How I became a travel writer – in the Galapagos

That's me, working really hard.

I’m a professional travel writer! Not just here, from now on you can read about my adventures in the Galapagos on the official Red Mangrove Galapagos & Ecuador Lodges company blog.  How did that happen? Is someone actually willing to pay me snorkel with sea lions, SCUBA dive, and stay in a really beautiful eco-resort? OK, I suppose I spend more time writing than I did actually traveling, but still. This means…

  • Somebody thinks I write real good! Errr…well.
  • It’s not just my mom and dad who read my blog!
  • It is really possible to pay the rent doing what you love (in my case, traveling, living abroad, photography, and writing)
That's me, working really hard.

That’s me, working really hard.

How to travel blog

Here’s my tongue-in-cheek guide to how to do what I did, although I think it’s really a matter of being prepared and ready should a lucky opportunity come knocking.

Step 0 – Writing from a cube in corporate America

I never thought I would be a travel blogger seriously. My last jobs entailed writing really fun things like….

  • A user guide on how to operate a thermal cycler (a specialized type of lab equipment that replicates DNA samples for research)
  • Guides and training for sales representatives so that they could know, specification for specification, why our lab widget X was better than lab widget Y.
  • Pages of product requirements for a software which is used to create computational models of blood flow. Huh?

I learned very little about creative writing, and less about blogging. I needed to do this independently!

Step 1 – Learn Photography

One thing I did learn in San Francisco was how to take better photographs. I spent a small fortune on a dSLR camera and some good lenses, and another small fortune on photography classes from a local studio. I also joined the local photography club here in Cuenca (which meets a couple times a month and has talks on various photography topics). However, I give 99% of the credit for teaching me photography to my teacher in San Francisco.

Step 2 – Start Blogging independently

After moving to Ecuador, I started a couple websites, with my main goals to learn new skills – specifically blogging, WordPress development, SEO, and writing. This actually could have been step 1 – there’s nothing to say you can’t start learning writing and SEO before you step up your professionalism with the photography.

  • My first blog was this website. www.cuencacultureshock.com.
  • My salsa dance website is for self-promotional purposes. www.salsacuenca.com.
  • I built a completely non-sequitur website about orthodontics, to see what the experience would be building a website solely based on keyword research (i.e. a topic with high commerciability). www.clearbraceshq.com.

Step 3 – Step up your SEO game

I started reading up on SEO and how to make money from the internet. My goal at this point was to monetize one of my own websites in the future. At the recommendation of a friend of mine (who does SEO for a huge company – macys.com), I started following these websites about SEO and making money online:

Step 4 – E-network and Backlink

I started reading other popular Ecuador blogs, commenting occasionally. I submitted my blog to all the expat blog directories I could find. I submitted my first guest post ever, as an expat profile on www.gringosabroad.com

Step 5 – Knock on wood

I really never applied for a job as a travel writer. The company contacted me, having already read some of what I wrote. They had found my blog through personal recommendation. But if  I hadn’t been prepared – i.e. already have built this blog and the other websites, nothing would have happened. Success = preparation + luck.

You can read more about my Galapagos adventures on the Red Mangrove company blog. And of course continue reading about my mainland Ecuador and Cuenca adventures here on Cuenca Culture Shock.

 

 

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