Tag Archives: travel writer

Guest Post: Do’s & Don’ts of Travel Writing

Today we have a guest post from travel writer JoAnna Haugen….

JoAnna Haugen
JoAnna Haugen

So you want to be a travel writer. You want to travel around the world, stay in luxurious hotels, embark on adventurous quests in untapped destinations and share all your discoveries with people who only wish they could walk in your shoes.  

To a lot of people, travel writing sounds like a dream job, and there’s no denying that it’s a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work. If you would like to pursue a career in travel writing, here are a few tips to help you get started:

DON’T expect to make a lot of money from travel writing. Sure, you can live a comfortable life from the money you’ll make writing about your travels, but only a handful of publications pay $1.00 or more per word for articles. As you begin to build your travel writing portfolio, you will likely need to pay your dues with lower paying or smaller assignments.

DO follow the specific guidelines for publications you pitch. This is true for any genre you write in, but it’s especially true for travel writing because the field is so competitive. You can’t give editors any reason to say no.

DON’T rule out publications not directly related to travel. Many lifestyle, regional, parenting, business and food publications fill their front-of-the-book pages with shorter pieces, and travel is often included in the mix.

DO be honest with your readers. They trust you to tell them the truth. If a hotel or restaurant doesn’t live up to expectations, let your readers know why. You are also under an obligation by the Federal Trade Commission to fully disclose any compensated experiences you are given as a travel writer. Though many publications have not made this common practice yet, you should at least let your editor know if your travel was free or discounted. Your readers rely on your honesty to make big financial decisions regarding travel. Don’t let them down.

DON’T use clichéd language. Places aren’t “gems” or “jewels.” There is only one actual Mecca, and there is no “paradise.” Places don’t “boast” anything. It’s easy to get caught up in the commercial language used by marketing firms to sell destinations, but this language doesn’t convey anything about a place. Tell it how it is. The world might be raw and rough at times, and it’s your job to accurately share that information with your readers.

DO look beyond a destination for an actual story. Very few publications actually want destination pieces. Destinations aren’t stories. Instead, look for and capture the small things that make a destination notable. Interview the women selling fish in a Vietnamese market. Look into the hiring practices of tour companies in Cusco, Peru. Define a single moment in your experience of white water rafting down the Nile River in Uganda.

DON’T assume you’re due special treatment because you’re a travel writer. In fact, in many cases, it’s better if you’re a regular guest at the hotel you’re staying at and the restaurant you’re eating at. You need to be able to honestly and accurately report on the experience a regular guest would have, not one that is catered to in order to receive a glowing review.

DO foster relationships in the travel industry. Connect with other travel writers, travel bloggers, tourism boards and public relations firms through social media, at networking events and at conferences. These people will be able to help you when you need someone on the ground that can double check a fact or, you are looking for photos to accompany a story.

DON’T accept every press trip you’re offered just because it’s free. Travel that is paid for by someone else is incredibly appealing, but not every trip is a good fit. If you are invited on a press trip, make sure the itinerary matches your niche. It does you no good to be a family travel writer on a trip focused on nightlife or a budget writer stuck in a luxury hotel. In general, it’s also helpful if the group size is kept to a minimum. Anything over eight writers and you may start to feel like you’re on a tour group or field trip.

DO enjoy yourself. After all, travel writing is a lot of fun. What other job gives you a good excuse to lay on the beach in the Bahamas, hike the Himalayas and eat your way through Italy? Respect the responsibilities that come with being a travel writer, and you’ll be well rewarded in return.


Author’s Bio:

JoAnna Haugen is a full-time freelance writer with travel articles published in several online and print publications including WestJet’s up!, Diamond Resorts International Magazine, TravelSmart and National Geographic Traveler’s Intelligent Travel Blog. She is also the travel writer behind WhyGo Las Vegas and writes the popular travel blog Kaleidoscopic Wandering. Follow her travels on Twitter.

5 Questions With…Rolf Potts

Today we return to our “5 Questions With…” series, and we have with us a real treat–travel writer Rolf Potts. Read on to get some insights from someone who has been around the globe–and gotten paid to write about it! When you get done checking out the interview, be sure and head over to Rolf’s site where there is more advice for aspiring travel writers.                                 – Catherine

Rolf Potts
Rolf Potts

1. What is your background in writing and how did you become a travel writer?

I got involved in travel writing by trial and error — by getting out and traveling, writing, and keeping at it until I got good at both.  My first break came in 1998, when I was living in Korea and I started selling freelance travel essays to Salon.com.  Eventually they made me a biweekly travel columnist — and this let to other freelance work for venues like Conde Nast Traveler and National Geographic traveler. 

By 2001 I’d gotten my first book contract, and “Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel” was published by Villard/Random House in early 2003.  I’ve since written general journalism and literary criticism, but travel-writing continues to be my main line of work.

2. In your opinion, what are the biggest mistakes writers make when they attempt to craft a travel piece?

They forget to use the techniques of narrative — character, foreshadowing, scene, etc. — and instead just recount their experiences in chronological order.  In the age of blogs, nobody needs a bland, “travelogue” recounting of what happened to you on the road.  You need to tell a story — you need to guide the readers’ experience of your journey, and deliver them insight as well as information — preferably in a lively and engaging manner.

3. Can you share any savvy travel tips with readers? 

Go slow.  Your experience of a place will differ according to the pace of your travels, and you’ll only get superficial impressions if you spend your journey rushing from place to place.  Rather than covering a huge amount of ground in a short amount of time, stick to one place and get to know it well — and get to know some people there.  Your stories will benefit exponentially.

4. What are the components of good travel writing? Continue reading 5 Questions With…Rolf Potts

Interview With…Travel Writer Joshua Berman

Joshua Berman, Travel Writer
Joshua Berman, Travel Writer

Today on Freelance-Zone we have a great interview to share with you. Travel writer Joshua Berman was kind enough to answer some questions about “the life” for us here.   – Catherine

1. What is your background in writing and travel?

I’ve always written and I’ve always traveled. After graduating from college (1995), I took a series of seasonal jobs that paid me to travel: trip leader, Forest Service, firefighter, international volunteer.

My breakthrough came when the Peace Corps assigned me to a beautiful tropical nation where tourism was in the process of being born. There were no guidebooks. So I wrote MOON NICARAGUA with Randy Wood. From there, I was asked to take over MOON BELIZE, then Randy and I wrote the first edition of LIVING ABROAD IN NICARAGUA (all Avalon Travel Publishing). Guidebooks have been my bread and butter ever since, while I’ve been able to spin out a few magazine and newspaper pieces as well.

2. What are the biggest mistakes writers make when they attempt to do a travel piece?

The biggest mistakes are NOT painting a picture or telling a story with some kind of narrative arc, even in relatively short service pieces. The quickest way to turn off a reader is to write a laundry list of the places you went. Travel writing should transport the reader to a new place and challenge them to think about new issues or meet new people, NOT simply explain what happened when the writer was there.

3. Can you share any savvy travel tips with readers?

To make sure you don’t tempt thieves, do not travel with a fancy, expensive-looking backpack with neon straps and a million pockets. Instead, go to your local thrift shop or army-navy store and buy a beat-up, top-loading, used pack—the uglier and more beat-up, the better.

4. In your opinion, what are the components of good travel writing?

Use as many sensory details as possible: smells, sounds, sights, tastes, and textures. Don’t get hung up on listing your itinerary. I don’t care where you went, that’s a background detail. I want to meet new people through your writing and imagine what it feels like to be there, talking to these people and learning their stories.

5. What are the necessities for a travel writer in terms of gear?

Short stack of Moleskine notebooks (or equivalent in sturdiness and size). A lightweight laptop which is either insured or not so expensive that you’ll be upset when it gets ruined by salt-water, rain, sand, ants, or beer. A still camera that shoots video and a digital voice recorder are also essential for the backpack journalist, as is some kind of file storage backup plan (online, mini-hard drive, flash cards).

Joshua Berman is an award-winning guidebook author, specializing in Nicaragua, Belize, and volunteering abroad. His travel articles have appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Budget Travel, The Boston Globe, Yoga Journal, Outside Traveler, 5280, Worldview, and Transitions Abroad. New editions of his two Nicaragua titles are hitting bookstores this September, 2010: MOON NICARAGUA and LIVING ABROAD IN NICARAGUA (both Avalon Travel Publishing). Joshua lives in Colorado with his family, where he is also a part-time Spanish teacher.

Interested in purchasing one of his travel books? Order an autographed copy here.

Travel Writing: Know Before You Go

travel writer

by Catherine L. Tully

Good travel writing starts before you get to the destination. If you want to be a travel writer, you’ll need to get in the habit of doing some legwork on the front end of the trip. Here are three things to do before you go that will help you make the most of your time once you are there:

1. Research the destination on the web.

Take the time to do learn as much as you can about the place you are going. Hit sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp to get an idea of what people are saying about the city. Look at the chamber of commerce page to find local businesses. Scout out reastaurant menus and plan some meals. These days there is no excuse to go to a destination cold. Do some homework… Continue reading Travel Writing: Know Before You Go

Insider Advice From A Travel Editor


Today FZ readers are in for a real treat–insider advice from a seasoned travel editor–Celeste Heiter. Find out how to get published, what travel editors are looking for and get some advice on polishing your prose. Thanks to Celeste for crafting this piece specifically for FZ readers!                                  Catherine L. Tully


A Travel Guide Editor’s Inside Tips for Writing a Great Travel Essay

By Celeste Heiter 

Having just finished editing the manuscript for To Japan With Love, A Connoisseur’s Guide, a travel anthology that features more than sixty contributors (including your Freelance-Zone hosts Catherine Tully and Joe Wallace), I have much to say on the subject of writing a travel essay.


The Basics:


In seeking contributors for To Japan With Love, I received nearly 200 essays, but only about half of them made it into the book. And while some were real gems and were nearly perfect upon submission, throughout the selection process, I also had some hard choices to make, with the most common eliminator being: What’s the point of this essay? What does it offer the reader? And in many cases, the answer, sadly, was: Nothing.  Although I was more than willing to work with contributing writers in developing essays that had great potential, and I even did the rewrites myself on some of them, in many cases (to borrow a phrase from Gertrude Stein), “there was no there there.” Some essays simply lacked purpose.


Others, while technically well written, were far too linear. “First we went here and saw this. Next we went there and did that. Then we went home.”  Some stories lacked focus, and instead included every detail of the writer’s travel itinerary and little else. And some failed to follow editorial guidelines. They were too long, too short, too encyclopedic, or they were off topic; and some were even downright negative in tone and perspective.


Good travel writing comes naturally to some writers, however, for those who don’t have ‘the gift’, I also believe that there is a basic formula that will turn a lackluster travel essay into something truly worth reading. Here’s how: Continue reading Insider Advice From A Travel Editor