Life as a Traveling Writer

Travel writers are a dime a dozen. Well, okay, maybe not *that* common. But when someone says they’re a travel writer, they usually don’t have to explain what it means, especially now with so many cable TV channels and hundreds of magazines devoted to travel. Travel writer implies they travel to various locations to write about it for magazines, books, and guidebooks. They get photos, interview interesting people, and make note of important details. The destination is the thing.

I’m not one of those writers. Nope, I’m a traveling writer. It’s a very different thing. Let me explain.


When my husband and I tell people we travel full-time, that we’re full-time RVers, to be specific, we get a lot of puzzled looks. And when we tell them we sold our house, bought an RV to live in the RV while we travel the continent, they say things like, “That sounds awesome” and “I want to do that someday.”

When we planned for this phase of our lives, I was already a published author, former fiction editor for a national magazine, and was looking forward to leaving my day job so I could focus more of my time on my writing. Travel writing seemed like the perfect fit. I bought books and read every article I could find on what it means to be a travel writer. Restaurant reviews. Destination pieces. Interviewing the locals.


I practiced with our blog, Bob and Ellen’s Great RV Adventure. And now, more than seven years later, that’s still the extent of my travel writing: the blog. I haven’t even drafted a conventional travel piece for a magazine, Web site, or guide book. Somewhere along the way, I realized a couple of things: most travel publications weren’t interested in the quiet, out-of-the-way places we preferred to visit and if they were — why invite crowds of people, ruining what made the town or restaurant so special?


Besides, my heart has always been loyal to its first love: fiction. Being on the road has given me more characters, plots, settings, and possibilities than I could ever have dreamed up sitting in a house for years and years.


My first novel in many years, Pea Body, grew out of a visit to Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. If we hadn’t traveled there, the idea would never have struck. If we hadn’t traveled there in an RV, essential details of the novel would have been completely different — so different I can’t even imagine it having the same soul.

My travel and writing are now so tightly wrapped around each other, separating them would be like severing conjoined twins: possible but tricky.

So we ramble the highways and byways, and I blog, and jot notes, but forget to scribble them down sometimes, and still have to practice a form of Zen self-hypnosis to lull myself to sleep. Otherwise the noise of those ideas would keep me awake longer than any refrigerator truck idling next to us in a rest area where we’ve stopped for a night, or the noisy folks around a fire in a campfire somewhere else.

Wherever you are, ideas are coming at you. Pay attention. Reach out. Grab a few. Tuck them into your pocket. Save them for those rainy, writer’s block days when you can pull them out like rays of sunshine.

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