The Struggle Is Real -- The Reality of Travel Writing

I'm a rare breed within my industry. Most travel writers I know have a cushy staff position with benefits, do it part-time for fun, or freelance full-time but have a second income helping them out. I, on the other hand, work as a full-time freelance travel writer, and I do it all on my own.
11/05/2015 10:18 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017
USA, New Jersey, Woman ready to go on vacations
USA, New Jersey, Woman ready to go on vacations

2015-11-05-1446753022-4084949-d1.jpg

Each and every single day of my life, someone reminds me that I have the best job in the world. Funny because, the last time I checked, a job was a job and although mine might come with some pretty amazing benefits, it's still work, and work isn't always fun...even if you are so lucky to have found your dream job...whatever that means.

I'm a rare breed within my industry. Most travel writers I know have a cushy staff position with benefits, do it part-time for fun, or freelance full-time but have a second income helping them out. I, on the other hand, work as a full-time freelance travel writer, and I do it all on my own.

Of course within my inner circle of fellow travel writers, I still am envied by some because I travel about 90% of each month while they are usually doing a trip or two a month, if they are so lucky. It's totally my choice to travel as much as I do. So why do I put myself through such a rigorous travel schedule each month? It's easy, life is expensive and I need to be able to afford said life.

So at this point you are probably reading this and are playing a mini violin to the struggles of my jet setting life. I get it, what I do isn't easy to comprehend. I mean, I travel around the world, am usually treated like royalty everywhere I go, get upgraded on flights and hotels, and score hard to get dinner reservations that usually don't come with a bill. I mean, it's like living the life of a millionaire, right? Ok, it's kind of like that and maybe my description of my life isn't helping my cause, but here's the truth, my life is all a facade.

I remember one time I was checking out of one of the most expensive hotels in Chicago. "Your private Mercedes is waiting for you outside, Mr. Duran," proclaimed the bellman as he whisked away my luggage. I remember snapping an Instagram pic and posting about my private driver and how amazing this hotel was. Minutes after getting in the car, I was dropped off at the L Train headed towards the airport, and that's when reality slapped me in the face, as it usually does after I complete a trip. What most don't realize is that I have to be constantly reminded that I am not the person my work leads people to believe I am.

I've been living in NYC for three years now, after leaving the comforts of part time writing and embarking on a full time freelance status. In that time, I've moved around quite a bit. My last apartment had the F train passing feet from my window and I'm currently homeless (by choice), and crashing with my sister each time I'm in town because I opted to save money. When I'm not on a trip, or at a media event with free food and drink, I'm usually heating up a microwave meal or starving myself for one of two reasons; 1. I ate too much on the most recent trip and need a food detox, and or 2. I can't afford to eat what my work has me accustomed to eat; therefore I would rather eat oatmeal and plan my next trip to help ease the burden of being at home.

2015-11-05-1446753064-6815170-d4.jpg

I've been doing this for three years now, full time, and I've reached the 100 trip mark, therefore, I officially hate being at home, not that I have one, but you get my point. I've reprogrammed my brain to believe that being at home is boring, and I live in New York City. But I've also realized that when I'm home, I spend more money than when I'm traveling. I mean, at home, I actually have to pay for things. It's a conundrum that I can't yet figure out.

So you are probably still not feeling any sympathy for me, right? I don't blame you. Travel writing is all about flying to exotic destinations and living it up, all the time. True, it sure is. But the part people always forget about, or just don't know about, is the actual work. Travel writing comes in mostly two parts, traveling and writing. Now I know everyone gets the traveling part but I constantly have to remind friends that I'm also held accountable for the second part of my job title. As easy as you may believe writing may be, it's actually quite the contrary...and I know this from simply scrolling my Facebook feed and gasping at the ridiculousness of word vomit I see on a daily basis. As a freelancer, I write for many different audiences, and editors. I have to constantly change my style, my voice and write in a manner that won't have my editors hating me.

2015-11-05-1446753100-1935116-d3.jpg

Beyond the having to work at all times of the day and night and from random hotel rooms or airplane seats, as a travel writer, you have to constantly be in the on position. I have to meet with and speak to strangers every day and I have to really be present for each and every conversation. Public relations professionals are emailing and calling on daily and beyond offering story ideas and or trips, they are hounding you with the most dreaded question in my profession, "when do you think your coverage will be out?" Listen, PR folks are some of my best friends in my profession, but they have a job to do, and at times, that job can cause more gray hairs to sprout.

I do love what I do, I can't deny that. Each time I see my words published, I get a euphoric high, and I want more. It's an addiction that has caused me to lose friends, not have much of a personal social life, and be single. My life revolves around working. I live on my phone, replying to emails, booking flights and or texting the few people who love me enough to have not abandoned me during my insane never-ending travels. I'm constantly pitching editors and figuring out my next paycheck. I find side writing gigs to help with finances, and write about everything and anything you could ever imagine. I might be in Maui in a cabana on my Instagram, but what you don't see is me in that cabana writing about baby products or health related topics, or an actual travel article that is paying me less than what I deserve...all while stressing over if I have enough money to afford the tip at the hosted dinner later that night.

2015-11-05-1446753132-8240954-d2.jpg

I don't hate my life, I mean, how could I? One friend once described me as "the richest poor man" he had ever met. That's pretty accurate. Each week, someone asks me to help them become a travel writer. I no longer cringe because I get that those of us who are fortunate enough to travel the world for a living, are in the eyes of most, living the dream.

What's usually hard to explain to someone who is interested in doing what I do, beyond the endless rejections, being relatively poor most of the time, having no social life, being endlessly tired from traveling, working non-stop, having to be creative all the time, learning how to describe the same hotel suite or bite of food in unique and different ways each time, dealing with endless emails from PR "friends"...ok, there isn't much more to explain. So don't let the Instagram feeds of travel writers fool you. It's not all it's cracked up to be. At the end of the day, it's still a job. So for those of you who want my job, here's some advice: find a second income, whether that's a second job and or a spouse, or create the next big blog, because...let's be real, bloggers are taking over the world anyways.