Except for writing novels, there are many other ways of making a living through your writing. This is the first of a 3-part series that deals with such ways. It is a guest post by Zake Alfie, a travel blogger and search engine optimization expert in Bestessays.com.au. He is in charge of several online projects and provides consultations on optimization and website promotion. He loves experimenting and finding new SEO tactics.
I’ve always been fascinated by travel writers and even know one (hi, Alexis!) As a professional travel writer, Zake is in a unique position to peel away the hype surrounding the profession and share what being a travel writer is really like!
8 Myths about Being a Travel Writer
Travel and write. Doesn’t that sound like the best idea, ever? The traveling inspires you to write more. The writing gets you enough money to keep traveling. Perfect!
The only problem is: nothing is as it seems from a distance. Yes, traveling is great. Writing is great, too! There are some things, however, you shouldn’t be jealous of. While there are tons of articles that describe this lifestyle as a super-cool journey that’s easy to pursue, I can tell you this from experience: that’s not really the case.
So, let’s reveal the truth about the eight most common myths about travel writers.
1. Freebies! Freebies Everywhere!
You can often see how travel writers share impressions about hotels, restaurants, and meals on their blog. You can also read their reviews on different products and services and you may think they are getting all of that for free.
Here’s a dose of reality: there are no freebies! No one will hand you stuff just like that. If you have a blog, you’ll have to do your work to promote that product or service. If you’re an already established writer, you’ll be promoting that stuff via social media, convincing the fans it’s worth their money. And if you’re just a common freelance writer (like yours truly), you have extremely low chances to get something for free.
2. Cheap Traveling Is Easy
You’ve probably read those stories about people who’ve been exploring the world with $100 in their pocket. I highly doubt they are real.
Yes, you can travel without much money. You can easily find free accommodation in hammocks or through services like Couchsurfing. If you’re in an exotic country, you can get free fruit right from the trees. But let’s get real: when you’re a writer, you need your peace and quiet. You need good food. You’ll want to visit a museum. You’ll want to drive around the place to get your inspiration.
A journey with an extremely low budget turns into a constant struggle for survival, especially if you go to expensive cities, like Singapore. When I stayed in this metropolis, I was forced to sleep in a tent in the city park. Not fun. Not inspirational. Nevermore.
3. There Are Countries Where Everything Is Cheap
Is there a country where you can rent an inexpensive apartment and eat for a dollar? Yes, says Tim Ferriss, who’s making this ‘write and travel’ thing work. To prove it, he offers this list of interesting destinations almost anyone can afford.
Still, if you want to reach a certain level of comfort, which is necessary for doing your work as a writer, you should be ready to pay some money for it. You’ll need to eat normal food. You’ll also prefer traveling around instead of staying in one place. It’s a sad reality, but comfort costs money.
4. Remote Work Gives You Freedom
It gives you the freedom to some degree, that’s for sure. However, you still have to do your job.
Even if you have your own blog and you’re not under strict deadlines, you still need to publish posts on a regular basis. Traffic doesn’t come by itself. You’ll need to promote stuff, too. And if you have ad arrangements, the work on a blog gets even more demanding. You have to get more traffic if you want those ads to get you money.
5. Working on the Beach Is the Best
This is a very common myth associated with travel writers. Maybe Instagram contributed to it. We see bloggers in bikinis all the time. Those are usually fashion bloggers and guess what: it’s their job to do that. They are promoting the clothes and destinations.
As for the rest of us, the image of a writer working on the beach is far from reality. Been there, done that. It’s not cool. It’s too hot! In most places, the Internet connection on the beach is bad or nonexistent. Sand and dust ruin your laptop. You can’t see much on the screen. Plus, it starts flashing when you use it in the heat. The keyboard will melt. You get the picture: the laptop, your ultimate working tool, will overheat.
6. Working While Travelling Is Fun
Erm… no. It isn’t. Think about it: everyone around is having fun, drinking cocktails, or just resting and relaxing. But you have to work. Can you imagine a less motivating working environment?
It is extremely difficult to focus on writing when you are in a new city or country. You want to explore a new culture, see beautiful places and learn more about them, but you also need to find a few hours for work. Most of the time, it takes several tricks and efforts to just start writing when there are so many distractions around.
Finding a good workplace is another common problem of travel writers. Have you seen a person who comes into a café and asks about WiFi and receptacle instead of coffee? Well, all travel writers do that. And there are countries, especially the cheap ones, where the Internet is not easy to find.
7. Being a Travel Writer Is Easy
Only a person who’s never tried to write anything meaningful thinks life is easy for a travel writer. They assume we just leave all our problems behind, we book plane tickets and go to the most amazing places on Earth. We meet great people and we do our dream job.
Yes, part of it is true. I am doing my dream job. But let me tell you something: it’s not easy.
Do you want to know what the daily life of a travel writer looks like? Imagine Internet cafes, deadlines, writer’s blocks, and editing to perfection. If you’re a freelance writer, in particular, you need to get clients and complete their tasks by crazy deadlines. Those tasks can be exciting, but they can be boring as well.
8. Travel Writers Write Only for Their Blogs
You assume that travel writers make great money out of their blogs alone? You’re wrong. Yes, there are bloggers who earn $2,000 just for visiting a place and writing about it. There are only a few of those. Most of us need additional jobs to pay for the trips.
I, just like many of my digital nomad friends, have a freelance profile at Upwork. I also provide writing services to several websites, such as PurpleCV.co.uk and BestEssays.com.au. The earnings from these jobs make 50% of my travel budget. Which is great, since it makes my job more versatile and less predictable.
The Reality Is Different from What People Think about Travel Writers
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to leave the impression that being a travel writer is extremely complicated. I still think that it is a great job. Yes, it gets tough sometimes. But, in the end, you get an unforgettable experience that cannot be compared to any other job. You get an endless flow of new ideas and strange coincidences that inspire you to do your best work. The best part? You can write and share information about this kaleidoscope of adventures. You get to live the life you always wanted to live. Travel writing makes that possible.
And even when you seem to be in a desperate situation, you get help from strangers… and the Universe. I’m not kidding, but let’s leave those occasions for another post.
Awesome truth there. I’ve always wondered about the glamorous view of travel writers. I’m expecting to very cold/hot tired/hurting on my Trek not be glamorous.
I suspect the truth will lie somewhere in between!
Love the post, great info
Thank you, Yoly 🙂
Thanks for a great article. Some time ago I subscribed to an on-line travel magazine which, among many other things, promotes travel writing – and of course the hook is to get you to take one of their writing courses. Fortunately, I didn’t take the bait.
Ah, a cunning plan indeed!
I really appreciate this post. Travel writing has been on my mind lately, and I’ve been wondering what it’s actually like. It seems so perfect from a distance…but I know that nothing is perfect. Zake’s post has definitely helped to give me a more realistic view of what travel writing is like.
I’m glad to hear it, Josh! It sounds like Zake really loves it, but it’s not for the weak 🙂
Travel writing definitely sounds tough, based on Zake’s post. But if it provides one with an opportunity to do what they love, then it might be worth it. But with so many aspiring travel writers, I imagine that finding a unique niche might be a necessary step.
And a bit of luck. Then again, doesn’t everything?
It certainly seems that way.