3 things the pandemic taught me as a travel writer

As a travel writer for 16 years, I’ve traveled to 113 countries, stayed in over 650 hotels, and flown nearly 2 million air miles. I’ve written for every publication you can think of, from Conde Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure to Travel Weekly and American Way (American Airlines). My job is literally to travel, but like millions of Americans, I’ve been in quarantine, lockdown, and zooming for two years — and the pandemic has taught me a lot as a travel writer.

We all know Covid-19 has upended travel, but it’s had a significant impact on the writers who bring travel destinations to life in the stories you read. My 2-3 trips per month stayed at 0 for years.

Porto Rico

But there is a silver lining. Covid-19 allowed me to have a normal family life for once, and it also gave me clarity on issues I hadn’t seen if I had been auto-piloting my regular travels. This is one of the things the pandemic has taught me as a travel writer.

Also, side note: I ditched the iPad for the Fire tablet. A The 10″ Fire tablet is just $149, but it’s weird to make the switch. When I was at CNBC, I wrote a huge story about how I made the switch from iPhone to Samsung, and I loved it, so it’s crazy that I’m making this switch to non-Apple products ! In any event, here is the tablet if you want to see the features and the different sizes and prices.

Here are 3 things the pandemic has taught me as a travel writer

  1. Travel magazines have shown they can’t survive without freelance travel writers.

Hilton La Romana All Inclusive Resort Gay friendly

Travel magazines have been suffering for a few years. Many general-interest and lifestyle publications have emphasized travel in their editorials to provide competition, and the rise of travel bloggers and travel influencers has given travel magazines what to worry about. Ultimately, audiences no longer needed a travel magazine to tell them a destination was cool; readers learned from their peers.

Travel magazines have also shrunk, meaning they have less budget to pay travel writers – and Covid-19 has essentially ended any kind of freelance work for travel writers. This is because travel has been stopped for months. There was nowhere you could, nowhere you could write.

I was surprised that top travel publications were content to repost and recycle older stories during the early months of the pandemic, and that no staff writer wrote relevant, inspirational and educational content. . I was publishing informative and research-intensive content (a few examples below), while the major travel magazines were still writing about cool places to discover in Norway. Here are some examples.

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It just goes to show that freelance travel writers make travel magazine, not the other way around. I’m in the travel industry and have worked in magazines long enough to know that the staff of a travel magazine has less travel knowledge than you might think. They know how to research, they know how to edit press releases, and they know their audience, but these full-timers are behind a desk. They don’t travel. They don’t get to see the world as much as travel writers.

Dorado Beach, Puerto Rico

They are not on the ground talking to locals, finding the best secret restaurant, or entering hotels. They rely on travel writers to do this. Travel magazine staff rarely have the travel experience that brings their publications to life (I’ve known dozens of travel magazine staff who came from beauty or fashion backgrounds with no travel experience).

So when travel magazines cut off on travel writers, you can really see how that translates into their daily editorial, and that’s something the pandemic has taught me as a travel writer.

2. Some of the best places are right around the corner.

Fort Tilden Beach
Fort Tilden Beach NY

A travel writer has a strong desire to travel, to experience other cultures, to bring destinations to their readers, to see the world with a different lens. That’s why they became travel writers in the first place.

But during the pandemic, I learned that I didn’t have to go far to share an experience. Some of the best places were right around the corner from my house.

For the safety of others around me and myself, I haven’t flown or traveled outside of my city in almost a year, so I set out to see what’s up inside my bubble in New York. I’ve visited places like Domino Park in Williamsburg (the park caught the world’s attention as one of the first parks to draw white circles of social distancing in the grass). I checked out Fort Tilden beach just 30 minutes away. I’ve discovered some cool pizzerias that would rarely make it to glossy travel magazine lists, but rival the ones we’re talking about.

I was able to spend time in my own city and it helped me see places I normally wouldn’t have taken the time to visit. Of course, it inspired me to upgrade my shoes to be more comfortable, like these incredibly comfortable sneakers from Bloomingdales below.

3. There are good and bad destinations

chicago skyline

During Covid-19 many destinations were struggling to get back to normal, but some destinations went above and beyond to keep any potential visitors at bay. Places like Colorado wanted tourists to wait out Covid-19 until it was safe to travel again.

The New Yorker did a great report on destinations promoting “don’t come here” campaigns (they interviewed me to get my take on the trend).

It struck a chord with me. It was interesting to see which destinations were prioritizing public health over tourism dollars, and what leaders were doing to help reduce the spread of the virus to protect their communities (e.g. Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo has imposed a 14-day quarantine for all travelers coming to New York).

This story was originally published in December 2020.

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