Interview with a VIVA Boot Camper

By Jen O’Riordan., VIVA Editorial Intern

Wouldn’t it be great to travel and earn money while you do it? Viva’s 5-day Travel Writing Boot Camps give people the skills and the know-how to write for guidebooks, and many former students are now pursuing careers in travel writing. Destinations set for future Boot Camps include Panama, Costa Rica and Argentina. If your writing is up to scratch, you could even end up staying on assignment as a Viva field writer, making money while you continue to explore! Former student George Nunes chatted with us about his experience at Viva’s Travel Writing Boot Camp…

George defining the guidebook audience at Viva Boot Camp.Photo provided by George Nunes

So George, where and when did you take part in Viva’s Travel Writing Boot Camp?

I took part in Viva’s Travel Writing Boot Camp in Cuernavaca, State of Morelos, Mexico in Summer 2009.

And what appealed to you about doing the Boot Camp?

The idea of learning what it takes to be a travel writer intrigued me. I hadn’t actively contemplated writing professionally about my journeys, but frankly, what traveler DOESN’T have this fantasy somewhere in the back of his mind? I have always enjoyed traveling and had written a lot of marketing copy for nonprofit arts organizations. I thought that doing the Boot Camp would show me if I was cut out for this profession.

Did you travel to Cuernavaca especially for the Boot Camp?

No, I was already in Cuernavaca studying Spanish for a month. In Spring 2009 I had noticed the Boot Camp announcement online while searching for volunteer and work opportunities in Mexico. Participating interested me, but I didn’t follow up (nor did I know in which Mexican city the Boot Camp would be held). In July 2009, I arrived in Cuernavaca to begin my intensive Spanish course. And, what did I see on the school’s bulletin board? A flyer saying that the Boot Camp would be held in Cuernavaca, the week after I finished my Spanish classes! Of course, I signed up immediately.

Would you say Cuernavaca was a good place to have the course?

Cuernavaca was an ideal location for many reasons. It is a manageable city, large enough to have many hotels, restaurants, and activities to investigate, but not so large as to overwhelm a first-time writer beating the pavement. In addition, Cuernavaca is a beautiful, historic city, with affordable accommodations, and near-perfect weather.

What did you enjoy most about the Boot Camp?

I most enjoyed the sample daily writing assignments, which required us to identify, visit, and review hotels, restaurants, tour operators and attractions. This gave me a real taste of what it would be like to quickly and efficiently gather information from vendors, and write reviews on deadline. Feedback from the teachers about my writing taught me how to capture the pertinent information, and comments from other students gave me a sense of how potential readers would react to my reviews.

Where have you been on assignment since the Boot Camp?

I’ve been on assignment in the southeastern Mexican states of Yucatan and Campeche, plus Mexico City and Acapulco.

What has been your most interesting assignment to date for Viva?

The city and state of Campeche. I had visited both before and knew them superficially. Being assigned to cover Campeche caused me to experience it in a deeper and more meaningful way. Viva also sent me to new places in the state that I probably wouldn’t have taken the time to visit but am now glad I did.

Would you recommend the Boot Camp to others?

I would recommend the Boot Camp without reservation! I learned how the travel guide business operates, and that is invaluable knowledge, whether you decide to work for Viva or not. After the Boot Camp, I feel ready to pursue a career as a freelance travel writer.

Do you see yourself using the skills you learned in Boot Camp in the future?

Absolutely. I learned how to pre-plan a visit to a city, organize my stay, and not waste time. Viva provides questionnaire templates that list all the information needed for restaurants, hotels, activities, and travel operators – and there are many details a novice writer wouldn’t think to ask but that readers would expect to know.

If you or someone you know might be interested in participating in one of Viva’s Travel Writing Boot Camps, the following is a list of upcoming Boot Camp destinations and dates. Sign up here, via the Viva Boot Camp website.

Panama: September 20-24

Costa Rica: September 27 – October 1

Argentina: January 3 – January 7

Leave a Reply