By Andrea Davoust
Aspiring travel writers, you already know from my first myth-busting post that no-one will offer you as much as a glass of water (let alone free cocktails or, dream on, cruises), as you stagger around sweating like a horse in 35-degrees heat, asking at least five people for the same information because all the answers are going to be different and you need to triangulate. And that is the easy bit. Still not put off? Then let’s bust the biggest myth of all: that it is a real job.
Mother of all myths: you get paid to travel and write.
Unless you are Bill Bryson – and he raised his children on his salary as a sub editor – then you do not actually get paid. At least, not real money, not the kind that turns into a down payment for a car or even just keeps your electricity and phone line from being cut. If you do land yourself an official writing assignment, and once you have completed it, having wrung your credit card bone-dry in the process, then yes, you will probably receive some petty cash at some point. Probably enough, say, to recoup the cost of that last empanada and Sprite in Guatemala City airport. But forget about making a living out of it. And while you are at it, write off any hope of going “all expenses paid” – or if you find an employer who does that, please tell me their name right away. Until then, you are on a budget tighter than Speedo trunks and must fit the travel expenses’ equivalent of an obese bottom into it.
Corollary of the mama-myth: you rough it to the limit.
So you are on a shoestring. Well, so are lots of other travelers, and they don’t whine about it, right? Except they can choose to skip the top (expensive) tours and far-flung (expensive) attractions. You can’t, because you have to cover them for your guidebook. Well then renounce the comfort of a private room for a shared dorm at the Doorslam Hostel! Except that regular (loud) backpackers are not usually on the same schedule as you, who have to crawl out of bed at the crack of dawn to start working. Stretching your meal allowance by grabbing greasy street food would not be so bad either, if you did not have to check out the fancy restaurants in town, drooling over the tempting menu, writing down prices, and walking out. I could go on forever ringing off examples.
Yet in spite of the frustrating wild goose chases, dodgy boat rides, late-night ass-to-chair writing moments, and the many “what the hell?” moments, travel writing is a very rewarding experience. You just need to accept that it will never make you rich. On this zen note, I am off to apply for a position as a sub editor, which may fund my future trips and, who knows, my future bryson-esque fame and success.
Still interested in the life of a travel writer? Why not join one of V!VA’s Boot Camps: five-day-long travel guidebook writing crash courses.
2010 Boot Camps:
Ecuador: January 4-8
Perú: January 18-22
Students hit the ground running with assignments, learn how to write guidebooks and have their work critiqued by seasoned professionals. This is a great opportunity for aspiring writers to gain hands-on travel writing skills and experience and get paid!
Upon successful completion of the course, Boot Camp graduates have the opportunity to stay on assignment as field writers and be compensated. Works will be published in the upcoming guidebooks for each country.
V!VA is looking for a select army of talented and adventurous writers to train out in the field and jump start their travel writing careers.
Learn from the pros what it takes to be a travel writer, start writing, get published and get paid!