Home IT management The Secret Way To Get Paid To Travel The World, According To Two Industry Pros

The Secret Way To Get Paid To Travel The World, According To Two Industry Pros

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The Secret Way To Get Paid To Travel The World, According To Two Industry Pros

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Many people dream about finding a job or a side hustle that will pay them to travel the world. One of the most exciting careers: travel writer. Think about the perks: You get sent on trips to check out destinations around the globe, then get paid to write about them.

It’s not that easy to break into this ultra-competitive field, which usually requires years of training and experience. But two industry pros are aiming to change that with a new online course, Be A Travel Writer, which teaches people how to get paid to travel.

The course is the brainchild of veteran editor Nina Ruggiero (currently the digital editorial director of Travel + Leisure) and award-winning journalist Stacey Leasca (a journalism professor and contributing digital editor to Travel + Leisure, Food & Wine and more).

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“Every week, both of us receive dozens of DMs and emails asking, ‘How do I get your job?,’” says Leasca. “So, we thought it was time to share all our secrets.”

The Be A Travel Writer course includes the things you’d learn in a traditional academic setting, paired with information you’d only acquire as an insider. Topics include pitching editors, how to write features, refining your social media skills, learning the ropes of SEO and more.

“Travel can be an exclusive niche, but we hope to open it up to more people with varying points of view. We believe there’s space for everyone who really wants it and is willing to learn,” says Ruggiero.

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During the classes, special guests also share advice in their areas of expertise. Some of the guests include Jeff Jenkins (a former high school choir teacher-turned-travel creator who is hosting the upcoming National Geographic show, “Never Say Never with Jeff Jenkins”) and Rachel Chang (a journalist whose work has appeared in Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveller, Rolling Stone, Washington Post and more).

What’s so great about being a travel writer? “I truly believe there’s no better job than getting paid to travel and create content for fellow travelers to enjoy. It affords you so many life experiences you might otherwise never have had, and it opens your mind to new places in new ways,” says Ruggiero, who took the slow, traditional route. She studied journalism at the University of Miami, then worked in local news, entertainment and fashion for 10 years before she snagged her job at Travel + Leisure. What she loves about travel writing: “It’s special to return from an incredible trip and get to work helping others plan their own trip of a lifetime,” says Ruggiero.

During her nearly two decades in media, Leasca has worked as everything from a news reporter to a social media editor to her current role as a freelance journalist specializing in travel and lifestyle writing. She moved to Portugal two years ago to pursue her Ph.D., specializing in disinformation, and also teaches at Universidade Católica in Lisbon. “I take my job very seriously because I know just how precious people’s time off really is to them,” says Leasca. “Travel writing also allows me to share things I am personally passionate about, like sustainable travel and accessibility, because travel is for everyone, and should be a celebration for all.”

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One student who took the Be A Travel Writer course is Pat Doherty, a published travel writer looking to refresh her pitching skills. “The format, information and inspiration were so helpful,” says Doherty. “It’s motivating and engaging, plus there are some great contacts.”

Another recent student landed her first travel writing assignment: a trip to the Greek islands. “She was so excited, she asked me if it was real,” says Ruggiero. “Spoiler: It was, and I know she’s armed with the knowledge she needs to get a great story out of it.”

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In addition to the paid courses, Leasca and Ruggiero also share free content and tips on their social media channels, as well as a free weekly newsletter that highlights calls for pitches and job opportunities. They also highlight places they love, great pieces of travel writing and sometimes offer exclusive class discount codes.

Here, Ruggiero and Leasca share some of their insider tips for breaking into the competitive field of travel writing, as well as a few of their favorite trips.

Get curious: “All the things you’re curious about—when is the best time to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park, how do I make the most of my airline points—are stories,” says Leasca. “If you’re looking for information, odds are others are, too, so pitch it as a story.”

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Read (a lot): “Getting to know the publications you’re hoping to pitch is critical to your success,” says Leasca. “Learn their tone, see what kind of stories they published, what they’ve already published and find the gaps in their reporting so you can pitch the content to fill it.”

Find a beat you’re passionate about: “Specializing in a niche within travel is a great way to fast-track yourself to the top of editors’ assignment lists,” says Ruggiero. “For example: Love cruising? If you’re passionate about cruises and in-the-know about the pros and cons of different ships, the best cruise lines for different types of travelers and incredible places to see by water, you’re the writer I’m going to think of when I need to assign a cruise story (which happens often). We talk about how exactly to determine a beat that fits you, how to establish yourself as an expert and expand your network, and what types of beats travel editors are looking for in our class on Finding Your Beat.”

Cultivate a secondary skill: “All beats can feel hard to break into, especially in an industry constantly making headlines for layoffs. However, there really is room for everyone to become a travel journalist. You just need to be willing to learn a few specific skills to help you stand out,” says Leasca. “I always recommend to my students that they learn a ‘secondary’ skill, like photography, videography, or SEO. This adds a dynamic element to their pitches as they can deliver something extra to their editors..”

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Don’t be afraid of rejection: “Got a rejection note from an editor? Great! No, seriously, great. That means they took the time to read the entire pitch and thought it was good enough to merit an email in return,” says Leasca. “Editors at almost every pub these days are inundated by hundreds of emails a day, so if yours stood out, even if it’s a rejection, that’s a good sign. You can always send an email asking for feedback too. Rework your pitch, and keep on trying.”

Most of all, don’t be afraid: “Like any job, you have to want it, and you need to dedicate yourself. No one will hand you a story idea or a trip to take,” says Leasca. “You need to come with fresh takes and new ideas. But if you’ve got the drive, you’re golden.”

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Favorite place: “There are so many beautiful places around the world that I have felt so grateful to visit, but one of my absolute favorite places I’ve traveled professionally was El Salvador,” says Leasca. “I got to spend time with Rafael Hernandez, the head park ranger at the Cinquera Forest, and explore El Salvador’s gorgeous coastline. And as a lifelong surfer, it’s a coast that’s easy to fall in love with, thanks to its perfect right hand point breaks.”

Best trips: “​​For work, I’ve traveled to places like Bali, New Zealand, Vietnam and French Polynesia. I’ve been all over Europe and explored stunning parts of the U.S.,” says Ruggiero. “The one place I’ll never get enough of is Italy; a trip to Venice and Verona with my aunt as a kid is what really sparked my obsession with travel in the first place, and I’ve never tired of making my way up and down the boot since. I love it all, but for me, there’s nowhere like Sicily and Sardinia. Mix seaside scenery and sunshine with Italian food, culture and hospitality—that’s heaven.”

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