500th posttraveltravel writertravel writing

The 500th post – Travel Writing is simple hard work

It is the 500th post on Backpacker and  I would like to start by thanking you all for reading,   appreciating, criticizing and commenting on the blog. Backpacker started more than seven years ago as a platform where I could keep my passion for travel writing alive. I have been a freelancer since I was 18 years old and I have been working with the media since then. As the demands of the profession grew, writing took a backseat. And since it was easier to write travelogues than feature stories, I decided to start a travel blog. Ironically, I eventually quit my media job , that too a high paying one to travel and write . But then I realized travel writing does not pay . Not even a 10 % of a good corporate salary. But it meant a whole new world out there – one of opportunities and discoveries.
In the last several years, I have been asked several questions on how to be a travel writer, what are the opportunities out there, how does one begin and whether it will pay . Let me start answering some of these questions, starting with the last Please note, that this is written keeping in mind Indian publications and not the international ones.
1. Does travel writing pay ?

The answer is no. If you are looking at a fat salary at the end of the month or for the travels to be sponsored, believe me travel writing is not for you. But if you have the passion to travel and you have a flair for writing, then you must give it a shot. Most magazines and newspapers have a standard rate for a freelancer and as you keep writing, you can slowly start paying off your bills. Even today, almost 90 % of my trips are self funded, but for a few . The invites are very few and there are many contenders out there, so if you do not get freebies , do not bother. Invest in your trips wisely and it may eventually pay off

2. How do I become a travel writer ?

Now there is no magic formula out here. Editors do not look for me, I look for them. I search for emails on the net, find contacts from magazines and keep sending briefs. Many a time there is no response. The silence may be discouraging, but there are so many magazines out there.

I would suggest that everyone starts with a travel blog first. Then write for other blogs and magazines, who may not have the resources to pay , but will promote you. Build your confidence and your portfolio. Share your stories openly. Do not get cowed down by lack of responses from editors .

Secondly, read the magazine and see the kind of briefs that they want. Some are very keen on an angle or a style. If it does not work for you, do not send briefs to such magazines. For example, if you are not a luxury traveller and you have to write for a luxury magazine, you will not be able to do a great job of it.

Finally, do not expect friends and well wishers to share every contact off their list with you. Some do, others are uncomfortable doing it as they would have probably struggled for years getting those contacts. I believe that there is nothing like a free lunch and every writer has spent hours networking, earning these contacts and getting their trust. It is part of someone’s hard work. So dont think you are entitled to just tweet someone you barely know and ask them to share their contacts. But that said in professional circles, we all share as its usually understood that it will be quid pro quo.  The best way is to read the magazines or surf the net and find the submissions guidelines or the contact details. Sometimes pick up the phone and call the editorial team and ask them for their email. Or just tweet them as I do.

3.Opportunities out there for a travel writer

A good travel writer needs to have a personalised style, a niche area of expertise, a passion for travel and writing and a sense of observation. If you can take great photographs then it is an added advantage. Online is a great place to look for opportunities. Blogs, websites, newsletters – everyone has a travel section. Guide books – both online and offline are available. Start somewhere and slowly build your repertoire.

4. What kind of travel stories should I write ?

Well, this largely depends on the publication and your personal interests, but here are some tips to remember. Personalised narratives are always interesting, but people do not want to hear every bit of your trip. Show more and tell less. Let your experiences take your reader along with you on the journey, to the destination .

I personally like to add local flavour in my stories- conversations with people, sights and sounds, a peek into the culture, food if that interests you – these are always a welcome break than just sightseeing spots. Trivia and history are nice, but I prefer stories – they give a nice feel to the piece.. The mood and tone of the story is important too   -if you can write in a humourous style, then no editor can refuse your story. Position yourself in the story – are you a narrator, a guide, a road tripper, an adventurer ? What would you like to share with your reader ?  Add a sense of discovery in your journeys or let the reader know that you are a lazy traveller, lounging in the chair watching the sun set .

Do not bombard the reader with too many adjectives..there are better ways to describe a place . You can also be a guide and show your expertise and tell the reader where he must go or what he or she must not do. Lists are a great way of showing off your understanding of the destination.And always ask yourself the most important question – Does the reader need to know every detail of my trip ? Maybe some of them are plain irrelevant. The destination can never be shadowed by you .

5.So where do I now begin ?

The first step is to travel. Have a journal and keep notes..it may be something you saw or heard. If you are not into photography, have a digital camera to quickly take pictures and write down short notes on the same. Get your facts right – names,places, distances, routes, whatever you want to share. Write down whatever you feel, what you liked and even what you do not like. And make your observations as well.

Once you are back home, create a small brief on your trip. Make a pitch to a few publications and wait for their responses. Then do some research and ensure your facts are right. If you do not hear from a publication, fret not. Become your own editor and start posting your experiences. Share photographs and promote your posts .Once you are done, restart the process all over again. Your journey as a travel writer begins now..

So, there you are..ready to look at the world with new eyes and to share your experiences. All the best and if you have further questions, please do not hesitate to ask me .

OK..here are some giveaways for this post as well. I will be giving away five postcards and will be happy to post them to you if you can send me your addresses in the comments section. Here is a catch though..You need to guess where I am headed next. And the five who get it right get a postcard from me from that destination . A clue – I am flying overseas.

 

50 comments

  1. Venky 19 July, 2012 at 21:03 Reply

    as I head straight back to the hospital once am back ..# I hate reading this. I dont want your postcard, Get well soon LS, Rgds Venky

  2. shooting star 19 July, 2012 at 21:13 Reply

    Hi lakshmi, congrats on ur 500th post first of all..its a pleasure to read ur stories on travel…..

    im a traveller who ventured into writing about it on personal basis on my blog ..an di do believe there’s no free lunch as far as travel writing is concerned..but what the heck i love travelling and i will write about my travels!!

  3. Meera 19 July, 2012 at 21:23 Reply

    First of all, it’s great tht you shared those insights into travel writing.. I’ve admired your style and it’s definetly worth knowing those pointers.

    Overseas is such a broad spectrum… Further clues pls…
    Am guessing somewhere closer to India like andaman or Sri Lanka..

    Get well soon.. Look forward to your globe trotting travelogues!!

  4. Anuradha Shankar 19 July, 2012 at 22:03 Reply

    Congrats on the 500th post, Lakshmi!!! wishing you many many more such milestones….and also a speedy recovery…. can understand how terrible it must be for you to be cooped up at home and in the hospital, so I really hope you get better soon and start travelling as much as you used to… meanwhile enjoy your trip, wherever it is you are off to!

  5. Arti 20 July, 2012 at 07:59 Reply

    Many congratulations Lakshmi on completing such a milestone but as a fellow traveller I can only say that the journey has just begun!!!
    Wish you a speedy recovery and have a nice journey abroad!!

  6. somebody 20 July, 2012 at 09:58 Reply

    Awesome Lakshmi ji!

    500 posts, means some 500 trips, which means some 500 places, different cultures, at least a thousand new people, new lifestyles, lots of facts & myths…you are so rich now!

    Thank you for this post, its inspiring. And thank you for writing those 499 posts so that the less fortunate like us can experience a new world, every time, through your words 🙂

    If at all, any of your blog visitor reads through my comment, i have a small suggestion – Please look at travel as a subject in the super-graduation course called life. Travel brings you perspectives beyond what we are taught to think in daily life. Travel makes you human. Probably the best & the only course available for this kind of education. So Bon Voyage! 🙂

  7. Aarti 20 July, 2012 at 10:51 Reply

    Way to go on the 500 posts!! Awesome post- very insightful, informative and interesting!!

    Here’s to a great holiday… wondering where you are headed to…hmm… somewhere in Europe or Africa?

  8. Ashwin 20 July, 2012 at 12:58 Reply

    Hi,

    I came across your site while browsing some travel sites. I must say you are doing a commendable job.
    I am a blogger & maintain few travel blogs. Some of my blogs are:

    http://www.businesstravelconnection.com
    http://www.funfoodandtravel.com

    At present I am working with CheapOair.com . Our
    sites can be useful to one another. So, I offer you a partnership.
    I have some options for you.

    1. I could cover you on my blog and in return I would like a back link for my website from your blog within the content.
    2. If you allow guest blogging I would be glad to write a blog post as a guest blogger. Within the post there would be a single link to my website.
    3. We both can do guest blogging for each other where we can add links to our respective websites.
    4. On top of giving link from my blog, I can also give you some links from other websites that I am managing.

    Let me know your views soon.

    Regards

    Ashwin(ashwin@cheapoair.com)

  9. Jeevan 20 July, 2012 at 21:09 Reply

    Congrats lakshmi!

    It was interesting and reveals a lot about the travel writing! Thanks for the tips and its inspiring.

    Take care and do your best 🙂

  10. veenu gupta 23 July, 2012 at 16:41 Reply

    Awesome post! 500th post is a cause for celebration enough.I just discovered your blog, and being a travel freak, absolutely loved it. Have already read a lot of the earlier posts and I really like the way you recreate your experiences. Lovely.

  11. Revathi R 25 July, 2012 at 13:42 Reply

    This tempts me put my travel experiences online!
    Your writing do take the reader along with you and make them feel your experience almost realtime.
    Congrats on your landmark post.
    Get well soon!

  12. Lakshmi 17 August, 2012 at 10:24 Reply

    Thank you all for your overwhelming wishes and thoughts..Ive just come back and its nice to see so many wishes..I hope the tips helped and am surprised that no one wants a postcard 🙂

  13. Destination Infinity 16 March, 2013 at 17:46 Reply

    I am not a travel blogger, but I do write about a few travel-experiences. It was good to read this article of yours. I feel that this is the case with any venture. The person’s passion for something drives them to continue, whether they get any money out of it, or not. Very few people become successful commercially, but by then they might have lost their passion!! Rest are happy to follow their life’s calling. Anyway, it was nice to read this.

    Destination Infinity

  14. reg fallah 19 July, 2015 at 14:10 Reply

    Dear Lakshmi
    here is my response to your article:
    I am an artist/photographer and discovered an interest in wrting and think that combining my art form with travel is something to look at –
    see my website and the book I produced from my travels in India.

    Otherwise , you did not mention humour – I guess that comes under finding a nisch? I guess “travel” writing started for me when I wrote a short essay to send to friends – instead of post cards people used to send in the old days.

    Finally after years of travel in India I decided that all my diaries/stories that I collected were useful in writing that Novel I had always wanted to do.
    all the best
    Reg

  15. Deepika 19 July, 2015 at 17:11 Reply

    Wow! 500 posts is a lot of hard work. I have been blogging about my own travels for a year now and I agree that you have to add your personal touch to the write up, else, it’s just an uphill. I love reading your stories and love the way you try to focus on culture and people. Here’s to many more 🙂

  16. Harini 20 July, 2015 at 18:57 Reply

    Hello Lakshmi.

    Congratulations on your 500th post. I am a regular follower of your blog and you are truly inspiring. It is very intriguing indeed! Let me guess your next destination! Since you have stressed it Overseas Is it Australia you are flying to?

  17. sandeep 21 July, 2015 at 08:55 Reply

    very nice article … i was about to say ‘congrats’, but then realized that this is posted a while back 🙂

    so, whats the count now?

  18. amit 31 May, 2016 at 13:27 Reply

    point no. 5 – you mentioned about making a pitch to the prospect…
    I am confused as in what all to include in the pitch?

    Any guidance on this?

    Thanks

  19. Gaurav Bhatnagar (The Spunky Traveler) 31 May, 2016 at 23:41 Reply

    I have read this article long back when I was just starting up with writing. Reading it again after 3 years has given me an all new perspective yet again. I have always believed that if I have a clear focus, and I keep on taking action on it day after day, the right people will appear in my life – Even if I talk about Indian media industry 😉 So, I keep on writing anyways without expectation to earn directly from my blog.

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