Is being a travel writer non-stop glamour, always in business class on the plane and being wined and dined at the launch of a new hotel? Well it isn’t like that for this campervan travel writer and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I only write about my travels because I enjoy sharing the wonderful places I have visited and want to inspire others. Each trip I make is a real trip that we have paid for ourselves and are trips that anyone with a ‘van could make. I am not interested in writing about luxury tours that I wouldn’t make if someone else wasn’t paying. I guess if you are a travel writer or editor invited on to press trips for the PR then your days might be glamour-packed but for the travel writer without a commission this is a long way from reality. First and foremost the trips we follow in our campervan are our holidays, the payment I get for writing about it is a bonus that comes after the event. Below might give you some idea about how much work it takes to create an article.
The work starts even before you pack a bag
Research – This can start months before we set off on a trip. I read travel books and articles, watch TV programmes and follow other travel bloggers and sometimes a story or a place grabs me and sparks off an idea for a trip that I will run with. Sitting at my laptop I research exciting places to visit in an area, stories that might interest readers, campsites and walking or cycling routes. I will also look at ideas for the best photographs of the area. This is generally internet research but I also read guide books and walking guides to learn from other people’s travels and find out about places we might enjoy visiting.
The weather – As I said these are real holidays and trips and so we get all sorts of weather but travel magazines want to see blue sky and sunshine. In the days leading up to a trip or THE important venue during the trip I check the weather forecast obsessively – a dull day means I have to be more creative with my photography and rain plays havoc with photographs and my camera. Magazines require good quality and colourful photographs that will inspire readers and my writing is nothing without good photographs to illustrate the words.
Being there – This is the holiday, the easy [thanks to the planning] and certainly the most enjoyable part. We are there and visiting the place of interest or following the walk I have planned. At this point I am truly on holiday, as with no commission in my pocket I have no idea if an editor will buy my story. I am in the moment and appreciating and absorbing the colours, smells and feel of a place while also taking hundreds of photographs and cursing street furniture, signs and other visitors that get in the way. Of course I am still a writer and so I am always on the look [or listen] out for that extra something that will help make a place come alive for readers.
Sifting the photographs – I try and sort through my photographs while the day is still fresh in my head, deciding which are worth working on and which didn’t come out as I hoped. I am a writer not a photographer and make no claim of expertise in this area. By going through the photographs immediately I can check their quality and if they are all a disaster we might have chance to go back for a second try.
Edit the best of the photographs – Using Photoshop I try and do this on the same day, otherwise I end up with a backlog of hundreds of photographs to edit. This can take hours! Sometimes Mr BOTRA reads to me while I edit 🙂
Writing up notes about the things I have seen – I am a bit old fashioned here and always write my notes in long-hand in a journal at first, the pen and paper experience seems to help me to think. I will type up these notes either that day or later and use these notes as a framework for a story. I note down smells and sounds, as well as what we have seen and snippets of conversations that I liked, all this helps to bring the place back to me once I start writing. I also need to keep notes of the cost of campsites and entrance fees as these are often required by magazines.
Back-up photographs and notes – I am terrified of the photographs I have worked so hard to get going missing and so I am a bit obsessive about backing up. Photographs are left on the SD card and as well as the laptop are copied to a pen drive and a hard drive, just in case the camera and / or the laptop goes missing or gives up the ghost.
File away useful leaflets and information – I also keep leaflets from venues and for walks so that back home I can check the correct name and spelling and maybe opening times, rather than just rely on the internet.
More backing up – If wifi is available I will upload the best photographs to the web as well as the obsessive back-up procedure. Sometimes campsite wifi can be very slow.
Back at home
The writing and editing and writing and editing …. I don’t normally start writing my articles until I am home, although ideas will have been meandering around my brain during the trip and added to my notes. This is not a nine-to-five job for me and so I have the luxury to be able to be a slow writer and generally spend around two weeks on a 2,000 word article, constantly checking facts, seeking the right words to describe a place and adding the reference information.
Choosing photographs – From the hundreds of photographs I have taken this gradually has to be whittled down to the 30 photographs that I think would look best in a glossy magazine. This can be a painful as well as a time consuming process.
If you still want to have a go at being a travel writer I can highly recommend it and there is some useful guidance here.
At the end of our trip around Croatia, Italy and France we had a few day in Brittany that won’t appear in any of my travel articles. We were meeting friends and socialising in the the lovely resorts of Batz-sur-Mer and Le Croisic and later in the pretty inland town of Corlay in Brittany. It was these few rest days that inspired me to write about the work involved in being a travel writer, as the down time I had made me realise how much free time I have when I’m not doing all of the above!