Guidebooks, restaurant reviews, advice for backpacking and luxury vacations alike…to most people, this is what springs to mind under the travel writing umbrella. And, of course, the notorious narratives by Paul Theroux, Bruce Chatwin, and other famous travel authors. Educational travel writing, however, is a niche that fewer people are familiar with.
What is educational travel writing?
Essentially, educational travel writing deals with a learning experience overseas. This can include studying, volunteering, working or interning abroad. But really, an educational travel piece doesn’t have to be tied to a university or organized program. If you recently visited a foreign country and learned something, you could write about that, too.
How does one break into educational travel writing?
As with almost every other kind of writing, having first-hand experience of the topic goes a long way. Not only will it help, but sometimes it is required. Thus, if you haven’t been abroad and learned something, it will be more difficult to break in.
However, chances are that regardless of where, with whom, and how you traveled, you probably learned something. It might not be evident right away, but if you reflect a little, you are bound to come up with a little scrap of enlightenment that you experienced as a result of visiting foreign lands. Whether or not that little scrap is worth an entire article can be up for debate. The key is finding something you learned that others would want to read about – and pay you for.
What kinds of outlets publish educational travel writing? And how much do they pay?
Educational travel writing can take two forms: non-fiction and fiction. The former is more common. For example, it can take the form of a first-hand report, such as the Study Abroad Student Participant Reports solicited by TransitionsAbroad.com. Here, participants who have returned from a program abroad evaluate its advantages and disadvantages. An informational sidebar helps readers should they want to plan a similar trip overseas. TransitionsAbroad.com currently pays $100 per article, and hosts three annual writing contests: (1) Student Writing, (2) Narrative Writing and (3) Expatriate Writing. In each category, the winner receives $500. You can find the entire set of guidelines here.
When the print version of Transitions Abroad folded in 2008, the subscriber list was sent to Verge Magazine for fulfillment. Thus, the content of both publications is rather similar. Based in Canada, Verge accepts submissions for their online and print versions. First-time contributors are paid a rate of $0.10 (CAD) per word, and guidelines are available here(PDF).
Recently, the magazine also launched Verge Storyboard. Here, a series of story ideas are posted online, and each week a winning entry is chosen. While these submissions remain unpaid, they are a great way to get on the editors’ radar. My own winning entry on the “Best Street Foods for Vegetarians” ended up paving the way for contact with Verge’s Editor-in-Chief about a paid submission. Consider following Verge on Twitter (@vergemagazine), as they frequently solicit articles on specific topics here.
Matador Abroad and Matador Change are two further publications that accept educational travel pieces at $25 each. While the former focuses on learning experiences abroad, the latter is geared more towards volunteer and nonprofit work (hence the word “change”). Be sure to specify the section when you submit your article. Guidelines for both can be found here: http://matadornetwork.com/contributors/
Finally, it is possible to pitch an educational travel piece to a publication that might not normally be part of this particular niche. For example, you could write about a learning experience abroad from a female perspective, and submit it to a women’s magazine. Or, think about what you learned on a recent family trip, and tailor it to your favorite parenting publication. Of course, always adhere to conventional pitching etiquette.
Learn more about Isabel Eva Bohrer at http://www.isabelevabohrer.com.