Lessons From my First Year of Travel Writing

in Lifestyle/Stories

My anniversary as a travel writer recently passed. Actually, there are a few career-related anniversaries happening around this time of the year. One involves this blog turning a year old. Yikes! Wasn’t it just yesterday that I graduated? Feels like it.

It also feels like an entire year couldn’t possibly have gone by. Yet it has. How is that even possible?

Within a year, I focused (and lost focus) on my travel writing, started my own brand, made some business plans, and got engaged to an individual of stellar proportions. There was definitely a lot of happenings and a lot of changes.

But some things remain the same:I’m still traveling and still writing. And life is still good.

I’m still learning too. Everyday. There is always something new to discover from my industry. And that’s the way it should be—life is just one long lesson.

Here’s what I’ve learned from my first year of travel writing/blogging.

My Target Niche is Impossibly Small

Travel narratives—a la nonfiction literature—is a niche I haven’t yet breached. Even after a year. Selling those long winded, themed stories is difficult. More conventional magazines often want concise, clickbaity content that people can scan easily and then move on to the next. The ones that do want those stories are impossible to submit to. It’s daunting. My heart palpitates just thinking about it. How do I compete with more talented and experienced writers?

The answer is I don’t. And that is something I need to fix immediately.

Visuals Matter to the Masses

Mules on Our Hike from Erika Alc on Vimeo.

The average person has the attention span of my mini beagle. Which is to say it’s pretty much squat. People want visuals. The more the better. They want cool shots from impossible angles. They want videos from drones. All depicting travel as this idealized experience free from crowds, language barriers, confusion, etc.

What does that do for people like me who lack even the most basic photography skills? It just means I better learn fast. Or hire someone. I’m making some progress, but for the most part, I’m not really trying. I’m not a photographer. I don’t intend to be.

Consistency is Key

This is a discovery I haven’t yet mastered. I am constantly juggling one too many things: my blog, my social media accounts, my freelancing, running a household, running a business, and taking care of myself. It all gets overwhelming.

And so what if I’ve missed a few weeks or maybe months of good, solid content? At least I can say I’ve learned my lesson. That’s one step in the right direction, yeah?

Authenticity is Relative

Travel Inspiration // Erika Xplores: Adventures of a Writer & Slow Traveler // Travel tips, travel narratives. Travel, hike, camp, explore. Wander curiously & Maunder On.
me & my film camera

I learned quite fast that not all travelers are the same. This was an initial shock. I’d assumed that every travel writer or blogger I met traveled for the same reasons I did: constant self-awareness and a better appreciation for humankind. I was just naive.

It’s funny because I visit these individuals’ blogs, Instagram accounts, and Facebook pages and all this wisdom and knowledge seems to just ooze out. Like they’ve discovered life’s truths through their adventures. But it’s all filtered. It’s fiction.

Some writers and bloggers I’ve met are sorry advocates for the art of traveling. They just want the perks. Like that free resort stay or a complimentary meal at an exclusive restaurant. Just bragging rights.

One “celebrity” travel blogger I met couldn’t stop talking about how they flew for free to have dinner in Hawaii. As if it was the coolest thing. (And yes, okay, that’s pretty cool.) As if the freebies indicated that they had reached the goal of every traveler. It’s silly. Not once during the conversation did they say anything remotely close to describing that transcendental feeling travel gives you.

Authenticity is a relative term, I guess.

Conferences Are Not For Everyone

This time last year, I attended my first TBEX conference. I don’t think I’ll be attending another one again. In fact, I know I won’t. Unless, of course, I was invited for free. Then I’d think about it long and hard. And maybe still say no.

The thing is, I just don’t want to invest the energy and the money (I spent the same amount I would on a plane ticket to Asia) to hobnob with a majority of money-hungry bloggers looking for a quick solution to appease their fairly recent nomadic aspirations. No thanks.

Income is Never the Answer to Your Passion 

Travel Inspiration // Erika Xplores: Adventures of a Writer & Slow Traveler // Travel tips, travel narratives. Travel, hike, camp, explore. Wander curiously & Maunder On.
Following a path isn’t as easy as hiking

I started this endeavor hoping to make an income pursuing my passion. Indeed, that goal has been met. But it’s not as satisfying as I imagined. Isn’t that funny?

Here, I thought, “I’m gonna travel, write about travel, get paid for it, and live happily ever after.” For the most part, that’s pretty accurate.

My problem is with myself. Getting over self-consciousness as a writer is one of the most difficult obstacles I still face. Because of this fear, I’ve been mostly hashing out routine articles for travel companies, big-name hotels, and aggregators. That’s not my passion. Not even remotely close.

I really want to write narratives. To explore my observations and revisit experiences with the people and places I’ve encountered. I want to share the serendipitous moment something special unfolds. Really, I’d like to compose something I want to read.

I’m all for organic progress. But this isn’t progress. I have more paid posts on this blog than I do personal ones. That has to change. It will change.

Over the past 12 months, I’ve learned quite a bit more about my industry. It’s been an on-going adventure. There’s been a lot of ups and even more downs and some things that are better left for daydreams. But life is just one big lesson. The only thing left to do now is to learn and move forward.

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Erika is a writer and content creator exploring the globe boldly and slowly one destination at a time. Her travels and rich upbringing as an Asian-American fuel many of her stories where she endeavors to write about the human condition. Although she might presently call NE Florida home, her heart remains listless for her home in Maui. She is an advocate for "experiences over possessions," a Marquez fan, and a self-proclaimed introvert.

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