There’s no doubt I want to be a travel writer — telling the stories of the outdoors—but in order for me to succeed, I must first explain why. Why must I become a travel writer?
When it came to career moves, being a writer wasn’t on my list when I left high school. Which is kind of ironic cause I loved writing back then. I loved posting political rants and philosophical brainstorms on my Facebook, I attempted to write novels which family and friends liked reading and I was (and still am) a great joke teller. But my career paths mirrored a different kind of me.
My first job was being a poorly paid clerk at some run down computer cafe. Thankfully the cheapskate who ran it went out of business shortly after I left. It’s true, you never start out big; most likely you start off shit. Then I went into sales at Homeart, where I became a wonderful sales assistant. My sales record grew and my confidence was blooming. I could have been an assistant manager, but I turned down the offer for another opportunity: impulsively travelling to Queensland with my best friend. That was random. While there, I worked casually at Spotlight and did a horticulture course, but my time in Queensland didn’t go well and I was back in Sydney after eight months. After picking myself up again, I got into hairdressing with the world-renowned Toni & Guy. The manager didn’t like me being flamboyant in the salon, which was funny cause hairdressing is, like, the gayest industry ever(!). Well, I showed him by being more flamboyant and theatrical while doing a flawless job. Can’t fire me for being gay! I earned his respect by doing that, but he seemed a little too happy when I quit six months later. I eventually learned that I only got into hairdressing because I wanted to learn how to style my own wigs as a drag queen. Oh yes, I learnt the art of drag, too.
It was around this time when I was mulling over the thought of getting into marketing. I had done a few online personality tests due to my complete frustration over not finding my desired career path. So I did a marketing certificate IV — loved it; then a diploma—loved it even more; then a PR internship—hated it. It was too pretentious for my liking. It might have just been the place I was working at; it was a high-end fashion company, after all. But I knew that something in marketing was fun, so I decided to do a bachelor course in communications at university, which covered all forms of communication professions. It was here where I got my first inner glimpse of journalism. It looked, felt and sounded perfect. It was so much like me. So I majored in it and chose electives around writing.
I did so well in the course that I was chosen to go to Nepal and practice journalism there for two weeks, under the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan. I was also a student reporter for Storyology — a three-day event hosted by the Walkley Foundation, and done two internships. I loved journalism and I loved writing most (and still do). I had finally found my career path. But with the industry going a little haywire, especially current affairs journalism, I had to make a crucial decision. What kind of writer should I be? I hated current affairs journalism, especially interviewing people who don’t really want to be interviewed. Plus, the industry is so saturated that it’s dwindling in size. Why subscribe to one news outlet when another shares the same stories for free? It was too risky for my liking. That was why, when I chose my final internship for the bachelor course, I applied for a lifestyle guide called Hunter and Bligh.
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The market is wide, the stories are endless, and the people you interview actually want to be interviewed. I also went for a startup, so I could learn along with them about the technicalities of online writing. Longstanding newspapers would be too unwilling to experiment with new things. At Hunter and Bligh, I could experiment, and sometimes it paid off. I’ve got a handful of stories that are featured up top in Google searches, namely this one on Katoomba’s lost roller coaster and this road trip guide from Hobart to Cradle Mountain. Three months after beginning my time at Hunter and Bligh, I was offered a one-day-a-week paid gig. That was big. Someone was willing to pay me for my writing.
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But lifestyle is so broad. It covers everything. There’s always new gadgets to try, new restaurants to experience, new clothes to wear, new movies to watch, new albums to listen to, new books to read. So why write about travel?
I heartily believe it’s about people and culture. You learn so much about yourself and your own country when you visit another place on the globe. How people react to things, understanding the way people communicate —including variations of the English language — learning the disparities between a local attraction and a tourist attraction, and finding places to really immerse yourself in. Travel opens minds. In essence, travel writing is a type of current affairs journalism, where you are writing about people, places and things in their current state. You are telling the world about why they should visit here, what to expect, what to do, and how to do it. But most importantly you are telling stories and gaining insights to unique people and places.
Travel writing opens the mind to new and interesting worlds. I learnt this well when I visited Nepal. Me and four other students went there to report on how the country was rebuilding following the 2015 earthquakes, but we ended up finding other, more compelling human stories. Stories that needed to be told. Stories like the corruption around climbing Mt Everest. Stories like growing up intersex in a world that doesn’t understand.
I hear you, I could get these stories by working in an office at some current affairs newspaper, but working in an office doesn’t open your eyes to the world. Travel, however, does. So while I write about the places you should visit while visiting them, I can also write about the human side. The stories that are captivating in their own right. Stories that are different. Stories that are looking for a shining light.
That is why I really want to be a travel writer. Not for fame and not for money, but for something much more valuable: life experience. And the best way to experience life is by walking out your front door and into the world.
So let’s do it.