There are many paths to become a Travel Writer, that includes everything from pursuing a traditional journalism education, to taking in-person or online travel writing courses, attending travel writing workshops, and starting your own travel blog.
All of these are viable but we believe that the best way to ensure success is to stand out from the crowd by focusing on a more narrow niche.
And the best way to do that is to think about what you really love, and choose a ‘specialty’ – a specific type of travel writing that you can excel at.
Roy Stevenson, currently one of the most successful and prolific working travel writers around, helps define the types of travel writing by asking:
What Kind of Travel Stories Do You Write?
(By Roy Stevenson)
It’s helpful to know what travel mode your stories fit into because it determines what types of magazines you’re going to pitch. Here’s one way to segment the type of stories you write so you can decide where to pitch them:
Tourism Travel Writers
For travel writers, sometimes operating in tourist mode is necessary. If you’re exhausted and jet lagged and just want to lounge around an upscale resort all day, or spend the day taking a hop-on-hop-off bus tour, you’re a “tourist writer”.
Tourist writers are content to relax in spas, or sit back on guided tours and take in the sights. I’ve written many of these go-with-the-flow tourist travel stories gleaned from luxury resorts, lodges, and spas, or guided tours, and they’ve sold.
Typical tourist stories are roundup articles or Top Ten “listicles”, and they’re often published on travel blogs and luxury travel websites.
Cultural Travel Writers
If you love exploring & immersing yourself in the local food and culture, then you’re more of a “cultural travel writer”. Cultural travelers seek out new experiences at every opportunity.
Cultural articles go beyond describing the tourist attractions at a given destination and get us more engaged with the local populations and activities.
I’ve written plenty of articles from this perspective, and they’ve also sold well. These travel stories are published in print regional and national travel and lifestyle magazines, and top-shelf glossies and in-flights.
Adventure Travel Writers
And then there are the “adventure writers”. They’re the Indiana Jones types that seek out rough, rugged and inhospitable places and undergo all sorts of hardships to get there.
I have plenty of adventure writing friends. Adventurers tell exciting stories.
For example, one Australian couple I know has been kidnapped by rebels at gunpoint and witnessed an authentic witch doctor’s ritual on their adventures. They’ve also slept on the median strip of a road between the borders of two third world countries.
At the extreme edge of travel writing, adventurers think, “Who needs air conditioning and luxury spas? I’d rather sleep on the bamboo floor of a Borneo longhouse, or in a stretcher hanging over the side of the Eiger in sub-zero temperatures.” Of course, to be an adventurer you don’t quite have to go to these extremes.
You’ll find adventure stories in magazines like Outside, Men’s Adventure, Alpinist, Backcountry, Outdoor Life, Maxim, Go, Backpacker, and many others.
Most travel writers enjoy trying out a variety of travel experiences. If you want to sell your stories to a wide variety of magazines, versatility is key. Flipping between tourist, traveler, and adventurer modes will give you that flexibility.
Our deep appreciation to Roy Stevenson at PitchTravelWrite.com for his help defining various types of travel writing. We encourage you to visit his website and sign up for his weekly advice-filled travel writing newsletter!
You can also read more of Roy’s articles here on TWE, where he offers advice, inspiration, and tips for travel writers of all levels.