Presently GSM London is gearing up for the forthcoming Travel & Tourism Week in June 2015, when there will be a series of events connected to careers in the travel industry. Having been asked to contribute to this, I am going to talk about different forms of travel writing, and ways of getting started in this area. It’s something I have some personal and professional experience of and is a genre in which there are many more opportunities than people often realise. Coming from a family with strong connections to journalism, I also know what is expected from the media in this area, and am going to offer some tips on getting active and getting involved.
There are a couple of key reasons as to why travel writing offers considerable possibilities for aspiring writers across all levels. Firstly, the topic is something that we all have great experience of. At some time in our lives we will have gone on holidays, stayed in hotels, eaten in various restaurants, and checked out the main tourist attractions of place that we happen to be visiting. We will also have formed opinions about all of these experiences and may even have written about them on sites such as Trip Advisor, or Google reviews. Both of those are fantastic examples of open-source information that is available at the click of a button.Such easy access to content creation though has both positive and negative aspects for would be travel writers. The fact that there are so many reviewers willing to make contributions for free can sometimes limit opportunities to get paid for this kind of work. Yet, the age of open source information and quick content creation can also serve as a platform or a foundation for establishing a profile as a writer and a reviewer within the travel and tourism industry. Many writers start out with guest blog posts or their own blogs on particular aspects of the industry that then get noticed by more mainstream outlets or forms of media. Even though there are online review sites for which you can get paid for your work, one of the best ways of establishing a reputation is still to get into print in newspapers. There are various ways of doing this, but one of the first is to find out what papers are looking for, or indeed if they are looking for anything, and send some samples of your work – think outside the box, and try to find unusual titles and angles.
Recently I wrote a blog post on a visit to Middlesbrough which then went viral, because I didn’t just describe the town in a straightforward manner. I came at it from the unusual aspect of comparing Middlesbrough to a woman and my day out as being like a date.
My aim was to present an accurate portrayal of the town and to be genuine about my experience of travelling there. You’ll find that honest portrayals work best. Another writer who has got into this game late in life and is a friend of mine writes restaurant reviews, amongst other things, for the leisure section of a regional newspaper. Very often the comments that come from his tongue are as sharp as his taste buds. Time and time again though he gets called upon to do reviews because when he gives praise, or criticism, readers know it’s worth listening to.
He has built up a reputation for himself and this is a crucial part of developing the personal brand that I have also written about previously, as accessed in the link at the end of this paragraph. It is essential to become know for your areas of expertise, not be afraid to speak your mind, and in the manner of most writing genres avoid a descriptive or even chronological approach to your reviews.
Yet it is not just in reviewing that there are opportunities in travel writing. You can also get into the areas of writing advertisements and feature writing for magazines, or other publications. Sometimes if you are lucky, you can find that there are book editors out there looking for chapters or contributions on a particular subject. But that can be a long way off when you are at the start of your career. Most people get into this type of writing as a hobby or through freelancing.
Personally that’s what I would prefer. It might sound cool and sexy to constantly get free meals in top restaurants, as my reviewer friend does, but sooner or later it can be hard to draw the line between work and pleasure, or work and leisure.
But if travel writing is something that you would be interested in and feel that you may have an aptitude for then my advice is to start writing. Get your name known for a particular specialism, even if that is being a sharp-tongued restaurant critic, and scour the Internet for opportunities to make a writing contribution. Think outside the box too, and try to contact new businesses or even established businesses looking for custom, and see if they’ll contribute to your writing.
It’s not just the travel that’s the adventure – the process of writing can involve a whole new voyage of discovery, and self-discovery, too.
University lecturer, writer, and consultant – published author of both fiction and non-fiction