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Thursday, 8 July 2010

The travel writer in you

In a former life, I used to be an English teacher. It was a career that took me to many countries both for jobs and for travel. Among the people who live this sort of life, it is not unusual to find some who have supplemented the often modest income of a teacher with a bit of travel writing. In fact, I know a few who have made the switch from English language teaching into a regular writing career.

For those who regard the writing as a sideline, this might involve producing travel articles for business magazines, furnishing information on hotels and restaurants plus a bit of historical background. For those with the skill and the equipment, it's possible to upload pictures to commercial photo libraries. I think the worst project I ever got involved in was proofreading (which really meant rewriting) a city guide aimed at business travellers to a certain city in the western Mediterranean area. One of those guides that has loads of information about mean average rainfall and height above sea level and a random selection of uninteresting restaurants and none of the useful stuff like how to get from the airport or where you can change money. I doubt it was ever useful to anyone. Still, they paid me.

The travel industry is of course big business, even in these recessive times, and with that comes a demand for travel writing. From travellers' accounts of their journeys to guide books to magazines to novels set around travel, getting away and how to do it seems to be one of the obsessions of our time. This would seem to be an area where there's bound to be an opening for the freelance writer. There are workshops and courses offering guidance in travel writing. There are travel writing websites. And of course there are prizes. (Does anybody know of an area of writing that doesn't yet have a prize?) 

What is your experience of all this? How receptive have you found publishers, magazines and newspapers to be to your ideas? How would you describe the travel writing you have done, or any courses you have attended? Why not post a comment below?

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