It’s still weird for me to think of the life I’ve built, and contrast it to where I was less than a decade ago. I was a suit and tie guy, working as the executive director of a large nonprofit organization, spending 60 or more hours a week in the traditional grind. I was also deeply miserable, not able to cope with both that life and my own mental illness.
Today, my life is very different. I wear a suit maybe once or twice a year, and “work” often consists of sitting at my phone or iPad in PJs, researching or writing. I gave up my house when I started traveling close to full time, renting it out to cover my expenses elsewhere in the world, so I don’t even have a space of my own. (I stay with family, friends, or A between trips.)
It is a life that is both beautiful and a bit odd, and many of even my closest relations don’t quite understand either the life itself or the purpose of it. So I wanted to take some time here to let you all in, just a bit, to my routine and to the day-to-day of my life as a travel writer. (Note: I would guess, based on conversations I’ve had with other travel writers, that my life and process are different than most others out there, so this isn’t necessarily applicable across the board.)
Monday morning. I wake up at A’s apartment, having spent the weekend with her. I drive from there back to my parents’ house and make a French press of coffee. After a cup, it is time to post an article. I post three articles per week now (barring holidays interfering), a pace I have had since last fall, and one I hope to continue moving forward. The article is, of course, already written, and has been for weeks, another change from the “write-just-before-posting” style I had in the early days of The Royal Tour. I share the article on social media, send it to a contact at the applicable tourism office, and mark it as published on my master article calendar in the notes of my phone. It is hardly a sophisticated system.
Then I settle in on the couch. Sometimes I am researching an article, reading sources from several tabs at a time, getting my dates straight, my facts set apart from my personal opinions, and the correct spelling of things I absolutely butchered in my notes. Sometimes I am outlining an article, deciding what my “angle” will be on an experience I had, and how my perspective will shape the narrative of the piece. And sometimes I’ll be researching for an upcoming trip. I try to go into a trip with concrete ideas for articles, though I am also open to my perspective being changed by an unexpected experience. Sometimes the most inspirational things are those unplanned, but more often than not, a strong list of things I’d like to see and write about is helpful, and creating that takes time and research.
My afternoon will normally consist of creating a Google web story of a past article – these have been a huge boon to my views, although shockingly inconsistent – and in the case my research led me to a place I wanted to visit, emailing press offices for cities or individual sites to discuss story ideas and sometimes ask for sponsored admissions. (Some trips, not receiving comps can lead to literally hundreds of dollars worth of admission costs just for museums that would lead to a single article, so any assistance I’m able to get is a huge benefit. My rate of hearing back at all is about 30-50% and of those, perhaps 25-50% agree to either a reduced or free visit. This in turn helps to focus my list of articles I want to write, since I travel on my own dime and on a budget.)
Subsequent days over the week are similar, although some days the research part switches out for writing or editing a guest article. I almost always have coffee when I write, as the caffeine helps me to focus. I was never a coffee drinker until I began The Royal Tour, and I don’t love that I’ve become one, but it really does help. I write 99% of my articles in the WordPress app on my phone, something I know is unique to me. I don’t even own a laptop anymore (I do have a keyboard and mouse for my iPad, but my phone is much easier for me for whatever reason), and I absolutely love the freedom of having my work in my pocket, and easy to take anywhere. Depending on my mood and the weather, sometimes I’ll be at home to write, and sometimes I’ll write from a local coffee shop’s outdoor patio, as I still prefer not to have a mask off indoors where I can help it.
In all, a week in Los Angeles (home) tends to consist of workdays that are 3-4 hours long. I realize that isn’t much, but it’s what I can handle with the effort it takes to keep my depression and anxiety at bay.
When I am on travel, my days are longer and busier, since I balance the same writing and publishing schedule with actually doing things I’ll end up writing about. Few travel days are full morning-to-evening busy days, as I tend not to like those all that often. Rather I prefer to do something (see a site, visit a museum, interview someone, etc…) in the morning, then have an afternoon of “work.” I also like to set aside at least one or two days a week to just write and to relax, though I make it a point to get out of my hotel or Airbnb every day, weather permitting.
Once researched and outlined, an article will take me about an hour or two to fully write. Some flow well and are done faster. Others are more of a struggle and end up being deleted multiple times before a version comes out that I’m satisfied with. I don’t love every article I write; I have, however, learned to accept that some will just be ok in my mind, and those are sometimes more popular than the ones I’m more proud of. After a long and busy trip where I might write four or more articles per week, I can be upwards of a month or two ahead of my publishing schedule, which is a nice feeling, especially since some days my mental health isn’t conducive to writing at all, despite my having it on my calendar.
This life is certainly a change from my past existence. I’m 42 now, and living a bonus life since I’d never planned on being around to 40. There are days I feel productive, and feel like the work I do makes a small difference in the world. There are days I feel like I don’t do a thing in my life at all, and that I am a complete waste. (Mental illness is rough.) But I wake up satisfied to have another day, and with a small plan that makes that day largely matter to me, and I guess that’s what is most important. I do work hard, even if not nearly the number of hours that I used to. I take immense pride in the work I produce, though I am still sometimes overwhelmed thinking that random strangers want to read it.
So that is my life as a travel writer. I hope it helps give a small insight into me the person, as well as me the writer. And since you are along for this journey, I don’t mind sharing me the person with you.