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Travel Writing: An Intern’s Experiences

Hannah Ricketts in Thailand

A keen traveller – Hannah explores the delights of Khao San Road in Bangkok

It may not have been as thrilling as backpacking in Thailand, but Hannah Ricketts’ travel mag work experience was still eye-opening…

If you like to write and like to travel, you have probably asked yourself – will anyone pay me to take a holiday and write an exciting article about it?

I somehow managed to charm my way into getting a two-week placement at Rough Guides, one of the most renowned travel guide publishers (and by ‘charm’ I mean, repeatedly sent them e-mails until they realised that I wouldn’t go away). I will tell you right now, this work experience was worth my harassing.

Everyone was so quirky and interesting. The men all had full and bountiful beards and no one was wearing a suit. Everyone had been to Mumbai, Lima, Paris or Berlin. There was a table where people would just leave snacks for anyone to enjoy. This, I thought to myself, was the type of snacky/beardy/travelly vibe that I would love to be involved with.

Granted, it was mainly admin stuff that they let me do; there was an abundance of checking for spelling mistakes and sorting out filing cupboards, but I didn’t mind. I never expected to be sent to Zambia in the brief two weeks I was there.

I did however get the chance to go out and take a few photos for the London guide, as well as being able to sit in on a conference call with their American office to decide on the front cover for some of the new issues.

Despite how busy everyone seemed to be, the editors took the time to answer the sack-load of questions I had about how to get into travel writing.

I met a lovely guy called Bearded-Neil (to his face he was just Neil) whom I subjected to a barrage of countless e-mails beginning with “Hey Neil, I have another question”.

He was extremely helpful, telling me he had done a French degree and started out selling publishing rights of DK books (which owns Rough Guides) to French publishing houses. From there, he got a job as a writer, going on updating trips for their “budget series” in Europe, South America and Central america.

After several years of this, he heard of an opening as one of the Rough Guide editors. Since editing for the Guide, he’s had the chance to go on updating trips to the likes of Panama, Bolivia, Honduras, France and Turkey for the new editions. It was great to learn from Neil that there is really no set route into the travel writing business.

From my short but wonderful experience at Rough Guides I realised that, although it might be difficult, it is not impossible to make a career out of travel writing.

I understand now that it is important to remain open and have more than one career goal – as travel writing is viciously competitive as everyone wants to go on holiday for a living – but it isn’t too far fetched to dream of combining all of the wonderful things that you would love to do in life and make it into an actual career.

Do you have experiences of travel writing that you would like to share? Get in touch with us on Twitter @Journograds and ‘like’ us on Facebook if so!

Making The Most Of Your Time At Uni

Working hard at uni

Film and travel writer Amy Labbadia recalls her time at university and explains how aspiring journalists should take advantage of the experience…

Going to university can be one of the most important, rewarding, terrifying and expensive decisions you ever make. That’s why it’s important to make the most of your time there, to make those three years count.

Of course studying hard is the staple to success and should never be underestimated or overlooked, but a healthy social life should not be discounted either.

Although the stereotype of students partying and sleeping every day is somewhat accurate (in certain circles anyway), it does have its merits.

Without socialising and mingling, I would never have landed several journalism opportunities, which only became available to me by meeting other local journalists and writers.

My first interview with a well known novelist came about because I was “a friend of a friend.” Sometimes a stroke of luck is all you need – being in the right place at the right time – but often enough if you put yourself out there and make acquaintances, chances are they’ll eventually do you a favour.

So, that’s my first piece of practical advice: get out there. Make some friends. Secondly, write, and write well. You should aim to write every single day, whether it’s thirty thousand words or one. Doing this will keep you active, keen, and tone your writing muscle.

As you gain experience writing regularly, try and interact with your university’s student newspaper or magazine (most, if not all, have one) and see if they’ll publish one of your articles.

Not only is this a great start, but you’d be surprised at how many people read those student papers. A lot of universities host writing competitions – enter them! Even if you don’t win any, it’s still good experience for receiving and handling rejection.

Trust me, there will be a lot of that before you get your first break.

Thirdly, make use of your university’s resources; the library, the computers, and especially your lecturers and mentors.

They are a well of knowledge, and have years of experience in the industry. They’ll be able to advise and help you along the way, and put you in touch with other writers and journalists.

Since graduating, I’ve kept in touch with most of my lecturers and always go to them when I require advice; if you maintain a healthy relationship with them, they’ll always be there to lend you a helping hand. And, perhaps most importantly, they’ll offer you honesty.

It’s always nice to be told your writing is good, but it’s more important and crucial to be given constructive criticism – and that’s where your lecturers will be most useful.

Amy Labbadia is a freelance writer. She graduated from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge with a degree in Film and Writing and has since gone on to write for several travel and film websites

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