Two-and-a-half years ago my life changed dramatically. I decided two things – I had to do more international travel, and I had to find a way to fund it.
Since writing was something that I’d always loved, it seemed reasonable that becoming a freelance travel writer could become my ticket to traveling the world. I spent a couple of months of researching the best way to get started on this new career, and then submitted my first story about Costa Rica to International Living. You can’t even imagine how excited I was when they agreed to publish it!
That was all it took to motivate me. Since then, I’ve had dozens and dozens of stories published in print and online publications.
Inevitably, people ask me about the benefits of being a travel writer and the things I get to experience.
My favorite benefit is getting free or heavily-discounted hotel rooms. I’ve stayed in lots of different kinds of accommodation, like overwater bungalows in Bora Bora, luxury resorts in Mexico, even the old-school traditional ryokan hotels in Japan.
FAM trips, also known as press trips, are another great benefit to travel writers. These are generally all-expense-paid trips offered by PR agencies or Tourist Bureaus to entice travel writers to visit their destination in the hopes of gaining good publicity.
My first FAM trip was to La Paz, Mexico just six months after I’d had my first article published. They hosted me at the very best 5-star resort, provided a spa treatment, wined-and-dined me at upscale restaurants and beachfront cantinas, and took me on a day-cruise to the nearby island of Isla Epiritu Santo to snorkel with wild sea lions. They even set up expat interviews for me. I was able to get six articles published from that one trip!
My life motto has always been, “Above all, life should be fun,” so if there’s anything better than the perks of freelance travel writing, for me it’s all about the lifestyle. It’s just one adventure after another!
Trying to choose my favorite activity is kind of like deciding which one of my kids I love the best – they are different but I love them all!
Visiting the culturally-rich city of Kyoto, Japan, my luxury hotel was just a few minute’s walk from the vibrant open-air Nishiki Market where I sampled many different kinds of authentic food, colorfully displayed in shop after shop. In the nearby Gion neighborhood, I was turned into a Geisha. The three-hour makeover consisted of applying the white clay makeup, jeweled black wig, traditional kimono and obi sash, and 6” high geta sandals. Giggling at the stares of passersby, I painstakingly made my way along the cobblestone street to the nearby shrine.
Tugging on my wetsuit, I slipped quietly from the boat into the cool, blue-green waters of the Sea of Cortez in La Paz, called “the world’s aquarium” by Jacques Cousteau. Soon I was swimming face-to-face with two curious baby sea lions, blowing bubbles in my face and playfully bumping into me. Later, we sailed to a deserted island where my lunch was prepared by the ship’s crew – freshly caught fish were cooked over an open fire, warm tortillas and rice – before returning to my beachfront resort with three pools, marina, and golf course.
I stood perfectly still, hardly even breathing, as two huge ostriches came around either side of me, leaned their long necks over my shoulders and began to peck into the pail of feed I was holding. After a morning tour of the ostrich farm, I spent the afternoon at stunning Kenepa Beach, and then enjoyed a dinner of Indonesian rijsttafel which is numerous meats, seafood and side dishes served in small portions, accompanied by various rice preparations.
Down the beach from the Rosarito Beach Hotel where I was a guest of the owner and mayor of the city, I found myself locked inside the “human cage” from the movie Planet of the Apes. But not for long. Now closed to the public, my travel writer’s credentials got me an insider’s pass to tour Foxploration, the movie theme park in Rosarito, Mexico. Just a few minutes away in the small seaside town of Puerto Nuevo, a steaming plate of deep-fried lobster, just-out-of-the-oven tortillas, rice, salads, and a salt-rimmed margarita were set in front of me by the restaurant owner.
People tell me that as a freelance travel writer, I have the best job in the world, and I have to admit, I agree.
“The Adventures of an American Travel Writer” was first published in International Living on October 23, 2013.