Am I living the dream? The truth about travel writing

This started out as an angry rant of sorts.

Because I started thinking about the past few weeks, and the horror of not having any travel plans for the first time in a year, and those eye-rolling reactions I get whenever I complain about my job(s). Those times when I get so infuriated, I have to restrain myself from stabbing someone in the eye with my lead pencil.

Because in the past few weeks, I’ve been bloody miserable. I’ve been going through the motions of post-trip depression, and questioning my career, and wondering how it could have possibly been 15 months since I was laid off from my job and “forced” into making this side gig thing a full-time, permanent role. And then I think about how in this world of travel writing there are no promotions, no bonuses, no raises. No pats on the back. My following has not grown as significantly as I would have liked because hey, in order to be a travel writer, you have to travel! And nobody gives a shit if you’re actually a good writer or not, as long as you’ve BEEN EVERYWHERE FIVE TIMES OVER and have the sort of following which could prove to be mutually beneficial!

So I don’t really know if I’ve “made” it. I’ve gone to bed hungry twice in the past two weeks and I cannot afford winter boots. You tell me.

Token tourist shot, in Lima.

Let me lay it out there. I chose this lifestyle. If I think I’m miserable right now, it was nothing compared to my lifestyle before. I’m making significantly less money, I have no job security and health insurance is eating my soul. I traded it all in for freedom, and despite everything, I love it.

I love that I can come and go as I please. I love that I’m offered trips around the globe and I can take them. I love that a few weeks ago I stood at Machu Picchu and this summer I drove across Canada. I love that my opinion matters to some people, and sharing my experiences strikes a chord in the heart of others. My whole life has been developed on the love of travel, literature, and writing, and so infusing all three just seems natural.

Proof I've always been a writer, just not much of an interior decorator.

But it’s not always easy.

Travel writing is work. Yes, it is work. These incredible press trips I’ve been taking require a great deal of writing, networking, meeting crazy deadlines, prioritizing other jobs to make room for a rigorous schedule, and being able to function on four hours of sleep a night. It is incredibly hard to stay motivated and inspired, and you have nothing to fall back on when things go wrong.

It takes a LONG time to get there. There are only a handful of people who have earned huge success upon immediately breaking out onto the travel blogging scene. I’m fortunately at the point in my career where most publications recognize me as a valuable writer, not just a blogger, but it’s taken over two years.

You will have to pave your own path. You absolutely cannot read a self-help e-book and expect your life to work out in the same way. Take that information, and build your own route.

There is no job security and print publications still offer the best rates. If you lack the business sense to be a self-publisher and run several websites at once, and if your focus is more on good writing than anything else, you probably don’t have much job security. Content mills don’t give a shit about you. They want link love and quick information, not in-depth research and meaningful insights. Print publications still offer the best rates for your work, but competition is cutthroat.

You will probably not earn much money, not for many years. Credibility and experience takes time. If you have debt, you’re fucked. The majority of my pay goes to paying back student loans and credit debt leftover from my full-time job. It’s enough to survive, but you can never be certain when that next pay cheque arrives and if you don’t have a safety net to bail you out in the meantime, it sucks. Hence the lack of food in my life. I am broke. Not living in poverty, but broke. And I don’t own a house, or a car, or any of those things which many “broke” people have. My life is worth a laptop computer, an external hard drive, a fancy camera and a 3-year old bed from Sears. My books are invaluable. Ironically, this lack of financial freedom attributed to my lifestyle freedom means I can’t do many of the things I want, like travel Greece long-term.

So when you say I’m “lucky” to be doing this, yes, I am. I’m taking the risks, I’m getting out there. I’ve come to realize how incredible the travel blogging community is, and how blessed I am for such an amazing group of friends and family who are always around to help bail me out of a jam. I can only hope that some day I’ll be in a better position to return the favour.

Some lovely people on my travels

But it wasn’t luck that got me to where I am right now, and saying so undermines my hard work and determination to beat the status quo. I’ve been told countless times in the past year to “get a job.” Would you give up your cushy careers, decorated homes, and pension plans for an uncertain future, sporadic pay cheques, and an office outfit consisting of pyjamas? For many of you, probably not.

Which is okay, actually. I may need your couch to crash on.

  • Candice

    That’s the plan, Christine. That’s the plan! Thanks for weighing in, so happy to hear other people find it as frustrating at times.

  • Candice

    Thanks! And I suppose in that sense, you’re right :)

  • Candice

    Thanks, JoAnna! Glad you’re a part of it!

  • Candice

    Hahaha, that reminds me of how I went from staying at the Pan Pacific one night and then a dingy hostel the next…ah,the disparities of travel writing!

  • Candice

    I’ve thought about quitting several times, but the support from this post has been fantastic. Thanks for adding a voice!

  • Candice

    DITTO to that! Thank god for you Matador folks. You’re like my family these days.

  • Candice

    I’d LOVE to crash on your couch…I hear you have warm weather! Haha.

  • Candice

    Thanks, Alouise! :) Thank god for good friends with stocked fridges.

  • Dalene

    Hi. I just really like you a whole lot.

    We gotta have the downs to have the ups….and you just gotta keep trusting it will allll happen (at least, that is what I have to keep telling myself!) When it all turns around, promise me a post with just pictures of the 10 stylish pairs of winter boots you own, k?

  • Candice

    I think you’re swell too! Awww.

    I shall buy some boots this week. yes, it will happen.

  • NLM

    Candice–hang in there, girl. And if worst comes to worst, you can always get a meal at the hotels that have free breakfast, lol.

  • Candice

    Hahah, I’ve often joked about how press trips are my only source of food these days. Thanks!

  • Luke Armstrong

    Hey Candice,

    Great post… I sense myself one day following a similar path, so it’s good to get a reality check re: what that might actually mean…

    PS… if you ever need a couch to crash on in Guatemala… I have an extra bedroom and a cat that has never murdered any of my house guests in the night….

  • Candice

    Oh Luke, you should know better than to suggest your couch. I’m moving in!

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  • http://secondstorybuenosaires Kate

    Well said, Candice. I hope things improve here for you shortly and that the funk passes. You rock.

  • Anis Salvesen

    What a moving post – wow! I didn’t realize until I started ‘stalking’ travel writers on their blogs what it takes to be one. I really admire the hard work and commitment and passion that keep you going. As an avid reader of travel writing, I am grateful.
    – And you can crash on our couch any time you are in the Bay Area. :)

  • Candice

    Oh no, Anis! You might regret that offer. 😉 Hehe, just kidding. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Candice

    Hey, thanks Kate! I just need to get on the road again, and then perhaps I’ll be fine. 😉

  • Rachel Martin

    Hi Candice

    Really loved your post. I’m about to set off travelling next year, both promoting a website my boyfriend and I started last year and to enjoy the thrill of exploring a new country. We run a house sitting website which i think may be ‘up your street’ in terms of its a great way to travel for extended periods of time, staying in luxury accommodation for free. It offers the opportunity to live like a local rather than a tourist. We believe in living the lifestyle we are promoting 😉

    Do email me if you want more info. Your post really moved me, so i’d love to offer you a free trial membership, to create a profile if the sound of house sitting is interesting to you.

    Either way best of luck in everything, I’m looking forward to reading more of your work whilst on the road. Thanks, Rachel

  • Georgette Jupe

    loved your post and thanks for telling it how it is. I have often wondered how travel bloggers survived and sometimes it does look a little ‘too good to be true’, and is it something that can be done…. forever? Great writing and love your site!

  • Alexandra Shiels

    I love, love, LOVE this site. Thank you so much for this. I’m conflicted because I’m currently working in finance but writing is my true calling. I’m trying to figure out my next steps and reading honest, funny, well-written stuff like this helps me tremendously. Keep on rockin’ with your bad self! 😀

  • Candice Walsh

    Comment of the month, Alexandra! Your words make me happy. :) Glad I could be a bit of inspiration. And the first step to answering that writing call is to start WRITING! Everywhere. All the time. About everything. Start with the theme: Why is the sky green? (It’s not. That’s beside the point.)

  • Candice Walsh

    It’s hard to predict what will happen, but it’s pretty clear these days that jobs can be quite untraditional! I’m hoping this type of career path will lead to higher paying gigs, better writing opportunities, and hey, maybe a book deal or two. Who knows?

  • Alexandre Ploye-Evans

    Yes! Inspiring! I think I will be like you one day except poorer

  • Just One Boomer (Suzanne)

    I’ve been serious and “responsible” all my life—-college, law school, husband, 2 sons, house in the suburbs—-checked all those boxes. But, back in the day when we used to write letters, I wrote lots of them. People would tell me, “You should be a writer.” Now, I’m an empty nester, doing less and less legal work and more and more non-legal writing.

    For someone like me, the partial demise of the hard copy print world is a boon as the internet is much more democratic, with fewer gatekeepers. While I’m light years from having a “successful” blog, more people are reading my writing than would have been in the “good old days.” I admit that I find it irksome if my husband refers to my blog as a “hobby”, but the truth is that I don’t have to support myself with my writing and I enjoy it—is that perhaps the definition of a hobby?

    As a Baby Boomer, I was raised by a mother who suffered during the Depression.Something of her fear was transmitted, so that I probably had to live my life in a traditional order. However, the seeds of Wanderlust were also sown. My father took us to live in Mexico for a year when I was 9 and he was an exchange teacher in England when I was 15-16. My parents encouraged me to study abroad in college and I did a semester in Bogata, Colombia. I didn’t know anyone else who left the US to study.Now, I’m free to accompany my husband on work trips and now that he’s a senior physician-scientist, he has been invited all over the which partially subsidizes our travel.

    I admire those of you who are fearless or able to conquer your fears so that you can set out to live your lives and work off the traditional script. Actually, we raised one of you. Our older son (28) has a salaried job, a house and is engaged to be married. Our 25 year old is what I call, a self employed “slasher”. He is a travel blogger/promotional marketer/web content writer. He is just back from 2 months in Asia.

    My advice is to do what feels right for your persona. Recognize that it’s likely that might change over time. But, whatever you do to provide food and shelter—Write On!!


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  • Alexandra Shiels

    Thanks! I’m five months late on this but I’ve been writing a lot more, so thanks for the advice :)

  • Steve Moakley

    Love your honesty and openness, Candice. Just discovered you and I’m really enjoying your work. As a freelance photographer who has ‘tried’ in the past to make those office jobs stick, I can relate exactly to how you feel (at least in this old post). Can’t wait to read some more recent ones to see how things have turned out!

  • Candice Walsh

    Thanks, Steve! My first FULL year of freelance was incredibly successful. However, taxes suck. Haha.

  • Candice Walsh

    Thanks, Steve! My first FULL year of freelance was incredibly successful. However, taxes suck. Haha.

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