One thing I’ve learned since quitting my day job and becoming a full-time travel writer: the future of travel writing, travel guides and travel communities is online.
It’s nice to get published in traditional print media, if only because it gives me something to show my technologically oblivious Grandmother, but there’s no doubt that we’re at the tail-end of dead-tree press.
World travelers are a tech-savvy and adaptable bunch.
While there will always be room for a beat-up copy of On The Road in the bottom of our packs, the ease of publishing and accessing information on the Internet is quickly making old fashioned travel publications obsolete.
At the forefront of this revolution is MatadorTravel.com.
Matador combines the community oriented features of a social networking site with quality travel writing, insider destination guides and a growing index of grassroots organizations looking for travelers to lend a helping hand.
The New Golden Age
I’m a genuine fan of Matador – signing up last spring from an Internet cafe in Cambodia was a key step in making it this far as a travel writer. But I don’t want this post to sound too much like an infomercial, so (full disclosure) here’s why I’m taking the time to write this article.
Both Brave New Traveler and Matador share a similar audience – thoughtful, independent and open-minded travelers with a social and environmental conscience.
It makes sense for Brave New Traveler readers to tap into the resources Matador offers, and, likewise, Matador users are a natural audience for this up-and-coming online magazine.
Another thing I’ve learned in the past year is that building a successful media outlet takes two things: great content and a lot of publicity.
Brave New Traveler and Matador already have solid content. I’m writing for free, because I want both websites to succeed and (ahem) reach the point where they can pay their writers (like me) enough to cover travel expenses AND health insurance.
Supporting Travel Writers
Ever dreamed of getting published? Matador recently launched a new feature called the Bounty Board, which is a list of paid travel writing assignments in need of writers.
Thinking of backpacking in Africa? Matador will pay you $200 to explore the coast of Mozambique. Know a few underrated ski resorts in Canada? Share the secret powder stash, and Matador will cover the cost of your lift tickets.
There are some excellent articles and guides on Matador already, but this hardly makes the site unique; you can find lots of travel stories and destination reviews online.
The biggest problem with this sort of online information is anonymity – you don’t know who the author is and whether or not you can trust their advice.
Matador transcends this issue because it is first and foremost a community of travelers. Every user fills out a profile, with photos and blurbs about their favorite places and individual travel style.
When you read an article or guide on Matador, you know who wrote it and where they’re coming from.
Find Your Long Lost Friend
You know how sometimes you meet a fellow traveler in a guesthouse or on a long bus ride and stay up all night swapping travel tales and recommendations? Matador brings thousands of those passionate travelers together.
If, like me, you’re planning a trip to Argentina, just search for people who are traveling there now, introduce yourself and ask for advice. You’ll get the kind of up-to-date, honest information that even the best guidebooks can’t provide, and if you’re lucky, you might even make a new friend and travel partner as well.
Over the past few months I’ve become friends with the people working behind the scenes at Matador.
Ross, Ben and David are travelers like you and me. They’re good guys, dedicated to building a community that will bring people together and make a positive impact in the real world. Matador partners with small NGOs and outreach groups, helping travelers find organizations in need of energetic volunteers.
Last year in Thailand I was very lucky to have a friend who knew about a remarkable sustainable community by a National Park near Chiang Mai.
Now, information about that secret spot is available on Matador for all curious travelers who want to get off the tourist trail.
Matador is a member of the One Percent for the Planet network too; the founders are consciously modeling the philosophy of ecologically sound business owners like Yves Chouinard, the founder of the Patagonia clothing company.
All the content on Matador is free, and will stay that way. It’s a real community, full of great people, and I honestly feel lucky to have discovered it early. Now is a perfect time to stop by, check out the scene and join in.
Thanks for reading, and please drop me a comment if you feel inclined.