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June 8, 2001
Turning Treks Into Checks
By Tad Hulse

Combining the skill and expertise of freelance writing with the fun and knowledge of travel goes together like passports and plane tickets. Many writers have skimmed the idea of heading off to some jet-set island, taking down some notes, snapping a few shots here and there, and upon their return, writing a couple articles that generate enough pay to cover their entire trip and earn a profit. The reality is, only a few fortunate writers get to travel on expense-paid excursions and make enough to simultaneously travel the world as well as pay their bills. However, within today's ever changing and increasing market of the freelance travel writer, opportunities arise more often than not - the key is
to know when and where to look and what to write about.

The Internet is a hotbed of freelance travel writing, both paid and non-paid. Many European-based websites consistently work with freelance writers who have
travelled throughout the continent and are interested in eloquently sharing their insightful stories and experiences, on and off the beaten track. In order to
turn your treks into checks, you will need to find out what angle each site looks for, the type of experience, the region of interest and how your travels will fit into their readership.

The most successful contributions seem to share certain characteristics, most notably a strong sense of the author's personality and experiences, vivid reporting, a literary quality and, in the case of service-oriented departments, factual & practical information. Try to give your article a fresh point of view and, if at all possible, cover some "out of the ordinary" or "unusual" subject matter. Your article must go deeply beyond the self-serving listings of information available at the local tourist centres and visitor's bureau. A good travel article will focus on more than just a collection of random impressions; find a theme, work in quotes from locals to other visitors (let them express their thoughts about how they feel about a city or culture). Being a proficient, as well as a successful travel writer in today's European market is more than just writing
step-by-step accounts of what you did on your summer holiday. You must acquaint yourself with what they are particularly looking for.

Publications like Marco Polo, Conde Nast Traveler or even smaller, more independent sites like Kafenio look for stories where the writer recreates the world in which they travelled through, letting the reader see it through your eyes, rather than simply stating what was seen. You must surprise the reader with something extraordinary or unfamiliar, something that only he who was there would know. In order to do this, you may actually have to do some research on your trip (trying things, meeting people, getting involved and immersing yourself within the encompassing culture). In order to be a good freelance travel writer, you must delve deeper and take your experiences a step further, getting involved with the action around you. If you're a passive observer, your article will not let onto any insight more than that of the basic guidebooks. Use your senses and tell the reader what the Mediterranean sun feels like at mid-day, or the smell of a vineyard in southern France - but avoid cliché descriptions and adjective overload. Be simple, insightful and engaging. Side-step personal diaries and guided tours that aim to say all, but in turn ultimately reveal nothing about a place. Focus your story idea and do not be afraid of specifics. To stand out from other writers, your story must have a personal voice and point of view. Keep in mind that almost any place you write about has been written about before; your ongoing challenge is to find something new and
original to say about it.

The European travel market heeds those who take a personal approach to their insights and encounters. This doesn't necessarily mean writing in the first person, but rather taking your own approach to a place, such as, what was it that really excited or inspired you? Do not try to squeeze every aspect of a city or country into the story. Often a well-chosen vignette conveys a better feel for a place than a broad, verbose overview. Travel, the displacement from the familiar to the foreign, is always rich in comedy but rarely do editors get a story that brings forth laughter. Dialogue helps a travel story immensely, but again, few writers ever include it. Brevity, clarity and conciseness should be virtues of your article. The use of an active voice is almost always best compared to a heavy-laden editorial. Editors want stories that have a light, bright, lively, fun tone; but accuracy and attention to detail are more than paramount.

The key to becoming a successful freelance travel writer and tapping into today's market, especially in Europe, is simply just about doing your homework
before you get on the plane. Know your audience, know your writing style, and know what to write about.

Tad Hulse is an American freelance writer who can be currently found residing in Oslo, Norway when he's not out exploring the rest of Greater Europe. He's
contributed works to numerous websites and publications, namely about travel and culture.

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