Tips for Travel Writers When the World is Shut Down

05/13/2020

Travel writers require a few things in order to be truly successful: a love of adventure, an up-to-date passport, and a planet that hasn’t come to a screeching halt due to a global pandemic. 

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“Not everyone who reads travel publications actually travels…” Illustration by Josh Quick.

With museums, public areas, hotels, restaurants, and international borders closed, vacation travel has virtually been eliminated for the time being. So, where does that leave someone who’s trying to make a living writing about these things?

Writers rely largely on pitching outlets to secure work, which is an insecure way to make a living even in prosperous times. Now, with tourism websites shutting down or pressing pause on new content, is pitching travel publications about as futile as trying to find toilet paper at the supermarket?

Some might say the best route for a travel writer right now is to pivot into writing about more timely subjects, like healthcare or job hunting. (Some might say the best writers are generalists anyway, and can pivot with ease. These people are more practical than I am, and probably have excellent credit. Good for them!)

Truthfully, there’s no right answer, but I’ll give you my answer since you’re here. I say, keep doing what you love to do—which for me is writing about travel—but be prepared to implement a few changes to your pre-existing routine. If a website still has a submissions page that hasn’t indicated a change in business during Covid-19, then pitch away. The following three ideas are useful for travel writers to keep in mind when facing this brave new world of pitching content to publications during a pandemic.

Leverage lead times

Publications are often working months ahead on content, so even though travel is down now, it might be back up again by the time your article is published. It can take weeks for an editor to respond to a pitch, and more weeks for writing, revisions, photo sourcing, and publishing.

For that reason, rather than trying to pitch ideas for the world we live in now, pitch ideas for the world that we hope will return to normal six months from now. Start thinking about those fall and winter travel stories—holiday markets, autumn scenery, sunny winter escapes. I suspect that editors will be happy to have content from travel writers ready to go for when business picks up in the future.

Celebrate armchair travel

Ready for a truth bomb? Not everyone who reads travel publications actually travels. There are many people for whom reading about travel is an experience on its own —this is the entire reason coffee table books were invented. Even before Covid-19, there were people unable to take trips due to finances or health, and so travel content was their vacation escape.

This might be the reason many travel pubs are trying to maintain business as usual—they know that they have a devoted readership of armchair travelers, and they continue to need content for those people. In fact, the virus might even work to your advantage in this respect. Have you noticed the uptick in museums and tourist attractions offering virtual tours? Consider pitching a story about those. Use this brave new world to your advantage and you’ll find that there are still things to write about.

Embrace hopefulness

Right now, people are worried about rent, groceries, preventing the spread of disease, and learning how to occupy endless hours while self-isolating; they’re not interested in the best gelati shops in Italy. (Italy isn’t even interested in the best gelati shops in Italy.) Not only are people unable to travel for the foreseeable future, but traveling just seems, well, less important somehow? This is why we need to stay hopeful.

The only way we’re going to get through this crisis—in addition to lots of hand sanitizer—is to stay connected to the things we love. I know I’m getting through this time by imagining all the trips I’d like to take. Exotic locales, historical monuments, unique experiences—these are things that make me feel alive. That’s why I’ll continue to write about them in an effort to share that feeling with readers who need a little nudge during this temporary crisis.

People may not be traveling right now, but they will be soon. I dare say they’ll be traveling more, as I expect to see people literally bursting out of their homes as soon as self-isolation ends. The travel industry will continue on with just a few bumps and bruises, and the need for travel content and travel writers will continue too. Hone your pitches, reach out to editors, and make yourself an asset to this changing world.

Travel writers impacted by the pandemic may also find these tips for what to do between assignments helpful. 

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Crystal Wood (Guest Blogger)

Crystal Wood is a Toronto-based writer working in television, theatre, and print. Her travel writing has appeared in Hostelling Canada, British Tours, and Canadian Escapes, and she’s also written for outlets like Oxygen and InBetween Magazine. As a playwright, her work has been produced in Canada and the U.S., most recently at Alumnae Theatre’s Fireworks Festival. When it’s safe to travel again, Crystal thinks Argentina sounds like a lovely idea.