When I decided to travel non-stop for a year, many people were perplexed by my decision. What would happen to my career? How would I remain productive while country hopping? What if editors couldn’t reach me?
Sure, I had some of these worries too but I was quickly put at ease by just how easy it is to work from, well, anywhere. It’s a skill that travel journalists have mastered, but the fine art isn’t limited to those in the wanderlusting niche.
In reality, anyone can use their vacation, getaways or trips to not only find some much-needed space for creativity but also pitch story ideas from the adventure. For most wordsmiths, only two things are required to perform their gig from any corner of the globe: strong wireless internet and some inspiration.
Here, those who have figured out how to make a living from traveling share their tricks of the trade. Who says you can’t have your margarita — and write about it, too?
These travel writing tips will show you how to turn your vacation into money.
Always keep your eyes and ears open for the story.
In the course of a normal week, how many ideas will bubble into your brain? Now, what about when you’re experiencing new cultures, unfamiliar sights and scents and stepping a pinky toe out of your comfort zone?
Freelance travel writer Brittany Anas says she’s always thinking about the next pitch — and it isn’t a skill she can turn off once she’s in a new place. In fact, she’s glad she can’t since, innately, reporters are curious.
When she’s on the go, she always keeps her eyes peeled and her ears open for an interesting angle: from swimming with sharks to an Italian twist on an Aperol Spritz.
Aly Walansky, a freelance food and travel writer exercises the same always-alert mode when she’s jet-setting, and it’s led to some stories she otherwise would have never had the chance to write.
While on a wine tour in England shortly before Meghan and Harry’s royal wedding, she accidentally discovered what wine would be poured at the grand affair. A quick email to an editor and an interview with the wine brand — and the story was live before any other outlet. This strengthened her relationship with an editor and made for a killer byline.
Use time zones to your advantage.
When I lived in Europe, I was five to six hours ahead of the United States for four months. Though at first, it was a bit of a transition, I quickly realized how uber-productive I can be when my friends aren’t texting me, Slack is silent and emails aren’t rolling in every few minutes.
Now, when I spend time across the Atlantic, I actually look forward to writing since I can crank out stories in half the amount of time, distraction-free.
Walansky feels the same and is more likely to accept a trip that lets her type-and-tango in a compatible time zone, even if she switches up her working hours:
I love traveling in Europe because I can enjoy the whole day before America wakes up — come back to my room late afternoon to work for a few hours as America wakes up and then enjoy a late dinner in Europe guilt-free. West coast trips in America are also great because you can wake up early, work until mid-morning and know you have put in time that day and now the day is yours.
Ask questions everywhere you go.
Though I’m thankful for my partner since he puts up with my endless questions and conversations with strangers, the truth is, sightseeing around a city or going through a market in another country is never purely for pleasure for me.
Instead, I see the opportunity to find a captivating angle no one has ever thought of before.
Leandra Beabout, a travel and education journalist, exercises the same curious bone and stays alert while on-the-go.
That offbeat chocolatier I met who was friends with Anthony Bourdain? Maybe I should grab his business card because he would make a great interview feature for an in-flight magazine. Nearly all the information and delicious new experiences I soak up on vacation can be used to write stories — and make money! — once I’m back home.”
Though you definitely don’t need to be on 24/7 when you’re traveling, as a freelancer, the hustle never really ends. Especially if you’re newly starting to work with an editor, being somewhat available will give you the opportunity to respond to questions or revisions in real-time.
Walansky swears by her Skyroam, which is a travel hotspot that works internationally and allows you to only pay for the days you use it. “If you need to be on your email or social media to work, you don’t want to go a day without because you happen to not have service or an international plan. This is a great way to cover yourself,” she explains.
Another way to strategize work with play is to double-down when you’re on a flight. I can write up to four posts during a six-hour flight, which gives me at least a day off once I arrive at my destination.
It’s the same trick that Anas utilizes by purchasing in-flight internet access. “I can usually get a few hours of uninterrupted work in while on the flight. If the WiFi goes out — which happens a lot, I’ll switch over to a Word document and write and fill in details later,” she explains.
Get familiar with travel publications.
Cold pitching for the sake of throwing a story idea doesn’t really get any writer anywhere. And the same is true when attempting to take a super-cool-and-unique angle to a publication that doesn’t cover random, offbeat experiences.
Beabout says if you want to take these experiences and turn them into paid content, do some research about the format each magazine covers. Some do ‘three days in’ while others do feature round-ups, and so on:
Does the editor like short, informational pieces about new openings? Then maybe that hip new hotel you stayed in last week would make a good pitch. Or does the publication tend toward people-centric narratives? Maybe this is an opportunity to tell the story of how you overcame your fear of heights or realized you do like escargot after all. Not every vacation experience is a story — but make sure you’re familiar with what editors want to increase your chances of landing the stories that are memorable.
Network while you’re traveling.
While Beabout doesn’t recommend selling your services every single time you strike up a conversation with someone, it’s okay to be open to opportunities as they cross your path.
As she puts it, being on the road allows us to meet new and interesting people we’d never know otherwise:
On a recent trip, I had a conversation with someone new on a wine tasting tour. He was interested in my writing experience and offered to connect me to a business owner friend who is searching for a writer with a background similar to mine. Stay friendly and sociable in your travels because you never know who you’ll meet. Sometimes the best thing we can do for our business is to get out from behind the screen and network.
Take time to relax.
Sure, the job never sleeps — but you do need some shut-eye if you want to come back home feeling rested and relaxed. One of the most effective ways to turn your vacation into a cash flow is to, well, actually take the time away from a computer, according to freelance travel writer Kaitlyn McInnis.
“Don’t force yourself to think about work just because you feel you might find inspiration abroad,” she shares. “I find that when you step back, express gratitude for your leisure time, and really allow your mind to focus on pure pleasure, those million-dollar story ideas will naturally flow.”