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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Something About European Hostels

About two weeks ago I took an opportunity to go to Edinburgh, Scotland. It was a trip of firsts, including my first time going to Scotland. There were so many amazing things that happened and I promise I will get a nice photo tour up eventually, but first I would like to discuss a few things that are on my mind from the trip.

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One of the experiences that was a first for me was staying in a hostel. Dun dun duuuuun! I had heard wonderful things about European hostels, but there’s this weird connotation they have here in the states, not simply because of the movie Hostel. It evokes images in my head where I liken them to some WWII Red Cross hospital with people dying and coughing, bloodstained sheets and some weird, dark villains lurking under the bed, waiting to steal all your stuff and potentially murder you. I haven’t the foggiest idea where these ideas came from but this is what was in my head. After much research on the cheapest, but still relatively nice and safest hostels in the area I found one that seemed acceptable and affordable. I chose to stay in an all female room at The Royal Mile Backpackers in order to minimize my shock at anything that may occur.

My experience can be likened to what I imagine it was like to live in a dorm in college, coming in at the second semester. Everyone seemed like they were best friends and it was hard to separate the staff from those who had been staying there for months. This was an advantage, though, because I could ask any of the people I had seen more than once about the hostel and they responded welcomingly to this new-comer to their family. I even ran into a few of them in the taverns and shops in the area and, recognizing me, they treated me like an old friend. I suppose that was the best part of staying at the hostel, feeling like I already had a circle of friends to show me around the city. There’s a sense of  camaraderie with young hostel-stayers.

Speaking of that camaraderie, it seems like hostel-staying has a culture unto itself. It’s somewhat difficult to explain, but perhaps it is just simply that hostels attract a certain type of person; young, rootless, adventurers, making the most of what the world has to offer. It felt free. Not free in a reckless-abandon sort of way but more like free from obligations and nationalistic conformity. That’s not to say people weren’t proud of where they were born, but, rather, they weren’t obligated to be typically British, Russian, Australian, or American. They were free to perceive the world however they themselves actually do, unencumbered by any pressures present in any particular country, religion, or economic situation. No fear of how someone may interpret your ideas because it was a truly open forum. I will get more into this open-forum idea on another post.

Lastly, I learned that packing for hostels is a completely different art than my usual packing for hotel-stay. My method generally involves settling into hotel rooms in a spread-out, but easy to repack method, but you really live more out of your actual suitcase in a hostel. I should have packed more like I was going on a camping trip than a regular one. Since everywhere is a common, shared space you can’t really leave all your stuff strewn about, even a little. For example, a bag with just shower supplies and a separate makeup bag would be a good idea. Bags you can just pick out and take with you are good. Honestly, I don’t really have a good method and any suggestions are welcome.

That about sums up my favorite parts of staying in a hostel.

My final tip would be to bring a pair of ear plugs because at least one night you’re going to have someone who snores… loudly.