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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Life of a Travel Writer: when the dream job is a nightmare

Remember how I told you how much I loved my work as a travel writer? And you said I had the dream job everyone envied? Well, it's not so dreamy at the moment. We are tired. Really tired. For the last few days we've been at our laptops 17 hours a day. We haven't showered. We're not eating properly anymore. All the wonderful food we bought at the market on Saturday - the proscuitto, bresaola, rucola, buffalo mozzarella, the big bunch of basilico! - it's all going to waste. Okay, maybe it's not a nightmare. I'm exaggerating a little. But let me share the highlights (or rather lowlights) so you know a travel writer's life is not all VIP openings, private parties and seas of champagne! I'll put you in the picture: we're in an apartment in Milan so all we should be doing is researching Milan and Terry should be taking photos of Milan. We have started researching Milan, although we haven't been pounding the pavement every day as we'd have liked and Terry's only been able to spend two days taking photos because we've had grey skies and rain almost every day since we arrived. I'm working on another book about another place, which I should have finished a month ago but couldn't because the editor only recently approved the final outline. As the delays aren't my doing, she's extended the deadline, but I don't want to be working on this now, I want to be working on Milan. What's really frustrating is we'd stayed on in Turkey to finish the thing there. I'm also planning post-Milan research, which I should have done weeks ago but couldn't because that editor has just now been able to provide a final brief. So we're writing outlines, floorplans, shot lists, itineraries and books. And over the last week I've written hundreds of emails my hands are aching so much I'm sure I have carpal tunnel syndrome; Terry feels like he's getting the flu. I'm sending emails to museums, theatres, hotels and restaurants to get permission to visit, shoot photos, do interviews. I'm emailing tourism organizations, airlines, car rental agencies, hotels, tour companies and PR reps to get help for a forthcoming Australia trip. I'm dealing with magazine and newspaper editors about other ongoing and future projects. And I'm chasing editors of past projects for payments. And while getting paid is never normally a drama, for some reason everyone wants to send cheques all of a sudden (I didn't even know people used them anymore! Doesn't everyone do electronic banking?). A story I wrote in English for a Gulf magazine has been published in Arabic, another piece I contributed to has been published without my credit, while a story Terry spent hours prepping dozens of images for (at the art director's request) has appeared with only two of his pics among twelve stereotypical stock shots. But whose going to listen to a travel writer complain? This evening, the weather is perfect in Milan. It's a typical balmy early summer's night. As it's meant to have been! We can hear the bars downstairs on the Navigli buzzing with locals, eager to make up for all the socializing they've missed out on. Meanwhile, we're here finalizing outlines and shotlists when we should be checking out those bars. It's times like these when we start to wonder whether we should just give up and get 'real' jobs...

7 comments:

Babette said...

Okay. I admit it. It doesn't sound great...but at least you're holed up in MILAN.

I look forward to reading more, but here's my curmudgeon comment: White on black is really hard on 48 year old eyes. I will check to see if I can get your posts via RSS--and read them in my email..black on white..ahhh.

laradunston said...

You're so right! I came to my senses this morning. Read my next post.

You're the third person to comment on the black and white so I'm considering about it but to be honest I love it and think it suits my posts and pictures. It's a popular blogger template so I know it's not hard on everyone's eyes, but I do take your point. I think the problem is that it looks different on different browsers. It's fine on mine - Firefox (on a mac) - but I saw it on a browser on a PC recently and it didn't look great. I'll see what I can do... :)

Nomadic Matt said...

hmm it seems the life of a travel writer isn't so glamorous....i still want in.

Pam said...

We had similar woes when we worked on our Hawaii guide last year... a mish mash of seasickness, not enough time to eat, too much to cover, places to be things to do and then, our laptop quit working... glam, it was not. People kept saying "at least you were in Hawaii" which WAS awesome, sure, but we had next to no time to enjoy it.

I'd totally do it again.

laradunston said...

Hi Nomadic Matt - I'm not sure you'd want in if you knew the kind of week I'd had so far!

Hi Pam - know exactly how you feel. I'm exhausted at the moment but last night my husband and I were discussing it. And we'd rather be exhausted from researching a guidebook in a little apartment in Milan than exhausted from doing something meaningless staring at a wall in an office cubicle some place.

Angela Corrias said...

I like this kind of posts because I like to read that the life as a travel writer is not just dreamy and that travel writing is a real job.
I am starting freelancing as a writer and want to specialise in travel writing. I know that travelling can have good as well as bad aspects and I am willing to try them both.
I read once that, despite what many believe, there are not a lot of travel writers, in the sense that not many people are ready to be constantly packing and unpacking, and that therefore the market is more than approachable. Egoistically, I hope so...

laradunston said...

Hi Angela - thanks for commenting! I'm glad you like to hear about the cons as well as the pros of the job. I get the sense, though, that there are a lot of travel writers out there, and although there's plenty of work to go around, it is competitive. While it's not easy to get published in the beginning, it does become more so the more you get your work in print. Let me know if you want some tips. Good luck!