Do You Keep Your “Story Antenna” Up When You’re Traveling?

travel writing story antenna

Although I prefer to line up assignments before I travel…

…I’m always looking for new stories to pitch when I’m on the road.

And this practice brings in substantial extra income!

Here are a few examples of how I’ve stumbled across stories while on the road, and converted them into paying and published stories.

  • A Chance Encounter: While driving through the Columbia River Gorge on assignment for a travel magazine, I came across an older gentleman selling jars of honey at a makeshift stand by the roadside. While chatting with him I learned that his son, James, collects the honey and is the only beekeeper in the Gorge. A few weeks later I was able to swing an appointment with James in a local diner and then afterwards we went out into an orchard, where I was kitted up in protective equipment and helped collect the honey. This article appeared in Columbia Gorge magazine, for which I was paid $280.
  • An Interesting Observation: I was covering several of Arizona’s luxury lodges, and stopped in at the Titan missile base museum, not far from Tucson. Our tour took us underground into the former missile launching room. I was fascinated by this real life dose of the blunt end of the cold war. And just itching to write about it. Who to pitch this story to? Up top, I noticed several military vehicles lying around the launching pad. That night, I pitched a U.K. military vehicle magazine a story about the vehicles, and the next morning I had the assignment waiting in my inbox. This short piece was published in Military Machines International magazine and paid 150GB pounds (=US$187).
  • Eye-Catching Roadside Art: Linda and I were doing a bunch of assignments on the Oregon Coast. We noticed some enormous sculptures of sea birds and animals by the roadside, near the small town of Bandon. The sculptures were made from recycled plastic picked up from the local beaches. Curious, we went in to the artist’s studio where we met artist, Angela Pozzi, and learned about her Washed Ashore project. It’s designed to educate students around the U.S.A about the ecological damage from washed up plastic. A few months later I had this story published in Oregon Coast magazine and was $270 richer.
  • A Historical Find: After touring the Jorvik Viking Center in York, England, I pitched a story about this recreated Viking village to Renaissance magazine. After it was published, I was $133 better off.
  • A Side Trip Takes Center Stage: I was fortunate enough to kayak some of S.E. Alaska’s Lakes while on a press trip. A few months later I saw a call-out for Alaska travel stories by the editor of several cruise line on-board magazines. I pitched a story about kayaking in Alaska and it was published in Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Holland America Cruise line’s on-board magazines. My haul for this story was $650.

I’ve had dozens more stories published from spur-of-the-moment discoveries like these on my travels. While the payments for these assignments seem modest, combined they’ve added up to tens of thousands of dollars over the years. They illustrate the importance of keeping your eyes open for story opportunities when you’re traveling.

It takes some experience to know what constitutes a viable travel story. And deciding whether a story idea is a dog or a shooting star is an important first step in the pitching process.

So where, and how, do travel writers start their quest for a salable story?

Here are 6 tips to help you decide if you have a good story idea.


About Roy Stevenson 59 Articles
Freelance travel writer Roy Stevenson has had more than 1,000 articles published in 200+ regional, national, and international magazines, newspapers, trade journals, custom publications, specialty magazines, in-flights, on-boards, and online travel magazines. He's considered one of the most prolific travel writers in the U.S.A. His free weekly newsletter for aspiring travel writers is considered one of the most informative e-zines in the travel writing business. (Subscribe here: Roy has published seven eBooks on selling and marketing freelance travel articles. ( You can read Roy's full bio and see some samples of his work at his writer's website,

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