Sunday, March 05, 2006

Travel Writing :: Not a Free Ride

It's easy, it's fun, it's a way to get loads of free trips -- not!

There's no such thing as a free lunch especially when it comes to travel writing. More like a Catch-22: To get the free trips, you usually need an assignment -- a letter from an editor of a magazine or large newspaper stating the piece will be published, and soon. The larger the circulation of the outlet, the higher the writer ranks on the Trip Guest Desirability Scale.

Yet many publishers will not accept stories that result from travel that's been paid for by a tourism bureau, airline or PR firm, or the like, in the belief that such stories are naturally biased in favor of the 'host'. They have a valid point -- it's hard to bite the hand that has wined and dined you, and treated you royally.

I find press trips exhausting. There's a very full and pre-set itinerary. The reps will run your little legs off from dawn to well beyond dusk, showing off as much as possible about a destination regardless of what type of story you have in mind, and where your interests lie. Sometimes I just don't want to inspect an entire hotel, preferring instead to sit on a stoop and chat with local women. But opt out of activities, and you may never be invited on another.

The timing of the trip may not suit me, either, like a press trip to Cuba scheduled for the week before I head to Hong Kong. I just can't fit it in. But by traveling independently to places that interest me, and then having a few good editors and outlets to publish my stories, well, that's all I ask.

Well, that and my web sites for all the material that won't fit into the stories.
There's guidebook writing, too, though it's something I know I will never do. Guidebook writers work hard, and so there's so much detail and dedication required to do it well, it's just too much work for 'bone idle' me.