Trying To Be A Travel-Writer: My Story So Far…


One of our recent posts here stirred up many comments and thoughts. Although I assure you we’ve never meant to be impersonal, some of the commenters have expressed that this site lacks a personal touch, and many often ask for Jen. Unfortunately, as Nick has mentioned, Jen has retired from this site. She can be found on her personal blog, and among a million other things, she also writes for the LA Times travel column.

Anyway, basis that I thought you might like to know a bit about what I’ve been going through trying to make it in the travel-writing world. I have posted bits and pieces here on this site, but here it is in full, till date.

***WARNING: it’s LOOOONG — I hope it doesn’t make you yawn too much! :)***

I quit my 5-year high-flying public relations job in the ‘jewel’ of Dubai (ugh don’t get me started on that, or on Dubai) in May 2006, to travel, live abroad and try to write. I have always enjoyed writing: my grandmum would say that I wrote the most beautiful letters to her, that was my only real credential at the time. I was editor of my school magazine, PR required me to write a dozen press releases a week, I had a blog — that was all the writing experience I had.

Before leaving Dubai, I was lucky to meet the editor of Gridskipper (at the time) — Chris Mohney. It was strange how I met him: I had found the life of travel-writer Newley Purnell fascinating. I found him on Transitions Abroad, then read ALL of his blog, wrote him and we got in touch. He wrote for Gridskipper and when he knew that Chris was going to Dubai, he referred him to me. We had a great meeting; I told him I was moving to Spain, the next thing he asks me if I would like to be a Spain correspondent for Gridskipper! That was my first break — very lucky as a result of pure networking.

When I moved to Spain, I was alone in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language. Writing was my only outlet, so my blog picked up incredibly fast. Gridskipper kept me busy as well. It was my first time being paid to blog and I was pretty nervous to write for a large audience; I remember it would take me hours to write a measly 200-word review on a pub.

Writing for Gridskipper and on my blog, and absorbing what was going on in the online travel-publishing world, was all I did for the first 6-months in Spain — this was when I got familiar with Written Road. Alongside that — settling into a new country, traveling, and doing 6-hours of Spanish a day, I was quite busy.

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When I first moved to Spain, I moved to Valencia. It’s a rare city to live in as a wanna-be travel-writer, so I tried to take advantage and draft stories to pitch, but those drafts still remain drafts.

I also tried to get work as a guidebook writer for Valencia. I got in touch with Fisher’s SOS and BUG Europe. Fisher’s didn’t work out; Spanish was a must and mine sucked — I did speak to Julian Fisher a few times though. BUG almost contracted me to review hostels across Spain and Portugal, but in the end the project got delayed and has not happened till date.

Then a call for writers opened for WR and I jumped on it. My Gridskipper credential gave me a big push, but I remember my persistence was probably what got me this gig. With these two blogs on my portfolio, I felt like I had a lot going for me. It gave me the confidence I needed.

Then I moved to Madrid with a different mindset. I was conversational in Spanish and comfortable in the country. The first things I did was get in touch with every English title in the city and I joined an English Writer’s Group. Of the 3 main English titles in the city, I have regularly been writing for 2. Connecting with English writers is perhaps easier in a foreign country.

In the mean time I kept a sharp eye out online. A call for bloggers for Vagablogging and Gadling opened — I applied for both, got both. I also applied to write for World Hum, I didn’t get that, but it did put me in touch with Michael Yessis.

Today I write for Gadling, Vagablogging, Written Road, Map Magazine, European Vibe, and used to write for Gridskipper.

So in a nutshell, about 18 months ago, I headed out to travel and be a writer. I became a blogger instead. And, as you can see I have been blogging through my ears. Pitching real stories has not happened in between all this, although I have been interviewed, have been featured in an e-book, and have gotten in touch with some great people — mainly travel-bloggers.

As for blogging, I love it. The freedom to write openly from your heart without having to worry about editors, and the ability to connect with like-minded people from all over the world is what has kept me hooked. I must admit that lately I’ve been feeling blogged out though, but that’s OK I guess.

With all this prolific blogging under my belt, it has not been hard to get more blogging opportunities, but they are draining and pay very little. I teach English to pay my bills, and honestly, I hate it.

One of my goals this year is to try and get some travel-features published in magazines. For that, I need to get my act together and pitch, pitch and pitch. I hate pitching, but I need to push myself. Also I find that since blogging mainly entails writing in small bursts, I’ve lost patience to write long pieces, something I need to work on as well — but I often worry if I’ll be able to.

So that’s me. I think I’ve written enough to start with! I hope at least some of you managed to read through this!

I just want to end by saying that this blog is yours as much as it is mine. Please feel free to ask questions both professional and personal. I’m open and not afraid of feeling vulnerable. If my successes and failures can help anyone with anything, it’s all worth it!