So you want to take a stab at freelance travel writing? If you’re new to the business, here are a few things you should know before you get started. This advice isn’t about creating the finished product, this is more about protecting yourself when you’re on your way to and from the story:
- Be very careful when booking your tickets online. These tickets are often non-refundable. If the name on your tickets doesn’t match your ID, you won’t fly that day OR you’ll fly after purchasing a second full-rate airline ticket.
- Excess baggage fees are now $50 and higher. Pack lightly and take as much in your carry-on as possible.
- You can write off your tickets as a travel expense, but what does your tax pro say about excess baggage fees, parking tickets and other hidden charges? Know before you go.
- You don’t need the insurance on that rental car unless your auto insurance policy does not cover rental cars. Ask your insurance agent and save your money.
- Read your car rental agreements CAREFULLY. Did you know rental agencies in some states have the right to charge huge fees for smoking on a non-smoking vehicle, taking the car across the border, or racking up too much mileage?
- Hotel checkout times are firm. Don’t get charged extra for failing to check out on time. That’s a “no duh” bit of advice, but what’s not so obvious is that many hotels will be more lenient with you on checkout time IF you make arrangements in advance. If you need an extra hour or two, let the front desk know the night before and see what they say–you might get a break.
- If you are traveling internationally with a Mac laptop, you may be surprised to discover that your Mac is compatible with the local power supply. In Germany, for example, you need a converter plug (an easy purchase at any Apple Store or online) but your Mac will run fine. That’s because of the nature of your Mac power cord. Beware though–if your plug has any defect at all the current could fry your laptop. You run a risk anytime you plug in to a non-USA power source without a voltage transformer, but that said, many people have used their Macs overseas without anything more than the converter plug.
- If you need to send large images back to an editor, consider sending via YouSendIt or some other transfer service designed to handle large files with speed. Sending large images via e-mail, especially from overseas on borrowed bandwidth, is a right pain.
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.
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
This resource is pretty cool–especially if you do a lot of travel writing. World Atlas gives facts, maps and other info for continents, islands, oceans and more. A great thing to have bookmarked for quick reference.
George Orwell had some misadventures, eh? Whenever I find myself in need of some inspiration I turn to a book like this to remind me just how bad it can get before you find a way to make the sale. No matter how desperate for cash you might become, chances are you won’t come anywhere near the levels discussed in this Orwell classic.
There aren’t any far-reaching government plots in this one, no telescreens and no Two Minutes Hate; just trying to scrape by as best one can. Real life, disguised as a novel. Before there could be any Henry Rollins travel journals (those in the know get my meaning here) there was Orwell telling it like it is, but unlike Rollins, Orwell attempts a thin veneer of “fiction” for respectability’s sake.
He needn’t have bothered, but apparently publisher T.S. Eliot disagreed–my research material says Eliot rejected the book regardless.
The real lessons for freelancers in this book–at least for me–have to do with recognizing that any experience can turn into a writing gold mine if you know how to look at them. Orwell certainly did.
If you haven’t read these classic tales of life and poverty in London and Paris, grab a copy and see how those lean years transform into literary gold. Some will be fascinated by the section on London gutter slang–worth the price of the book all by itself.
Buy Down and Out In Paris and London for $11.20
The worst part about travel writing, for my money, is not the lengthy time you have to spend on the road, the uncertainty of the publishing game, or the constant struggle to find new and interesting things to write about. Instead, it’s the brain-dead conversations you have to listen to while waiting for your plane, train, or automobile. I am writing this post on board an Amtrak headed south from Chicago, and so far today I’ve heard three people on cell phones, definitely NOT using their indoor voices. Here’s a transcript of my current favorite:
“Hello? Hello? I haven’t got a signal. I’ll call you when I get there. I love you. Hello? I’ll see you when I get there. I am wearing white socks. Hello?”
I know I must be imagining this, but it seems that on every trip I take lately, whether to Boston, Springfield Illinois, St. Louis or NYC, there is at least one person in the waiting area or on board who apparently has never used a cell phone before. Is ANYBODY still reacting with surprise that they have faulty reception and dropped calls? The sound of GENIUINE surprise in the person’s voice when they experience call interruption (while using their outdoor voice) causes me great internal injuries as I suppress my laughter.
Equally ridiculous is the fact that at least two people will have truly annoying musical ringers, playing at top volume. Apparently people think the “vibrate” function is somehow hazardous to their health, because they never use it.
One of these days I will make enough from my writing efforts to start hiring private charter jets (ha!) and then I’ll be free of ringtones, clueless cell phone shouters, and rudeness in general. And that will be the day that Satan drives a snow plow to the office. I think this screed is basically the result of having spent too much time on trains today combined with a lack of caffeine. I need a beverage.