Travel writing courses can be a fast way to launch your travel writing career, especially if your background is in something other than writing.
Many travel writers come to this profession after spending time, maybe years, in another profession quite different. I started my freelance travel writing career in a profession that is so far removed from writing and literature that you’d never guess it unless I tell you.
People usually assume that you need a degree in journalism or fine arts, or at least some coursework in creative writing or English literature. This is not a correct assumption. Although some of those things could benefit you if you happened to have them on your resume, they’re not necessary. I did not have any formal academic qualifications to do what I’m doing. I did have a lot of education – but all of it was in unrelated areas.
What was my profession before I started travel writing? I was an exercise physiologist, with a Master’s degree in Exercise Science. I spent many years teaching exercise science at two universities, a community college, and a technical college. And before that, I was a physical education teacher. Neither of these are professions known for having, or needing, advanced writing skills.
I know other successful travel writers with previous careers in corporate marketing, the military, public relations, sales, accounting, and pretty near every other occupation you can think of. So, just because you have no formal education in writing doesn’t mean you can’t be a successful writer.
That’s where travel writing courses come into the picture. There are plenty such courses out there. You can check your local community education programs, continuing education programs at local and regional community colleges, adult education courses or extension departments at your local university. All of these can be helpful and can give you some direction and a place to learn about the trade.
The advantage to local programs is that they are usually inexpensive and you don’t need to travel far from home to attend classes. It also gives you time to absorb the material and decide if this kind of career is for you.
You can also look online. I wrote a web page about what you need to succeed in travel writing to give you an idea of the type of personality that usually enjoys this kind of work.
When you’re looking for a course, the most important component of the course should be learning how to write travel stories that will sell. This is important, obviously, because you want to be published and get paid.
People always want to know how I learned about writing travel articles. I like to maximize my time – so I didn’t want to sign up for a program that would take weeks or even months to complete. Instead, I attended a 3-day travel writing course and learned everything I needed to know in those three days! It cost me $1100 but I recouped that money within a couple months of starting my travel writing career.
At the time I didn’t know anything about how to get started in travel writing, and was skeptical about paying so much money to learn the trade. But my wife did the research and, based on her research, believed that this to be a reputable place to learn the ropes, so I trusted her instincts and jumped in. (She was right, of course.)
The advantages to attending a travel writing workshop were many. I learned everything I needed to know to get started very quickly, and it was very exciting – although maybe a little overwhelming. I was surrounded by other travel writer wannabees so I didn’t feel alone. And the instructors were all seasoned professionals who walked me through each step and helped me understand what I needed to do and what I was getting myself into. And when the course was over 3 days later, I had a network of new friends and a roadmap for getting started in this profession.
Within a few weeks of completing the course I started to try out what they taught me – and it worked! I couldn’t have been more pleased. Looking back, I figure that travel writing workshop shaved at least 3-5 years off my learning curve and helped me to be successful quickly.
After six years as a full time travel writer, with more than 800 articles published in 190 different magazines, newspapers and websites, I can tell you I’m participating in a fulfilling profession. And one that I would have long since given up on if I had tried to figure it out on my own. Obviously I did a lot of hard work to write and market my articles, but without taking a travel writing course to get me on the right path, I would not be where I am today.
You can also do an internet search for travel writing courses, freelance
writing courses, creative non-fiction writing or similar topics to see
what else is out there.
What should you look for in a good online course? Always make sure your instructor has been published prolifically in many different publications (in print and online) before you sign up. Because there are plenty of less than reputable resources on the web, always look for seasoned professionals who are making a full time living from writing.
The other thing is to make sure the course is aimed at writing for publications like magazines, periodicals or newspapers. Otherwise, you might find yourself in a class with a lot of students who want to write a novel and this is definitely the wrong place.
It pays to compare several courses before plunking down your cash. Look at their course fees, the length of the course, where your instructors have been published, comments from previous students, and the successes of previous students.
It’s a good idea to create a grid or decision matrix where you list each online course that looks promising, and make notes under each of the categories listed in the previous paragraphs. Then use this information along with your intuition to make your final decision. Try not to be swayed by the marketing hype on the course description alone. Read it, of course, but look at the several aspects I mentioned above to make the best decision.
Finally, if you have a degree in journalism or creative writing, don’t let my comments disturb you. You’ve got a lot going for you with that kind of background to make a successful career in freelance travel writing. The most important thing you will want to add to your arsenal is how to market your work – something that is rarely taught in a practical way at universities.