By Tim Leffel
The Seven Myths of Being a Travel Writer
A few weeks ago I received an interesting piece of mail. It said, “Launch your dream career as a travel writer today and get paid to travel the world.” All I had to do was sign up for an expensive correspondence course on travel writing. After that I could expect such rewards as “a complimentary week on an exotic Asian island” or a luxury vacation in Cancun “with airfare and all expenses paid.” The breathless come-on letter asked, “Why not live on permanent vacation?”
Why not indeed? Get paid to travel the world and live a life of leisure. What could be more glamorous?
Before you fall for it, remember that it is also glamorous to be a rock star, a best-selling novelist, or a starter for the Lakers. It’s not so glamorous, however, to be an aspiring actor (waiter) in Los Angeles, an aspiring songwriter (waiter) in Nashville, or an aspiring novelist (waiter) in New York. It may sound silly to compare travel writers like Tim Cahill or Jeff Greenwald to celebrities such as Tom Cruise and Stephen King, but the odds of getting to that level of success are just as daunting. The big difference is that when you do get to that upper echelon of travel writers, you’re still not making nearly as much money as the lowest-paid bench warmer in the NBA.
Just as plugging in a Stratocaster doesn’t make you a rock star, writing tales about your travels is not going to make you a travel writer. Like any position where supply far exceeds demand, you’ll need to follow the right steps and then pay your dues. It’s not going to happen overnight.
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