Photo by El Cabron

Learn all the skills you need to become a travel journalist at MatadorU.

WHETHER YOU’RE an experienced or a beginning writer, the tips here will help build your portfolio of creative and published work. We hope you’ll join in on the conversation.

When to Blog

1. Use blogs as the “raw material” for a future pitches.

As Eva Holland explained, “Sometimes I use blogs as the raw material for a piece I want to submit.” As an example, Holland pointed to a recent blog she wrote about a trip to Nashville.

In that blog, she said, “I make some specific recommendations, but I’ll be trying to write a newspaper story that covers some of the same ground–where to go see live country [music] in Nashville…that sort of thing.”

Use your blog as a platform to test readers’ interest and reaction in a particular place and topic. Based on your readers’ responses, you can often develop a better understanding of your own experience, focusing on a specific aspect of your travel to pitch as an article.

2. Use blogs to tell the small stories…or to summarize the overall experience.

Lola Akinmade uses her blog as a medium for providing readers with a brief summary of her trip experiences.

“When returning from a place,” she wrote, “my blog is a brief summary that weaves in food/place/people/etc. with photographs.” These types of blogs are general, allowing the writer to reserve “meatier” stories for feature-length articles.

photo by pigpogm

3. Use blogs to build a reader base and add to your portfolio.

In the diverse world of travel writing publications–both print and electronic–writers without access to conventional publication channels can begin to develop a voice and a readership by blogging. Lola mentioned that she tries to write “two blogs or so a month” to maintain an online presence without getting distracted from the articles she is writing.

As Abha Malpani pointed out, “If you blog with reputed websites in the travel industry, you are building your credentials alongside a portfolio.” You are also demonstrating to editors that you have a history of travel and place-based writing.

And you are, if successful, generating feedback from readers that lets editors know that your work is read and valued by an audience– and that you could bring that audience along with you to their publication. If you’re using blogs in this way, it’s important to remember that while blogs tend to be an informal medium, details such as spelling, grammar, mechanics, and accuracy are important.

4. Use blogs to have fun and show off your versatility

As Lauren Carter said, “Blogging is something I do for fun and to show editors the kind of creative writing I’m capable of.”

As a published writer, it can become all too easy to get assigned a travel writing niche–whether geographic or subject wise (adventure travel, for instance)–but as a blogger, you can document the extent of your interest, knowledge, and creativity.

When to pitch your story to an editor

1. Pitch when you have a unique story or angle.

Abha recommends that “if you have a solid and unique story with pictures to support [it], pitch it to death.”

How do you know if your story is unique? One way to check is to do a simple Google search, or to conduct a subject search on your favorite travel sites and the sites where you plan to pitch your story. Has anyone written about the subject you have in mind? If so, what was their angle, and how is yours different?

photo by cogdogblog

2. Pitch when you have time and patience.

All of the interviewees pointed out that pitching takes a lot more energy, time, and concentrated effort than blogging. You need to know the print or online publication to which you’ll be pitching, you need to make meaningful contact with the editor, and you need to follow up.

As eager as you may be to pitch a story, don’t do it unless you have the time and patience to invest in all of the steps between pitching and publishing. As Abha admitted, “I am blogging regularly for four websites, [so] when it comes to pitching a story, I lose patience.”

3.Pitch when you want to make money.

Most travel bloggers on the respected travel websites are not making money from their blogs. Many who maintain personal blogs, including Lauren, are aware they could use adwords to make money, but they “don’t have the time to invest lots of unpaid hours…to make it start earning” or they don’t want to clutter their pages with distracting ads.

Eva explained that she’ll save a story to pitch “if I think there’s a reasonable chance of selling something.” Lauren added that she never blogs about a trip if she is working on an article that has been assigned to her. “In this case,” she said, “my feeling is that the destination hasn’t hosted me or the publication hasn’t sent me just so I can write a glowing post on my own personal blog.”

It goes without saying that your starting point for any piece should be your love of traveling, collecting awesome stories, and writing to share with your readers. All writers have to establish themselves and there are no set guidelines, but rather a few best practices to keep in mind.

Blogging allows you to hone your skills as a writer and keep your ideas fresh. Pitching stories can help to bring you recognition and generate some income along the way..

The Interviewees:

Lola Akinmade is a photojournalist who maintains a personal travel blog on Matador. She has published articles in The Travelers Notebook, Traverse, and Brave New Traveler, as well as Black Travels.

Lauren Carter is a writer who maintains a personal blog and who has been published in newspapers and magazines, including The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, and Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel.

Eva Holland writes travel-related blogs for Vagablogging and World Hum, maintains a personal travel blog on Matador, and has published travel articles in The National Post, The Ottawa Citizen, and The Edmonton Journal. She has also published articles in The Travelers Notebook, Traverse, and Brave New Traveler.

Abha Malpani is a regular contributor to Written Road. She also writes for Madrid based expat websites Map Magazine and European Vibe — as well as her personal blog.

This article was co-written by Julie Schwietert and Peter Davision.

Peter Davison packed up his bags, left his really cool apartment in Toronto and is an emerging freelance writer based out of Shanghai, China. He enjoys a good cup of coffee, North Korean propaganda posters and hanging out with friends over a few solid drinks.

*MatadorU has the resources to you need to take your travel blogging to the next level.