(My) 5 Truths About Travel Writing
When I first saw this infographic circulating on The Web, I screamed laughing. I couldn’t have said it better myself.
In particular, the “What I really do” box resonates with me right now because I am about six travel stories behind and can’t seem to get myself together. Truth is, I have had an extremely busy travel schedule as of late and between the hustle and bustle of planning for events, taking actual flights, running my businesses, and having a life, I haven’t had time to clear my head to write stories worthy of the destinations I’ve been to. I need to get it together.
So. In the spirit of this totally-on-point Travel Writer infographic, here are (my) 5 (some tongue-in-cheek) truths about travel writing and press trips.
1. Press trips are not vacations.
They aren’t necessarily glamorous either. Sure, the hotel properties can be luxurious and comfortable and we might even get a complimentary spa treatment in a tree house on a Caribbean Island with free 4 and 5 star meals (don’t hate me), but other than sleeping, you don’t spend much time in your room. Plus, the 90 minute massages are never long enough and eating fabulous food and drinks every day created by award-winning chefs can jack up your waistline (I said don’t hate me).
But on the flip side, some press trip schedules are monsters. I just got back from a week long international press trip. We were up at 6am. To Bed at 2am. Up at 6, down at 1am. I can’t hang anymore. I need my beauty rest. And while we sometimes get some free time to venture off on our own, group travel can sometimes make the trip a little less authentic in terms of what I would actually do every day were I on my own or with family or friends (with the clear understanding that the idea is to give press a FULL picture of a destination so we have lots to write about.)
2. I’m still trying to get in where I fit in.
Last year, one of my travel writing friends sent me a link to a Web site. Seems this Paris-centric online portal was looking for Francophiles to write about Paris. Talk about a fit! I connected with the editor excited about the possibilities, but then I started to feel…I dunno…uncomfortable. There were SO MANY parameters to deal with; the most difficult (for me) was writing in third person and not first person. It’s not that I can’t, it’s just that I prefer to share my personal experiences and not report them. I would like to think that I can still take people on a journey even if I’m somewhere in the story. But *shrug* I guess that’s the difference between a blogger and a journalist (although those lines are definitely blurring these days).
The bottom line is that I felt like I would lose my writing voice – the one it has taken me so long to find – if I accepted these parameters. So at the end of the day, it just wasn’t a fit. Ultimately, I politely stepped away (trying to follow my own advice). I’m still looking for a mainstream site dedicated to Paris to write for, just like I’m looking for one specific to the Caribbean (my parallel love to Paris). I’m just waiting to get in where I fit in.
3. Travel writing doesn’t pay the bills.
Free flights and accommodations are great, but everyone knows that writers (no matter the genre) don’t get paid very much unless they are in the top .999999 percent – of which I am not. Now I DO believe there are ways for travel writing to be a compliment to whatever travel endeavors you might have going on, but as I recently told a Facebook friend who is looking for work “Don’t look for travel writing to pay the bills.” You need to write because you love it or because it makes you credible as a travel expert; but not because you want to be rich.
4. I am still building relationships.
Ever since I partnered with Expedia®, there are some people that have this interesting assumption that I now have the perpetual “hook-up.” That any travel-related idea I have (and I have many) can simply come to fruition at the blink of an eye or the speed dial of my cell. My truth is that I am still building relationships. I am still (see #3 above) trying to get in where I fit in and attempting to create unique platforms that don’t even exist (my strong suit). I go to conferences and behave like a sponge; not always saying much but taking it all in. I propose conference sessions (and get rejected and accepted). When I am accepted, I speak at conferences where I think I have a viable point of view. No one is chasing me down (yet) because I tend to operate solo and not in established blogger cliques (another blog post entirely). I am building, building, building and in business (which is what this is), building never stops.
5. I’m ready for my close-up.
Contrary to the photo, I don’t want to be a famous travel writer. I’m the producer-type and not the celebrity-type, but social media is about engagement and engagement is about putting yourself out there and letting people get to know you. As difficult as this concept used to be for me to deal with (and sometimes still is), I completely get it. How can I ask you to share my journeys with me or support my travel philanthropy if you don’t know me or care about me and what I believe in?
But here is My Truth: I don’t want to be famous-famous; I just want to be undercover-famous (if there is such a thing). I want to leave behind a legacy of contributing to giving folks a world view. And if that means being center stage for just a little while, then I’ll do it. Yep, I am ready for my close up.
Before you start rolling your eyes at me, I don’t want you to think I’m complaining about the horrors (ha!) of press trips and the world of travel writing/blogging. Because I’m not. I feel lucky (and yes, I’ve worked really really hard and had good timing) to be invited on press trips and to be able to lend my little voice to the world of travel writing.
But the truth is that I would travel whether I was invited to go on a press trip or not. I would try to give girls a world view whether I had full funding or not. I would write down my travel stories so that I can go back and re-live my adventures whether I had an audience or not.
Tracey Friley is an award winning travel writer, a frequent Contributor on American Airlines BlackAtlas.com, the principal blogger at OneBrownGirl.com® and gives girls of all ages a world view via OneBrownGirl in Paris, OBG Adventure Camps, and her philanthropic initiative The Passport Party Project. You can find her on Twitter at @OneBrownGirl and @Wandermania.