Jen YihComment

What Travel Writers Don't Tell You

Jen YihComment
What Travel Writers Don't Tell You

I'm currently living in a van, driving through the middle of nowhere New York state, and writing for a living. 

I'll be honest with you, I didn't think it was possible - being a writer, and actually making a living. But I took the chance and it worked out, kind of. 

I currently write for a series of magazines, editorials for brands, articles for a travel community, an agency in Madrid, and most importantly, for my own mental sanity. It all started in Lisbon, Portugal last year when I decided to write my heart out. I even flew to London just before Christmas to post up and sip coffee all day, visit book stores for inspiration, to come home to my little hotel room & make like Chaucer. Sometimes you have to put yourself in the right place, right time to truly develop your craft. It's hard to stay inspired, especially when you have a hard deadline to hit & research to do & a life to live. 

It's a glamorized life, the one of a writer and even more so, as a travel writer. Here's what the beautiful travel bloggers & people don't tell you.

1. You're a Loner

If you're a writer, or pretty much any kind of creative, you spend a lot of time alone. The goal of a writer or storyteller is to observe the human experience, and more so, document the human experience. You're sort of a fly on the wall even in your own life. Reading, writing, researching, and reflecting all take up quite a bit of alone and personal time... This can be a wonderful thing if you're someone that enjoys your own company and silence. 

2. You're Sensitive

I just recently listened to a great podcast on How Stuff Works about Empathy. As a writer, you're most likely a very sensitive person. You see, taste, smell, touch, and feel everything 200% - and have to pay attention to what's happening all around you. It's more than being observant, it's empathizing, sympathizing, and finding compassion for everything in your surroundings. As a traveler, as a writer - you're always "on" taking in the sensation of your space. 

3. You're Subjective, by Nature

Traveling is different for anyone. You can be someone that's extremely well-traveled but someone that doesn't see a thing... If you travel with a closed mind, seeking out only what you know - foods, people, beliefs, and don't open your mind or heart to things different/uncomfortable to your norms, you might as well stay at home. On the flip side, even if you're as open as they come - your observations, conclusions, and findings are completely subjective & 100% up for debate. Meaning, whatever it is you write and report, as much as you try to free yourself from bias, it can always be challenged and critiqued. "Best Day in Paris" subjective. "10 Fun Things to Do in Lisbon" subjective. "Bali's Pollution Issue" subjective. That's something a travel writer has to comfortable with, your work & perspective will be disagreed with, disliked, and challenged. Stay strong, listen, and learn. 

4. Your Desk Time

You thought travel writing was going to allow you to escape a 9-5 desk job? True, but realize that as a writer, you do it sitting. The good news is, you can sit in a cafe in London, a bungalow in Southeast Asia, or a van driving across USA. It's up to you. As a traveler, you spend plenty of time on trains, planes, and automobiles - all wonderful moments to take in surroundings, pull out that notebook & jot down your notes and inspirations for your next article or observation. Your office is the world. 

A few travel writing items I can't live without:

  • Lumix GF1 Camera
  • Composition Notebook
  • Sharpee Pen
  • Paint Pens or Colored Pencils
  • Sketchbook