1. The Rule of Hype: Teasers such as "Get paid
to travel the world!" are usually ad copy written for companies selling
courses and books. While its true that travel writers do go on paid press
trips, known as junkets or "fam" (familiarization) trips, the road toward
being wined and dined in luxury hotels is paved with contacts and publication
2. Develop Contacts: Martin Li (www.freelancetravelwriter.com) reveals the secret to receiving invitations to
junkets get your name on the press lists of national and regional tourist
boards, airlines, tour operators, hotels and other organizations that
regularly host trips for journalists.
3. Join: Become a member one or more travel
writers associations which receive calls for writers and hold conferences
jointly with travel industry representatives. Every association I looked into
requires applicants to have had a minimum number of travel articles (or photos
or books) published in widely read media within a given timeframe. For details
visit the British Guild of Travel Writers www.bgtw.metronet.co.uk, the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers
the Midwest Travel Writers Association www.mtwa.org, the Society of American Travel Writers www.satw.org,
the Travel Journalists Guild www.tjgonline.com, the Australian Society of Travel Writers www.astw.org.au/login.php, or the Travel Media Association of Canada www.travelmedia.ca.
4. Unglamorous Truths: Louisa Peat O'Neil,
author of several Travel Writing books, contends that many travel writers hold
other regular jobs and use vacations days for junkets. And not every trip is
glamorous, as Jeremy Ferguson attests in his article that included the line
"Its a simple restaurant that serves dishes that usually surf on a tidal wave
of grease." (www.savvytraveler.org/show/features/2000/20000506/china.shtml) And a few magazines and newspapers refuse free
travel, because of the ethics question.
5. Ethics in Question: In All Expenses
Paid: Exploring the Ethical Swamp of Travel Writing www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/1999/9907.austin.expenses.html, Elizabeth Austin writes, "Its true that the writers
of most junket-based pieces generally sing the praises of their hosts'
the greatest hazard of the press junket isn't the implicit
quid pro quo. It's the controlled and sanitized travel experience it presents
to the writers, with everything as perfectly planned and tidily gift-wrapped
as those nightly presents left on our pillows. During our trip
we got the
complete visiting rock star experience." The likes of which Average Traveler
6. Objectivity is Key: Tim Ryan (starbulletin.com/2001/06/24/features/story1.html) tells about the time Paul Theroux (www.paultheroux.com/) joined several travel junketeers for dinner at a
luxury hotel. "In a pleasant tone that carried a knife-to-the-heart message,
Theroux posed a question: How can you possibly write something objective
about a place when you're essentially being paid to visit? I know I couldn't.
The room fell silent as most of the writers lowered their heads." Writers who
occasionally break away from the group can gather un-choreographed impressions
7. Integrity Intact: Disclosing that a trip
was sponsored can put the article in perspective. Jeff Shelley (www.cybergolf.com/jeffsJournal/index.asp?id=1461) writes, "I flew out to the Flathead thanks to an
invite from the Whitefish Convention & Visitors Bureau
Dont tell anyone,
but I dont need a fam trip to be sold on the Flathead Valley." Writing
about firsthand experiences and appealing to the five senses, rather than
parroting adjective-laden brochure hyperbole, demonstrate integrity, too.
8. Readers Trust Writers: Tourist attractions
can get publicity with advertising campaigns, but at a high price. Austin
explains that "a single full-page ad in Condé Nast Traveler (www.concierge.com/cntraveler/) reportedly costs a whopping $50,000. And an ad lacks
the credibility of a seasoned travel writer swooning over a resort's
breathtaking setting and lavish amenities." Tourist attractions realize value
for the dollar when they invest a fraction of that amount per writer per day.
According to Jeremy Ferguson, "Travel agents don't like to use their customers
as guinea pigs. If an area of China, for instance, claims to be ready for
tourists, the agents want to see it for themselves." Writers participate in
these PR junkets.
9. Travel Writers Resources: Register free at
http://www.travelwriters.com for news and sources. For $49 a year, youll get press
trip announcements. Order the e-book Guide to Become a Travel Writer
Post requests for trips at www.mckenziepr.com/MediaConnector/Sample1.htm. Read Travel Writer's Guide by Gordon
Burgett; How to Make a Living As a Travel Writer, Susan Farewell;
Inside Secrets to Finding a Career in Travel, Karen Rubin;
Careers for Travel Buffs & Other Restless Types, Paul Plawin;
The Travel Writer's Handbook 5th Ed, Louise Purwin Zobel and
Teach Yourself Travel Writing, Cynthia Dial.If youve already had
travel articles published, getting invited on a paid press trip could be your
next goal. If youve dabbled in travel writing, you can follow L. Peat
ONeils recommendation. "No one starts at the top. Find your own level, work
in it, then work up out of it."As youre jetting to Bali, youll agree that
travel writing is the best job in the world.