January 11, 2017
My name is Kelly and I’m a nomadic online travelling writer from Canada. I write a range of travel-related content on a freelance basis, including blogs, articles, guide books, eBooks, promotional travel content, website content and much more. I also run my own travel blog, which brings in a bit of income via sponsored posts and advertising.
I do all of this while travelling full time around the world with my boyfriend Lee, a web designer from Lancashire, England. We don’t own a house or much stuff. Aside from a few items in storage, everything we own fits in our backpacks. We travel quite slowly and take our time, exploring as much of our destination as we can. So far we’ve covered over 45 countries in South America, Southeast Asia, Europe, North America and Oceania and we don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
There is no such thing as a typical day for me, as my schedule is very flexible and every couple of weeks I’m in a different destination. However, on a workday I like to start as early as possible, as I am a morning person and my most productive hours are right after I wake up. I’ll get up around 6:30-7:30am, drink some coffee, eat fruit and yogurt and then get to work – whether it’s in a hammock in the Amazon jungle, a cafe in Berlin or a hostel in Argentina.
First, I work on my blog for at least half an hour every morning, writing and publishing blog posts and promoting them on social media. Then, I’ll crack on with my client work. Depending on what I’m working on currently I could be editing an eBook, writing a series of blogs or researching information for a travel guide. I’ll also spend some time scouting for new work, applying for jobs on websites such as Upwork and PeoplePerHour and emailing back and forth with clients.
I try to be finished by early to mid afternoon, so that I have lots of time to go explore. What I do in my free time depends on what country I am in. I’ll usually go for a walk or run somewhere scenic, check out the local museum or gallery or go shopping at a local market. On my days off Lee and I will usually go sightseeing or go on a day tour to one of the nearby attractions. Also, there are the odd days every week or two when we are in transit, such as on a long bus ride. Those can be good opportunities to get writing work done with no distractions – as long as my laptop battery lasts!
The best part of my job is pretty obvious. I’m writing this from Sydney, Australia in December and this year I enjoyed a Christmas barbeque in the sunshine. A few weeks ago I was surfing in Byron Bay and a few weeks before that I was snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. A few months ago I was chilling out in Thailand, riding bikes around the temples of Bagan in Myanmar and participating in the Holi Festival in India. I’m so grateful for the freedom that this job gives me and for the incredible amount of travel experiences it has allowed me to have. I’ve been to over 45 countries in the past 6 years and managed to check off so many experiences from my bucket list.
Another aspect I love about this job is the amount of creative control it allows me. Sure, in the beginning I had to take on any writing job I could get just to establish myself as a travelling writer. But now that I have done so I can be more selective about the projects I take on. I also love being able to write for my own blog and share my stories and thoughts with the world.
Managing a freelance job is difficult enough – the flow of work always fluctuates, often deadlines pile on top of each other and some clients can be fickle and frustrating. However, trying to be a freelance travelling writer while navigating the world adds another layer of potential problems on top of this. I’ve had to deal with a huge range of issues, including power outages, long bus rides, poor local Wi-Fi, time-zone mismatches and food poisoning.
Those issues don’t really bother me that much though. The thing that annoys me the most is when other travellers look at me with pity when they see me tapping away on my laptop in the hostel or guesthouse. Rather than assuming that I’m a writer who uses the world as her office, they often assume I’m wasting my holiday messing about on Facebook. They say things like, “You’re still on that computer? Why don’t you go out and have some fun?”
I will do when I’m finished, thank you very much, but this is my full time job and right now I have a deadline and I’m happily working away on an article. I’m in no rush to see it all. After all, travel isn’t something that happens once a year during my two week holiday – it’s my life.
Whether you are writing a brochure for a tour company, a section for a guide book or a personal travel essay, one of the most important elements is the ability to make the reader imagine themselves in the destination you are describing. To do that well you need to go beyond the cliché descriptions of “white sand beaches” and “quaint villages.” Use all of the senses and focus on the concrete details that make the place unique.
For example, if I were to describe Khao San Road in Thailand I’d focus on the smell of sizzling street meat and Pad Thai noodles in the humid air; the shouts of the tuk-tuk drivers; the off-key singing of drunk backpackers gathered around sticky plastic tables; the whump-whump of the music from the bars; the flashing neon signs and the chirping sound of the little wooden frogs sold by street vendors. These little details are specific and together they paint a picture of a specific place.
The first and most obvious step is to travel as much as humanly possible. You will need to see as much of this glorious and bizarre world as you can, so that you can enhance your writing with knowledge and experience.
Secondly, I would recommend starting a travel blog. Lee and I have been running our blog, Global Goose, for several years and it chronicles our travels as well as offers tips and advice for long term travel, working holidays, traveling and visiting many destinations around the world.
The blog serves as a fantastic portfolio for me and I’m sure the amount of travel writing jobs I get is vastly increased as soon as potential clients see it. It showcases my travelling writer skills as well as demonstrates the extent of my travel experience. It’s hard at first when you are building up your portfolio, but if you work hard and continue to promote yourself in the travel niche you can make it work. Trust me, the freedom and the adventures you will have when working on the road are totally worth the hard work!