Travel Writing is a Dream Job… for Dreamers

Before my last stint traveling around Europe last summer, I got a lot of “Gee, that must be nice.” or “Nice life you’ve got there.” This was of course all said with a bit of a sarcastic tone.
I only had one real goal when heading there, which was to research the wines of the Dalmatian region in Croatia. What ultimately got tossed on top of that just before leaving was writing for two companies during the travels. So, inadvertently, what started out as just a hobby project with no direction, ended up being full time travel writing that paid for most all of the trip. Contrary to what people think, this was a lot of work. The days were long and went far in to the night to get stories out in a timely fashion while still traveling.
Of course, once I got back and got the same response from people, I tried to clarify the misconception of how “great” this kind of work was. Yes, I definitely do like it, but it isn’t relaxing. You don’t sip on a drink in a hammock, write for 30 minutes, and then send it out to collect a fat paycheck. No, we had to stick to a pretty tight budget (we didn’t get paid until we returned) and we had to run around a lot.
To people who like wine, visiting 6-12 wineries in a day might sound like a dream, but it’s damned hard work, especially when you’re working to speak a second language, it’s hot, you have to either spit out the wine or get groggy and irritable from it, and you’re navigating another country’s roads that you’re never been on before. All that drinking under the sun has the harsh reality that you crash hard at night, having spent another day of what everyone thinks is just a fun holiday, being a receptacle of information that you then need to process and write. Out of four months along the Mediterranean, I think there were all of six or seven days of that spent at the beach. I know people who double that amount when they take their annual (and pathetically short) two week holiday in the US.
Still, there are those who doubt as to the fact that this is really work. So to that, I present this article which is an interview with a Lonely Planet writer. From my experience, I agree completely with what he wrote, but instead of trying to figure out some way to describe the exact same chain hotel floral bedsheets, I had to discover how to uniquely describe my 15th tasting of Blatina and Žilavka wines in Herzegovina, because that’s almost all they grow there.
Yes, this may all sound like I’m whining and asking for sympathy while others punch a time clock in a cubicle somewhere. But in reality, this “dream job” is just that. Between the time you spend researching and writing, plus all the time you put in for free (like this blog and others) you end up spending many more hours working than just 40 hours a week. It may seem like an exciting adventure, but it’s rough and you can burn out if you do it for too long, which is why most professional travel writers will bounce between writing, photography, editing, tour guiding, professional speaking, being a hermit in a mountain cave, and then trying the writing again.
If you still don’t believe me, then here. That’s a list of 50+ publications that are looking for writers. Come up with an idea or two, set off on an adventure and see how much time you have for mai tais in a hammock while you try to meet your deadline on a tight budget.
Travel Writing is a Dream Job... for Dreamers

2 Replies to “Travel Writing is a Dream Job… for Dreamers”

  1. You shouldn’t have to justify anything, I wouldn’t. Remember, you’re in San Francisco where just around the corner are some very lazy rich bums.

    1. And their ridiculous trust-fun hipster children hovering around the Mission. One cool outgrowth of that, which I found in the bargain rack at the basement of Stacey’s was this “Guide to San Francisco Dive Bars”. It wasn’t bad and I even like the fact they had a list of “Dive Bar no More”…cough, Tunnel Top, cough.

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