Sunday, August 05, 2007

Career Possibility 2: Travel Writer

I’m sick (Korea decided to give me a cold as a going away present…), my apartment smells like baby vomit, a gang of small red bumps is inhabiting the skin under my watch, and I visited the DMZ this weekend and desperately want to write about it, BUT…

First, I am going to continue my series on “potential jobs for Jordan” (because, let’s face it, I hate the word “career”—it is just too darn scary).

Travel writer most definitely falls under the categories of “unrealistic” and “missed the boat on that one”, but I am going to write about it anyway. From what I’ve been able to gather from various articles on job prospects in travel writing (NY Times , tips from an experienced travel writer, escape artist,, and plenty more where those came from), the job is less glamorous than it sounds, relatively low-paying, stressful, difficult, and very very awesome. The publishers of travel books have a very difficult job because they are constantly struggling to keep up with ever-changing travel information. That’s good news for writers, because they are always in demand. Some people say it is more important to be a writer than a traveler, others say the inverse, so I am going to go ahead and say: you need to love both traveling AND writing….that sounds more than obvious, right?

Ok, here is what I should have done (and I know some people told me to do this, I was a doof). As soon as I found out that my Moon Handbook: South Korea was utterly lacking when it comes to Gwangju (virtually no information on hotels, restaurants, nightlife, culture, anything), I should have written up a few sample listings, sent them in, and said “Hey, your guide could use updating in several other areas as well. I am available for other assignments”. Seriously. As the reviewers on say, the book is overflowing with general cultural information (I think the author must be a Buddhist—it seems like all he did was visit hole-in-the-wall temples) but conspicuously void of practical information. It describes Gwangju as a “former backwater”, which is true, but now it is Korea’s fourth largest city. A little more—and I’m just asking for a little; I wouldn’t spend more than two days in Gwangju if I weren’t living here—than the obligatory “here’s the address of the Gwangju National Museum and May 18th Memorial” might be appropriate.

*Note: After re-reading my first draft of this post, I realize that I didn't fully capture my abhorrence for the Moon Handbook. I wish I had my copy in front of my so I could quote some of it's horrible-ness, but several months ago, in a moment of disgust, I fed it to some pigs. The book is clunky, unhelpful, repetitive, and irrelevant. Yes, it is exhaustive, covering tiny villages in more detail than it covers Gwangju, but if you are a foreigner heading out into the sticks it is going to be a comedy of errors no matter how many times you have read your Moon Handbook.*

Most travel book publishers are open to pitches and suggestions, so it’s worth a shot. The most “open” when it comes to unsolicited writing are probably:

Lonely Planet
Rough Guides

Hmmm, Let’s Go only employs full-time Harvard students. New plan for becoming a travel writer: get into Harvard for grad school and spend my summers traveling and writing for Let’s Go. Just a few road-blocks in that plan, but shouldn’t be a problem…kidding!

1 comment:

Wa-nde-rren said...

I've decided that I want to be a masseuse/policy counsellor for overworked and overstressed officials and advocates.
I get to work with my hands, don't have to look at a computer screen except for when I'm doing my own research, and I get to throw in 2 cents to all the important decisions.

and write on the side.