How I Became a Travel Writer
Let’s start where the adventures really began.
Which will magically lead into my jaw-dropper about Accidentally Not Moving to Thailand.
The truth is my journey to becoming a travel writer was very smooth, natural, and a little bit lucky.
I always wrote. As a child in the 80s, I made handwritten books on coloured paper, drew the pictures, distributed them to friends.
Dad was a printer and he’d come home from night shift, smelling like ink, and armed with magazines that “fell off the back of the press”. Pop music mags like Smash Hits, teen girl bibles like Dolly. I’d read them cover to cover, month after month. I swear I could’ve been an editor at 10.
Instead I chose the long way. Went to university, got the degree, scored a job on the local paper, but soon left to go backpacking in Europe.
Backpacker in London
By the late 90s, age 24, I was settled in London, writing for The Times.
How? I simply emailed a section editor with an irresistible idea, and he kept commissioning me. No secret sauce recipe!
One of my favourite UK gigs was a column in The Independent called ‘Someone’s Got To Do It’, where I interviewed people in the travel industry, such as the guy whose job was to taste the airline food for British Airways.
When I came back to Sydney in 2000, I knew I wanted to get into travel writing.
The universe delivered, again. One day I met a couple of guys, Allan and Aaron, who were planning to drive around Australia...
The first travel blog in Australia
Two weeks later, we were on the road.
It was more than a holiday and less sexier than #vanlife. We wanted to use our skills — writing, photography, IT — to launch new careers.
Long before blogging existed, we set up a website called Mad Nomads, and did a deal with Britz for three months of free motorhome hire in return for brochure photos of the vehicles in beautiful locations.
Down the NSW coast to Tasmania, across Victoria and South Australia, and up the ‘Red Centre’ to the Northern Territory, I drove and posed.
Every night, we camped under millions of stars in the middle of many nowheres.
Along the way, we posted about the people we met; in particular, sharing the stories of older Australians. Local radio stations interviewed us. Strangers invited us to park on their properties or come to a barbecue. Absolutely brilliant.
Magazines and newspapers
Our last stop was Kununurra, on the edge of the Kimberley. After staying at El Questro, I sold articles to RM Williams’ Outback and Get Up & Go for the over-50s, which later hired me as the editor (pretty funny for a girl in her 20s).
Honestly, I thought it would take a decade to reach this point, but it kicked off in less than a year.
After that, it snowballed. I freelanced for The Sunday Telegraph, Sun-Herald and dozens of magazines. I had a two-page column, The Solo Traveller, in Escape, and more recently, The Cruise Tourist, in The Australian.
Eventually, I was making six figures from freelance travel writing, and was twice named Best Travel Writer at the National Travel Industry Awards.
The cruisey life
The past decade has been devoted to cruising — ocean, river and expeditions — including my first full-time job since I was 21, as the Australia-based managing editor of TripAdvisor’s Cruise Critic site. After five years, in 2020, the role was made redundant. I was free again!
I still have the Facebook group, Cruisey Life, which anyone can join and ask me questions.
But back to the road trip…
Because that’s where I split ways with Aaron and Allan, my two rhyming men, and met a new one — within the first minute of arriving in Darwin.
And he’s the reason I almost moved to Thailand, but somehow ended up in a rhyming country.
Read WTF happened here.
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