As a travel journalist, you’ll need to produce honest material. If you don’t like something, say it. If a place is full of dog poo, make a story out of it. If a beach is full of seaweed, don’t make it sound like a white, sandy beach. And if an area you thought was going to be inspiring has been spoilt by the masses, let the world know!
Never forget that your readers turn to your stories for information about where they will be spending their much needed annual holiday. There’s a responsibility involved. Think of yourself as a realist painter who pays attention to every detail, rather than a spray paint artist adding a touch of golden sunset wherever you feel the world lacks it.
An honest article will always go further than one that celebrates everything about a place. Because like we all know – nobody and no place is perfect. In Madrid for example, you will miss the beach if you visit in the hot summer months. In Paris, there’s a good chance you’ll be pulling your hair out at some point if you don’t speak French…
Making these observations is part of your job as a travel journalist. Why do I say this? Well, because if you’re an aspiring travel writer, I can only assume that you, like me, have a passion for discovering the world. And I acknowledge the fact that sometimes it is easy to feel so injected with excitement and amazement when experiencing new places that you may end up turning a blind eye to the not so nice bits. And a mistake that is even easier to make, is to photograph only the beautiful… Make sure you also photograph the weird imperfections of a place, they often make for great stories!
(If you don’t mind me digressing, I’d like to share with you this link about a common tourist scam in Paris. It’s a true, self experienced story of which I am not terribly proud. Nonetheless, it does say something about a big city and its people. And sadly, also about the vision I have of myself as a travel smart lady…)
I quite often like to put myself in my reader’s shoes. What will they like to read about? What do I like to read about? I don’t know about you, but I want to read real stories. Something credible and inspiring at the same time. And in order to gain credibility (both with editors and readers), you’ll need to be honest.
Of course, having said this, I don’t mean that you should indulge in a series of negative comments either. There’s nothing more off putting than reading paragraph upon paragraph about how Venice smells, how Venice is overpriced, how Venice is full of tourists, how Venice is falling apart, sinking and is generally a place that should be avoided. Ok, this is a bit exaggerated, but you get the picture. Balance it out, and you’ll hit the nail on the head!
Two Cuban beaches, both on the north coast, a few kilometers apart. Which one would you write about?
Fancy more guidelines about starting out as a freelance travel journalist?
Part one of our series focuses on how to make money.
Part two is for those of you who are not really sure whether you want to be a travel blogger or a travel journalist.
Part three reveals a trick or two about writing about the essence of a place. A must have skill for all travel writers!
Part four deals with photography. How do you make your images publishable?
Part five is about the timing. Play the game, and know exactly which articles will sell when.