Nearly everyone has a totally skewed idea about the travel writer’s life.
The most popular perception is that we flit around Europe’s most romantic destinations—or perhaps exotic S.E. Asian islands—staying for free in luxury resorts and villas, being force fed the finest culinary delights.
Many think we’re constantly escorted on free private guided tours of the raciest tourist attractions by fawning, obsequious PR reps who cover our every expense with their credit cards.
Yet others believe we hang out in digital nomad cafés in trendy places like Chiang Mai, Thailand, or Tallinn, Estonia, surrounded by hip digital nomads, all studiously pretending to ignore each other.
Nearly everyone thinks we sip gourmet third wave organic coffee from the Vietnam highlands grown by colorfully clad ethnic hill people while our fingers dance over our keyboards, churning out articles, posts, and prose that will delight and entrance our avid tribe of magazine editors, fans, and followers.
And at the end of each idyllic day, we flop into a hammock strung between two coconut palm trees, swaying gently in the breeze, looking out over a pristine sandy beach with azure water sparkling like diamonds in the distance. To complete this sublime stereotypical scenario we’ll have a fruity Mai tai umbrella drink, or frosted beer, in hand while we type out cheesy travel clichés on our computers—and get paid for it!
While I regularly endure some of the above perks as part of my job, these scenarios are really just the tip of the travel writing iceberg. They’re the proverbial icing on the cake. They’re when all my hard work comes together and for a few short days, or weeks, I get to live the Life of Reilly, far above my station in life.
On many assignments I have indeed traveled like a happy, carefree millionaire, feted and courted like a rock star, cadging gourmet meals in immaculate white table clothed restaurants. Many times I’ve been personally escorted ahead of the masses of sweaty tourists to the VIP entrances at attractions. And, I’ve certainly been on the receiving end of countless foo-foo massages and spa treatments in plush resorts and spas, and been pampered to wretched excess by PR reps.
But, sadly, the reality of travel writing—the 90% of the travel writing iceberg that remains below the water—is far less exciting and much more mundane!
To live the good life described above for a few months each year, many would regard my daily tasks as pure drudgery.
Here are a few of the onerous tasks I perform daily, to eke out a crust as a freelance travel writer and land those glamorous travel gigs.
- Spending mind-numbing hours online, or thumbing through Writer’s Market, tracking down magazines for my distribution list
- Writing & sending out dozens hundreds of query letters to editors, pitching my latest story ideas
- Working long and hard, cranking out publishable copy with multiple deadlines hanging over my head.
- Emailing magazine editors with my latest completed manuscripts.
- Answering questions about my latest submission, or rewriting my manuscripts at the editor’s request.
- Sending completed manuscripts to destination marketing PR reps for fact checking.
- Sending out polite “Request for Travel Assistance” emails to Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs), asking begging for complimentary accommodations, meals, entry to tourist attractions, guides, transport, because my paid assignments often won’t cover my travel expenses.
- Scanning through my previously published articles to see what I can re-sell, because boy, I really need that extra ca$h
- Posting shameless self-promotional material on social media.
- Suffering through interminable long haul air flights and suffering from jet lag at each destination.
- Trying to appear intelligent when I’m interviewing someone while I’m jet lagged.
- Trying to show genuine interest and appreciation on Fam Tours when I’m really bored with an attraction.
We pay the price for those few months of carefree travel! Travel writing is a job, like any other. It’s not all beer and skittles, as my Kiwi compatriots would say. We work for those travel perks!