How to Be a Travel Writer Even If You Can’t Travel

Leslie Patrick, author of The Coffee Date Guide to Travel Writing

For the past three years, my lifestyle has been purely on-the-move. I’ve lived in Korea, Thailand, Australia, France and Mexico, and took off where I pleased on a whim. Visa run to Italy? Sure. Weekend jaunt to Bangkok? Why not?

So when Steve and I moved back to South Korea in November and began what could be considered ‘real jobs’ teaching ESL for a year or two, my nomadic heart broke a little bit at the thought of my passport languishing for long stretches without a single use. Of course, we’re here for a good reason, working towards paying off our house in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, as soon as finances will possibly allow, but that setup is still unsatisfactory to the travel writer in me, the me who gets overwhelmed by sudden urges to drive to the airport and hop on the next plane to anywhere.

But what I’ve learned over the years is you don’t always have to travel to dish about luscious locales. Whether you live in the rural Pacific Northwest, or the heart of Tokyo, there’s going to be an editor at a market out there who’s interested in your location for their publication. AFAR publishes a section featuring one city block from destinations around the world. Countless magazines, newspapers and websites feature weekend getaways, and in-flight magazines are always a good place to pitch myriad locations. Even local and regional publications need travel and getaway pieces, so consider your options vast.

I constantly write about where I’m living, it’s just that in the past, my address was changing on an almost monthly basis. Now that I’m settled for a year or two, it’s time to put my own travel writing advice in place and start writing about the country I call home now.

Here, my tips for travel writers who can’t travel.

1. Explore Your Local Area Like a Tourist

Look at your location through the eyes of a visitor. You may see the same old view as you drive to the grocery store or pick up your kid from school. But what would tourists see? That chic new Italian restaurant on Main Street? A world-class golf course in the next town over? Keep tabs on new businesses and upcoming events through your local chamber of commerce. Research local day trips and go on them over a weekend. Consider themes such as shopping, romantic getaways and outdoor adventures. Try to find three or four activities to fit within each one, then pitch it as a round-up.

2. Set Up Google Alerts for Your Region

I talk about this strategy in The Coffee Date Guide to Travel Writing, as it is one that I use before traveling anywhere. But it works just as well if you’re staying in one place. Load Google alerts for your city and surrounding areas you can easily travel to if a story develops. Scan the headlines daily and follow up immediately if something interesting transpires. Do you live near an up-and-coming wine region? A chocolate factory that could be a fun family day trip? Don’t forget that most in-flight magazines will cover stories from geographic areas within 100 miles from airports they serve.

3. Use Local News to Pitch to Larger Markets

I once interviewed a well-known entrepreneur who was previously a flight-attendant about her new vitamin product geared toward keeping travelers’ immune systems strong. I wasn’t focused on travel writing back then, simply completing an assignment for my local weekly newspaper. But this could have made a great story for an in-flight magazine like Delta Sky or Southwest The Magazine: A female entrepreneur and former flight attendant shares her tips on staying healthy during the busy travel season. Get the idea? No travel involved, but totally travel related.

4. Consider the Round Up

A round up is a list of five of the coolest farmers markets in Paris. Eight hikes in the Carmel Valley. Ten ethnic Restaurants not to miss in New York. You get the idea. You don’t necessarily need to visit these places to write your round up, simply do some online research, contact local tourist boards for quotes if necessary, and source some accompanying photos (this is often the most difficult aspect of the project). These stories are popular with online travel sites such as BBC Travel and CNN Travel.

If you want to read more about travel writing, I’ll make you a deal. If you’re willing to leave a review of my latest ebook, The Coffee Date Guide to Travel Writing on Amazon, I’ll send you a free Kindle download. Leave a comment if you’re interested or email me at coffeedateguides @ gmail.com to claim your free copy.

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10 responses to “How to Be a Travel Writer Even If You Can’t Travel

    • Thanks, Chryselle! Good point on the round up…sometime’s it seems as though everything has been done. But it’s such a great feeling when you come up with something super unique and get a go ahead from the editor. Love those moments!

  1. Great way to keep writing when you return home. I might just take this up when i get back to Perth from Antarctica. There are so many things to see and do in Perth, Maybe a “Locals Guide to Perth” style of article???
    Cheers
    One Life, One Search,
    Peace Out,
    Shane.

    • Hey Shane, Thanks for stopping by. That sounds like a great article. I’ve found that once you start thinking of your location through the eyes of a visitor, there’s so much to write about. Safe travels!

  2. I was one who saw you on HGTV. As a retiree, I found your comments on travel writing without travel intriguing. May give it a try soon. I would enjoy a kindle copy of your book. Happy trails! Barb

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