I want to first start this post by saying that I am eternally grateful to be a travel writer; I literally have THE BEST job the in the world and I am incredibly thankful for it every single day.
What I’ve noticed over the last two years, however, is that being a travel writer has drastically changed the way I travel. Everything from the way I prepare for a trip to how I interact with people on my trip is different now that this is how I make a living.
As I said, I am eternally grateful to be a travel writer and while I do recognize the privilege that comes with it, nothing irritates me more than having friends or people who see my blog make passive aggressive comments about how “lucky” I am. While being able to travel is a privilege, being able to do it as a career has nothing to do with luck. I work twice as hard as anyone working a “regular” job in order to be able to do this as a career. Hours of hard work and late nights researching, writing, photographing, and editing go into making this work – all while maintaining my status as a full-time student. So while travel in itself is a privilege, travel as a career is not something I stumbled upon due to luck, it was something I purposely pursued with intent and resilient passion.
Now I want to get into to talking about a few specific ways travel has changed since it became my career. I don’t want this post to scare anyone thinking of becoming a travel blogger, but I do want to shed some light on the realities of the hard work that travel writing is.
Preparing for my Trip
Right before my trip even begins, it’s different. Before, planning for a trip would usually be all up to me. I would book all my flights, accommodation, and tours on my own based on when I wanted to travel, where I wanted to go, and things I wanted to see.
Now that travel is my job, I don’t necessarily have a hand in every step of the trip planning process anymore and I choose my destinations based on where I can work and generate income. A lot of the time if I’m traveling for a press trip, the destination, accommodation, and most of the activities are planned by whoever is hiring me for the trip.
This has actually proven to be quite an adventure to me because I’ve found myself traveling to destinations I would have never explored otherwise.
Another aspect of preparing for my trip that’s different now that I’m a travel writer is the amount of research I do beforehand. Before the extent of my pre-trip research was looking into sights I wanted to see and good places to eat. Now, I spend the weeks leading up to my trip doing a lot more in-depth research into the destination based on the specific angle of the story I’m writing. For example, if I’m being hired by the Maldives tourism board to do a piece on eco-tourism in the Maldives, I’ll do a lot of research into the island’s sustainability efforts and get into contact with representatives of their EPA and Ministry of Environment for more information.
While I’ve always had a horrible habit of over-packing before I would over-pack clothes and shoes, while these days I find myself traveling with an excess of camera gear. I almost always have to check a bag when traveling for work because I travel with a drone backpack as my carry-on so that I can keep my drone, laptop, cameras, and other electronics with me at all times.
Now that a large part of my job as a travel writer includes photographs and video content I travel with an excessive amount of camera gear compared to the average person – I mean really there’s no need for more than one camera when you’re traveling unless of course, you are a travel blogger.
This one may seem a bit odd, but taking photos changes drastically once you’re being paid for them. Before travel became my job I would take lots of selfies, or be in a lot of my photos. Now, the selfie is pretty much non-existent and I focus on a lot more on landscape shots, rather than having myself in the picture. I also do a lot of ridiculous things to get the “perfect shot” such as standing on unstable objects or trying to reflect the sun of things for better lighting – all things I would never have done in the past for a photo just going to be shared with friends.
I’ve also made my boyfriend my “Instagram husband” now as I’m frequently contacted by companies to shoot their products and make him take photos of me in their stuff. I’m sure he can attest to how frustrating it can get sometimes to spend hours on the beach shooting products as opposed to enjoying the sunshine.
Talking to Locals
I’ve always loved talking to locals while traveling to get a better understanding of the local culture, but now I talk to locals more than ever in order to gain some insight into whatever destination I’m writing about. Previously my interactions with locals would be to ask for directions, recommendations in the city, or just casual conversation. Now I find myself almost conducting full-fledged interviews with local people about the destination and the local culture. Specifically, when I’m visiting eco-tourism destinations or doing a piece about a destination’s sustainability efforts I’ll seek out interviews with specific environmental players and ask questions pertaining directly to the piece I’m writing.
I like to quote locals in my writing and include them in my videos sometimes, so I’m also usually taking notes or recording many of my conversations with local people.
This isn’t necessarily something that’s changed for me specifically but is something that may change for many aspiring travel writers. I personally have never been one to really explore nightlife while traveling, especially solo, for obvious safety reasons.
If you are someone who enjoys exploring local nightlife, you might find yourself not always getting the opportunity to hit the clubs once travel becomes your job. Many of my evenings on the road are spent in my hotel room editing photos from the day, going through video footage, or putting together articles. Sometimes depending on how busy the trip is I call it a day early and end up ordering room service to my hotel room so I can work on writing and editing all evening.
After my trip ends and I’ve returned home, it still usually isn’t over. The days and weeks after my trip are usually spent editing and finalizing any articles I didn’t get to finish during my trip. It also includes a lot of follow up emails to the tourism boards and hotels I was working with during my stay to thank them and exchange my articles, photos, and videos for payment. (Which sometimes isn’t easy – being a freelancer unfortunately sometimes means people think they can take advantage of you and I find myself having to chase people down for payment.)
The one part of my post-trip routine that always remains the same is the sense of gratitude and happiness I experience afterward. As I’ve said, I understand travel is a privilege and I’m so grateful that I get to do this for a living and I never, ever let myself forget what a truly extraordinary blessing this has been.