, the charming old Turkish quarters where much of Bosnia's historical culture is situated.

In between museum-hopping, sight-seeing and note-taking, he walks into every credible restaurant, café, bar and accommodation, noting their Lonely Planet worthiness. He takes down their opening hours, telephone numbers, prices and checks their location on the map. He is also on the lookout for the unusual or quirky.

Even at night, the 59-year-old Horton is still hotfooting it around town.

"My work doesn't just stop at 5pm. I can be cruising bars and pubs until midnight," says the British writer and photographer in an e-mail interview.

People think travel guidebook writers are lucky, getting paid to travel and write about exotic lands. But as Horton's schedule suggest, it's a lot of hard and methodical work, with the occasional hardship.

The biggest misconception of travel guide writing?

"That it is an easy job," says Kalya Ryan, South-East Asia commissioning editor for Lonely Planet Publications. "It's not all cocktails on the beach and five-star hotel rooms in exotic locations.

"I've had writers who've been mugged, involved in car accidents, sustained broken bones and many other horror stories.

"One writer commissioned to research and write about Sabah in the upcoming Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei guide sprained his ankle while hiking up Mt Kinabalu but was up again the next morning to limp the Liwagu Trail in torrential rain before jumping on a bus to pound the pavement in Sandakan. It's exhausting work.

"But in the seven years I've worked at Lonely Planet I have never had an author pull out of a contract before finishing."

American Scott Carney, 28, had his break in guide writing five years ago. He was about to leave his magazine job in New York City and e-mailed Fodor's to tell them that he was familiar with India. Coincidentally, one of their writers had just quit and he was hired to update the Rajasthan section.

Patrick Horton: "My work doesn't just stop at 5pm."

"It was terrible, if you must know," says Carney of his experience. "Every day, I went to an exciting new city and instead of enjoying myself, I had to check phone numbers and have the same conversation with hotel proprietors and restaurateurs over and over again. But at least I wasn't stuck behind a desk."

Malaysian writer for Insight guides S. L. Wong agrees that the work can sometimes be repetitive.

"By the time you've reached your ninth hotel, you start wondering, what more can I write? How else can I describe a hotel room? So, you've got to be creative," says the 38-year-old who's authored the Malaysian, Kuala Lumpur, Penang & Langkawi Insight guides.

Come rain or shine, health or illness, guide writers have to complete their research within an allocated time. If lucky, the writers will have balmy weather as they pound the pavement, otherwise it could be a below-freezing or sweat-drenching experience in some remote country.

"One of my worst experiences was trucking through the desert in Jaisalmir, India, in 130°F heat, looking at the same hotels," says Carney.

Naturally, no one's going to sympathise when a guide writer laments about his work. When Carney was about to embark on his trip to Rajasthan, his roommate made a scene. Carney attributes the strange behaviour to jealousy.

"I remember when I was on my way out of my apartment in Brooklyn, one of my roommates started a fight, accusing me of abandoning them and that the next subletter who was coming in would probably try to rape her. It was traumatic to say the least," says the freelance journalist now based in Chennai, India.

Considering the power of guidebooks to make or break a tourism-related business, writers have the added responsibility of deciding what does and doesn't make it into the book.

"We can only include a proportion of places, hotels and restaurants. Places that have acquired a bad name (we're usually advised of this through readers' letters) get dropped after the author has checked," says the genial Horton, who has trotted all over Asia-Pacific and Europe for Lonely Planet since 1999.

They also have to take into account inevitable changes that might arise, such as the closure of establishments and changes in names and numbers.

Scott Carney: "At least, I wasn't stuck behind a desk."

"The most common errors are changes that happen after we've researched a place. Like in India, the telephone numbers changed after we had finished our research. Fortunately, we were able to catch the change at the editing stage. Prices, however, are always changing as are transport schedules."

The pay structure varies widely between guidebook publications, length of project, budget for the book, the author's experience, the cost of living in the researched country and difficulty factors that might bump up cost. But the general consensus is that guide writers are not paid enough.

Carney received US$2,500 (RM9,200) for his month-long assignment in Rajasthan, which also included airfare and all expenses. Lonely Planet's reputed to be the best paymaster in the industry, and Horton's received anything from US$2,000 to US$16,000 (RM7,360-RM58,900) for his assignments.

"If you take into account all your expenses, your time and salary requirements, you could be earning less than someone doing a menial job," muses Horton.

Writers for Lonely Planet are forbidden from accepting freebies - "They do not accept freebies under any circumstances, so their opinions are offered without fear or favour," says Ryan firmly - while other publications have varying policies.

So why do it?

"Let's just say it's not only about the money," says Wong. "It gives me a chance to explore and learn more about the place I'm researching, which is extremely fulfilling."

For Virginia Maxwell, 43, who has authored several Middle Eastern books for Lonley Planet, it is the surprises and the people that she encounters on her travels that keeps her going. That, a working husband and a flexible part-time job.

"It's a labour of love really. I see it as a way for subsidised travel."

Kalya Ryan's advice for guidebook hopefuls:

All authors who work for Lonely Planet are expected, first and foremost, to have extensive travel experience and excellent writing skills. They need to be adventurous, intrepid, independent, passionate and willing to work long, long hours.

When we hire an author for a particular title, we look at a number of different factors based on the requirements of a specific destination.

The following qualities are considered highly valuable by editors:

  • language skills
  • travel experience
  • a good understanding of the country's history and culture
  • a sense of adventure
  • willingness to work under pressure and stick to a deadline
  • the ability to follow editorial style guidelines

The authors recently contracted for the upcoming edition of the Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei guidebook have 20 years combined experience travelling in and writing about the region; they know the history of the region and are familiar with the cultural intricacies as well as being passionate about the place. - The StarWeekend.


P.S. Compelling article? If you feel you can do it, therefore you can! Becoming a travel writer can be interesting and fun (of course you still need to do some groundwork) and it is certainly a break from the usual stuck in the office kind of job. Find out more here!

Posted 5-Sep-2006

Subscribe To
This Site

XML RSS
Add to Google
Add to My Yahoo!
Add to My MSN
Add to Newsgator
Subscribe with Bloglines RSS update via Email