A travel journalist is the person who travels to different locations, explores them, researches their cultural heritage, and then writes about everything related to those places. Employment to travel writers and journalists is usually provided by magazines and newspapers, as well as the blogs of most big travel agencies and websites.
Travel writing is a career that binds two passions of people – travel and writing. But be aware, that it isn’t exactly what you imagine it is going to be. Most of travel is going to be inside the country only, especially at entry levels. However, if you develop a unique identity and writing style, the doors of foreign travel are also open.
This can also be pursued by freelance writers, but this guide is more inclined towards those who want to do this full time and make it their profession. But still, if you are a freelance writer, you are going to find a lot of useful information if you want to get in this field.
Job Profile (A Day in the life of a Travel Journalist)
Most companies have an 8-hour workday. Work-life balance is usually good because this is aspirational content and not hard news.
The actual work involves researching, writing, editing and publishing stories. Technical skills required are good grammar and writing, proofreading skills, WordPress or other CMS knowledge, proficiency with Adobe InDesign and Photoshop (for print layouts), SEO knowledge (at least moderate, and up to date for the year, because strategies often change), news sense, and high attention to detail.
You must be a people person if you want to make it in this profession; you should be able to travel with strangers, interview them, and find sources quickly. Knowledge of photo research and global tourism is also preferred, but can be built on the job. The work also involves creating sponsored content for your clients.
Other responsibilities include covering breaking news, writing long-form features and photo stories, publishing stories online and writing reviews, pitching new ideas, editing your team’s copy and so on.
You work on your story on your own, and are solely responsible for it from pitching to publishing. However, you may be asked to help others with their stories or edit their copies, and your work must be in sync with the overall strategy of the company as well as the target audience’s needs. Collaborating with marketing teams for sponsored stories is required.
Growth opportunities in traditional newsrooms and corporates are quite slow, since travel journalism is not an ‘essential job’ and it may take 10-12 years for you to become an Editor-in-Chief. However, progression to a ‘Content Manager’ level can be done in 5-6 years in corporates. Overtime is mostly necessary during a magazine’s last few days before the issue goes to print (‘production’), when finalizing pages and making changes goes on till dawn.
Overtime at web outlets is only during breaking news events that make for critical reportage, or if you are working with clients who have strict time schedules.
Salary of a Travel Journalist in India
Starting salary is around 30,000 rupees per month. After three to four years, your salary can go up to 50,000, but it largely depends on your skills and the organization you work for.
Journalism, BAMC, Literature or Media Studies degrees are advisable, but not mandatory. Employment depends on writing skills and industry knowledge, but to be honest, degree from a top-tier college does stand out. Thus, if possible, get a degree.
One thing to love about being a Travel Journalist
“It changes every day, allows me to inject my personality into the final product, and helps people dream. Also, so much free travel!”
One thing to hate about being a Travel Journalist
“Journalism has and will always have low pay. If you want higher pay as a writer, you have to shift from being a media person to being a communications professional/analyst in a corporate setup. The deluge of fake news is also troubling because finding credible sources has become more difficult.”
- St. Stephen’s College, Delhi
- Xavier’s Institute, Mumbai
- VIPS, IP University.
There are also a lot of other good colleges for the various degrees one can pursue to get into this profession. One Google search and all your queries would be answered!
Resources and Tips
- The “Borders” series by Vox is travel journalism at its best, so definitely watch that.
- Read travelogues in the language you would be writing in.
- There are many great travel books available in English, but if you are looking for one in Hindi, check out ‘Woh bhi Koi Desh hai Maharaj’ which is a great book about travels in the Northeast region of India.
- Read Stephen King’s “On Writing” to get a better understanding of the craft.
Step-by-step guide to becoming a Travel Journalist
- Take any stream you want in class 11th.
- Score good marks in class 12th and get an undergraduate degree in mass communication or English Literature.
- Read a lot of long-form travel books by famous writers. (You will find many lists on Goodreads).
- Learning the art of reviewing (hotels, food, books) from famous columns and magazines, like HT Brunch.
- Knowledge of regional tourism in India is a must, so start reading up on that. If you can, start freelancing from college itself so that you are able to already develop a portfolio before looking for a job.
- Start following Twitter handles of state and central tourism and transport bodies, and know global pop culture like the back of your hand.
- Sit for campus placements, and start browsing LinkedIn for “Travel writer/ Travel journalist” jobs. You got this!