Eight Tips on Freelance Travel Writing

How to Start on a Freelance Travel Writing Career


You love traveling, you love writing, so travel writing is the natural next step. Easy, right? Wrong!

As many aspiring freelance travel writers with their softboards covered with pinned rejection slips will tell you, travel writing is not one of the easiest markets to break into. You need a passion for seeing new places, and an insisting, continuous itch to share your experiences. And even then travel writing assignments don’t come easy.

To pitch for an assignment you need to have the winning mix in your writing….. here are eight tips on good travel writing which could help you achieve just that:

  • Write a Travel Journal or Blog: Maintaining a journal or a blog of your travels, however short, like day trips, hikes or short treks, gives you the writing practice you need. It also gives you ready material for future travel writing assignments.

  • Take travel pictures: When you get to become an established travel writer you might get an expert cameraman to collaborate with you. For now, you need to have a camera with you wherever you go, and snap pictures of whatever you like on your trips. It will give you the ability to figure out the right angle and perspective to show your audience when you are travel writing for real. Who knows, you might even become an established cameraman in the process: this travel blog is an absolute delight in this respect.

  • Keep your sense of humor: Very important. To prove my point, here are two descriptions of Paris: the first, an excerpt from the New Yorker, and the other a paragraph I randomly copied off the internet.

“In Paris they warn you before cutting off the water, but out in Normandy you’re just supposed to know. You’re also supposed to be prepared, and it’s this last part that gets me every time. Still, though, I try to make do. A saucepan of chicken broth will do for shaving, and in a pinch I can always find something to pour into the toilet tank: orange juice, milk, a lesser champagne.”

and the other, which I randomly copied off the internet.

“Paris is a grand, evocative and stimulating place to visit. The French revolution ensured the development of a certain spirit of thought, now a particular western mentality, and a strong sense for the individual prevails. It has also paved the way for an inventive and creative spirit in the arts, architecture, literature and music which enhanced the development of science and technology”.

Which would you like to keep reading on? There you have it, if you have a sense of humor, bring it to your travel writing.

  • Keep your travel writing humble: Nothing is more irritating than a travel writer who is full of himself or herself. The more self-deprecating you are, and the more capable of preventing your personality coming in the way of the story, the more successful you will be.
  • Give them facts on travel: You may not be writing a travel guide most of the time, but even for a feature piece, the reader would like some facts on how to get there, what is the best time of the year to go, where to stay and so on. In case you don’t fit all this info into your piece, make sure you have a small sidebar on such facts about your destination. But if you can, fit in facts, like in this post from Beijing, because in a diverse culture this might make interesting reading.
  • Give them your feelings during travel: When you write, it is important that the reader vicariously experiences your destination, so tell them how you felt: describe the sounds, the smells, the sights— bring it alive for them.
  • Travel writing is all about the story: When submitting to a travel editor, the most important thing to remember is that the success of your pitch lies in the story you tell. The same destination may have been covered by a lot of other people, but it is your story that hooks the reader in.
  • Submit your travel write-ups online: Before querying the big magazines, it might be useful to send in your submissions to online travel zines. They give you the required experience and help you build up a decent portfolio.

Travel writing tips are all very well, but what you really need is the urge to change your location, become a vagabond, immerse yourself in the experiences of the places you see, and then try to capture them in words.

Happy travel writing, and hope these tips help you as much as they helped me in my writing.

I love comments, and I always visit back. Blogging is all about being a part of a community, and communities are about communication! Tweet me up @damyantig !

10 comments

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  1. Damyanti

    Booklady, Travel writing is for a particular clique of writers…but with these tips, we can call out to the travel writers in each of us:)

  2. Damyanti

    Hi Jenny,
    yes, practice does make perfect. unfortunately it is difficult for lazy, fanciful creatures like me, but I hack away at it, I do.

    Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

  3. booklady

    Thanks for the tips. I’ve occasionally thought about travel writing in a wouldn’t-it-be-cool-if sort of way, but it seems like most everyone has thought that from time to time, so I assumed the market would be glutted. Anyway, like you, fiction is my first love. I don’t think I could do travel writing justice because of that.

  4. Jenny

    Hey there, I like this post a lot. I’ve learned travel writing also has a timeliness to it. Keep the pen inking your notebook about what you see, eat, smell, touch, folks you chat with who share stories. I’ve been writing a little more about my Japan trip–at the time I didn’t have my blog started–and now it is more a concept, which an old journalist told me happens to things we experience. Over time they become concepts and we fill in details but likely not with truth.

    As for photos, I find shooting everyday, like writing–journaling, blogging, writing for work–it’s best to do it every day. I love my new little digital cam and shoot a bunch. It trains the eye like writing incessantly trains the mind to hand.

  5. Damyanti

    Thanks for sharing the link, jeques, and as with all else, you write very well here too.

    I do agree with you that it is the small, out-of-the-way places that need exploring.

  6. Jeques

    Very interesting post/article. It’s always a dream to travel, and one day when I don’t have to work for a living anymore I would like to see places and write about them.

    I don’t really want those popular tourist destinations, I want low key places, discover them and share them with others by writing or through photography. Sometimes, maybe the best places could be just in our backyards.

    I wrote a travel article before, “Traveling: Chasing The Light,” this is how I would want my style of travel writing to read.

    http://jeques.wordpress.com/2007/08/23/traveling-chasing-the-light/

    I wish you well.

    ~ Jeques

  7. Damyanti

    Hey Zuer,
    Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment. I hope yo come by often.

    I answered your query back at your blog:)

  8. Zuér

    very true…i understand that travel guides want to be neutral, but the little “sidebars” that delve into the perspective of the writer along through use of humor and anecdotes are often the most entertaining pieces. Any particular favorite travel guide you recommend?