The Truth of Becoming a Travel Writer

So, you’ve got the talent for writing, you’ve got the love of travel and adventure, but that’s not the most important element of travel writing. It has to be more than just a passion. It has to be a way of life you can live with or one you simply can’t live without.

When looking to get into travel writing you have to ask yourself, as I did with just about every profession I’ve ever considered (acting, flight attendant, teacher in the Alaskan bush), what are you willing to sacrifice? If you’re just starting out and don’t have a super high paying job with massive amounts of free time or work you can take on the road, then you’re probably going to be living on a shoe-string budget. There are bills to pay and equipment you’ll need before you even leave town. Once you’re in your destination you might be staying in hostels, which means giving up personal space, living out of a suitcase (that you can’t allow to explode all over the room), and trading in your comfy bed at home for the bits of cardboard that pass in most hostels for a bed. But you’re not just giving up the freedoms of having a place of your own. You’re exchanging your every day relationships with your friends for part-time friendships. Most travel writers tend to be gregarious people who make friends easily, so it’s not that hard to find someone to grab a drink with, but these are not people who know you inside and out and sometimes you’ll get somewhere in the middle of winter with hardly any other people in the same lodgings as you. Can you handle getting dinner or drinks alone? Odds are that you’ll be spending a large amount of time by yourself. So it’s important to know who you are and know your own mind.

Speaking of relationships, for some people the hardest adjustment deals with romantic relationships. If you’re lucky enough to have someone at home who doesn’t mind you being away all the time then you’re in great shape, but often times the men or women you meet might not take a relationship with you seriously if they know you’re not going to be around to cultivate it. Even if you find someone who is willing to do these things, there is an immense amount of work that goes into maintaining that relationship compounded on top of the work it takes to maintain a presence in the media world while traveling. Are you prepared to put forth that effort into a long distance relationship while working towards your goals?

Despite the aforementioned lack of outward glamour when you’re beginning, or for any writer who isn’t employed by a luxury travel magazine, you are trading all of those things for mountains towering overhead, awe-inspiring landscapes, beachside rides on horseback, city lights glittering in the night, new friends from every walk of life, evenings with a drink in hand listening to live music, afternoons in street side cafes, whirlwind romances, and endless adventure.

What it really boils down to:
“Would you be willing to trade all of this, from this day to that, for once chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they may never take our freedoooooom!” Wait a minute… that’s from Braveheart, but the point is the same. To rephrase, would you be willing to trade every bit of a normal life for the chance to tell the world how you lived free?

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North Connemara: Ireland’s Wild, Wild West

If you enjoy the great outdoors and adventure, North Connemara is a place you really need to go. Accessible through Galway on the West coast of Ireland, North Connemara is covered in sweeping hills, a fjord, various waterways, and bogs. The weather in this area, at least in the winter, can be a bit unpredictable. While you can have quite a lot of fun there in the winter, be prepared for snow, freezing rain, sleet, fog, gale force winds, and sunshine all in the span of an hour. They tell me the weather in summertime is a bit better.

What to do:

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Wild Atlantic Way

The Wild Atlantic Way is basically the Pacific Coast Highway of Ireland. It winds its way from Donegal in the north, down the west coast to Cork in the south. It’s goes through a wide variety of terrain in various cities and towns, besides just Connemara. Best for families and roadtrippers. It’s a good way to get a well-rounded view of Ireland. Just remember that they drive on the left side of the road.

WikiCommons/ Sarah Gallagher

WikiCommons/ Sarah Gallagher

Hike

There are so many places to hike and hillwalk all throughout the region ranging from very easy walks up hills (duh) and across boglands to more advanced ascents like the Twelve Bens, Mweelrea. A few good easy trails include Connemara Loop, Diamond Hill, Famine Trail, Cleggan Seaside, and Omey Walk.

WikiCommons/ Olaf K

WikiCommons/ Olaf K

Horseback Riding

This area is known for its hardy Connemara pony, believed to have descended from Viking horse breeds (VIKINGS), which, unlike the Vikings, have a “mannerly” disposition, makng them perfect for long rides in the Connemara terrain. For horse riding lovers this is the place to be. You will have a great horse, good for all experience levels, and the sights are unparalleled. If you happen to be the sporting type, Dartfield Equestrian Centre in Loughrea also offers an afternoon of fox hunting where you can pretend you’re an old-timey lord of the land while chasing after your hounds.

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Killary Sheep Farm

I’ve written about this place a few times before and I’m going to keep writing about it until I see that you all have been here. Book in advance on your own or take the Connemara tour with Irish Day Tours (November through March) and check out an awesome sheep dog demonstration and learn about turf cutting. If you’re feeling really brave try your hand at it. It’s not as easy as it looks.

WikiCommons/ Irish Defense Forces

WikiCommons/ Irish Defense Forces

Killary Adventure Center

For those adventurous spirits who like a little more structure you can stay at Killary Adventure Center and have a few days of planned outdoor activities with transport and everything included. They range from docile hill walking, zip lines, and kayaking to rock climbing Connemara crags and wake boarding. There really is something for everyone.

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WikiCommons/ Drow69

Take the Ferry to Inishbofin

There are plenty of tours that will take you to the picturesque Aran Islands, but if you want to avoid the crowds of tourists, try getting a ferry from Cleggan to Inishbofin instead. There you can see the sites on foot, horseback, or bike. Visit a spa for some marine themed relaxation or be adventurous and go diving in clear waters.

photo Old Monastery Hostel

photo Old Monastery Hostel

Where to Stay:

The obvious place to base yourself is Clifden or even a little farther in Galway, but I am telling you to ignore the obvious and go low-key and stay in Leenane or Letterfrack. Leenane has a lot of places to stay with easy access to the fjord, but they are only open during the high season. Letterfrack, however, is located between Clifden and Leenane and is a good midway point to everything. I would recommend staying at either the Letterfrack Lodge, which has both regular, private rooms and dorm style rooms and free breakfast, or the Old Monastery Hostel. Stephen over at the Old Monastery has made one of most adorable and interesting hostels I’ve seen. It feels like you’re walking in to a collection of open bohemian art studios. The style is bright, eclectic, and reflects small marks made by previous visitors. The common room, with its peat fire, will make you feel like sitting down to create some beautiful art work of your own. The hostel boasts a morning breakfast with fresh, homemade breads for its guests.

The Summer I Became a Nomad

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Mendenhall Glacier – Juneau, Alaska

Once upon a time I had a normal life. I had my friends I saw all the time and homework and a normal job at a photography studio. I would travel more than the average person (my parents worked for various airlines, after all), but mostly visiting family, trips with my parents, college roadtrips, and daytrips up north to go hiking (I really just didn’t want to go to class). One summer in college everything changed and I have never been the same. I called a friend who was working in Juneau, Alaska and told him I would be there the next day. While there I made friends with his roommates and visited them a few months later. I visited a friend who had moved to Colorado and made friends with his friends and the pattern continued, grew, and took on a life of its own. I had become a nomad. I started living out of a suitcase and was out of town anytime I could get away. It’s not that I didn’t like being home, but rather my true nature was revealed and I couldn’t be still. I had to see what was out there, I had to move and live. I collected every new experience and memory with joy. Eventually it just became how I live and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But maybe I’m wrong. There are a lot of large bugs in Alaska. Maybe one of them was a travel bug.

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Airports Can Be Fun!

Anyone who has been stranded in an airport can testify that it’s tedious, stressful even hanging out at the airport, especially if you have kids with you. However, the airport doesn’t have to be a boring place where you sit continuously signing into the wi-fi to keep yourself from going insane. There are plenty of ways to stay entertained while hanging out in the airport. Window Shop

Magazines

WikiCommons/ Benzoyl

The first stop in entertainment, and by far the most accessible, is to go window shopping. First, hit the magazine and book shop and peruse their travel magazines. Pick one adventure from one of the articles and then hit up a clothing shop with a mission to find an outfit for that adventure, something like: pick an outfit fit for sailing in the Bahamas or find the ultimate accessory for a visit to Paris. Ride the Train Plane TrainGet a different view of the airport with the airport trains. Take the train to different terminals and check out the fun activities there or maybe grab a bite somewhere new. If you have kids this is guaranteed to keep them entertained for hours. Pretend you’re on a ride at Disneyland and relax while people watching. Make Up Stories

People Watch

WikiCommons/ RobNS

Speaking of people watching, my favorite airport activity is to make up stories about the other passengers at the gate and passers by. Is the bearded guy who looks like a mountain man on his way home to Colorado or is he meeting his team before heading for an expedition in Antarctica? Is the girl with sunglasses really a celebrity or just hungover? What did she do the day before? The possibilities are only limited to your imagination. Exercise 10487556_10152542966196215_1961011593696387441_n So many airports are offering “walking routes” through the airport so you have no excuse not to get up and move those feet! Phoenix Sky Harbor has one in Terminal 4 complete with a little brochure, telling you about the sights and history of Phoenix. Not to mention the long windows offer stunning views of Camelback Mountain, Piestewa Peak, and other surrounding landscape. Dallas/Forth Worth’s Terminal D also offers a walking route, with option step program, and even a yoga studio at gate D40. A yoga studio! What?! Other airports that offer post-security walking routes include Seattle’s Concourse A, Indianapolis, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Atlanta. Philadelphia also has a few stationary bikes just across from the food court where you can burn that cheesesteak you just ate. Hit the Gallery Airport Art Almost every airport has an art gallery featuring local artists and various works hanging throughout the airport. Denver has by far the most terrifying artwork while Philadelphia offers fascinating glass working and odd little exhibits on your way into Terminal C. Freshen up at Duty Free

Duty Free

WikiCommons/ Pigsonthewing

If you’re traveling internationally stop by the Duty Free shop and try on a new scent (lightly, though, so you don’t gag your fellow passengers) and maybe a new lip shade. Heck, don’t even do your makeup before you leave, just hit the MAC counter, or Dior if you’re feeling very posh, and doll yourself up for that handsome stranger in the plane. Won’t he be stunned by that bold new shade!