Recently I promised to find out more about how travel writers balance their lives between work and travel. To that end, I spoke with Gary Arndt.
Gary is a travel blogger, which is a slightly different — but equally portable — career.
Gary explained the difference between being a travel writer and a travel blogger:
“Technically, I don’t consider myself a travel writer. Most travel writers either work on staff for a publication or work on a freelance basis for other publications. They get paid to write. While I do travel and I do write, I don’t sell my writing. I write almost exclusively for myself on my own travel blog. What I’m doing is, the tradition of travel writing, very new.”
Gary started his blog in 2006. He wasn’t really planning on turning travel writing into a career, he just wanted to travel the world. But his blog surprised him.
“I created a blog so I could share my adventures with my friends and family. I had no idea it would take off to the extent that it has. I decided to take things seriously in December 2007 when I was in Hong Kong and I realized the amount of time I was putting into my site wasn’t commensurate with the attention it was getting.”
Gary’s been traveling and writing full time for the past 4-1/2 years now. He finds sponsors for most of his trips, and hopes to turn a profit with the blog by next year.
So far, he’s visited over 100 countries, been to 49 of the 50 United States and nine of Canada’s ten provinces. He’s also visited 150 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In addition to the normal modes of transportation — planes, trains and automobiles — he’s also traveled by elephant, camel, hot air balloon and helicopter.
Gary didn’t have any special training in either photography (which he’s very good at!) or writing. Most of his college courses were in Economics and Mathematics, in fact.
I asked Gary about his balance of travel and writing. “Do you write while you travel?” I asked. “Take copious notes and do your writing when you get home? How do you manage?”
His answer surprised me.
“I seldom take notes. Most of what I write is at a higher level about the history or culture of a place, or just my thoughts. Most of my time will be spent taking photos and then just remembering what I saw and doing background research online.”
Gary believes the qualities that make a good travel writer are being passionate about traveling and sharing your stories.
Gary shared some advice about the travel writing business:
“This is a very difficult business to get into. Everyone has glamorous ideas of being a travel writer so the supply of writers is very high.
“However the number of outlets that will pay you to write is always shrinking. The first thing I’d do is set up a blog and use that has your home base. Anything else you do, in addition to getting paid, should be to prop up your blog. Having your own audience is ultimately the best job security.”
Gary’s blog is called Everything Everywhere. Check it out!
Travel Writer Training
Not everyone can plunge in without special training and make a go of a new line of work. Sometimes you just don’t have the luxury of time for the learning curve, or maybe you don’t want to wade through the marketing aspects of the business on your own.
If you’re interested in travel writing and, unlike Gary, feel you could benefit from some training, take a look at MatadorU.
They call themselves a “new media school for travelers,” and can teach you the skills you need to become a travel writer and help you take better photographs.
Watch the video below — it tells you more about the ways MatadorU can help you become a well paid travel writer. Their programs teach you, not just writing, but also what you need to know to market and sell your work and create your own successful travel blog.
They have some insider goodies to benefit their students as well — like a relationship with the prestigious National Geographic Traveler, which recruits writers from MatadorU. Watch some exclusive interviews and inside advice from Traveler staff.
Gary Arndt is a travel, photographer, public speaker and writer who blogs at Everything-Everywhere.com. He has been traveling around the world non-stop since 2007 and has visited over 100 countries. His blog is one of the internet’s most popular travel blogs and has been named by Time Magazine as one of the Top 25 Blogs in the world in 2010.
Photos by Gary Arndt