As someone who has been traveling around the globe since before I can remember, I have always dreamed of being a travel writer. While I would often blog about my trips to my friends and family, write about my trips for school papers, and create websites and content for (unpaid) internships, I never realized that travel writing was something that normal people could actually make a living out of.
Matador has always been one of my favorite travel websites, so when I saw that they were offering a MatadorU travel writing course, I became interested. I did a bit of research, read reviews and feedback from other students, contacted the instructors, and, after deciding it sounded worthwhile, signed up. Plus, I liked the fact that they allow you to try the course for a week for $10 to see if you like it, risk free.The total for the course is $350 which gives students access to various lessons, resources, and support forums. With all the course offers, I can honestly say it is the cheapest yet most worthwhile course I have ever taken. Before even get started, there is a pre-course that helps you setup your blog and learn what steps to take to get the most out of the course. After that, there are 12 weekly chapters (although, you are allowed to take as much time as you need to complete them), each with key terms, lessons, examples to make the lessons clear, and assignments that are critiqued. Unlike many of the assignments that I completed in school, what is great about MatadorU’s assignments is that each one becomes content to help build your blog. There are also assignments that help you create photo essays, podcasts, portfolios, and advertising pages to help monetize your site. Some other important lessons learned from MatadorU include:
- creating successful pitches
- finding and approaching editors
- crafting compelling beginnings, middles, and ends to your story
- creating characters and dialogue
- writing in different tenses and using all of the five senses
- writing different types of articles, for example, destination pieces vs. reviews
- crafting a successful bio
- how to apply for press trips and etiquette to abide by if you are chosen
- tips for successful freelancing
- tips for travel writing full time (for example, how to get insurance)
- how to successfully use social media as a travel writer
- how to work on the road
And much more (seriously, that isn’t even half of what they cover). Really, though, if there isn’t something covered, you are free to seek help by contacting the instructors or posting in the community forums where your peers, as well as staff, comment. The forums are not only a great place to learn and get advice about travel writing, but are also helpful in creating contacts, finding potential project leads, finding out about writing contests and jobs, and allowing you to talk to like-minded people in your niche.
By the time I had reached Chapter 3, I had not only begun contacting editors and sending pitches, I had started making money. My first article that I successfully pitched and sold was for an online adventure travel magazine about hiking in New York. While they normally didn’t pay for articles, they liked my idea so much they gave me $50 to create a mini-hiking guide for them. While this isn’t a ton of money, just starting out, I was pretty excited, especially since for years I had been writing for websites that didn’t pay me a dime. It also gave me the drive to really put all of my efforts into the MatadorU course and get the most out of it, giving me the confidence to pursue higher paying avenues (many times, successfully!).
Aside for the immense amount of information they give you and the feeling of a strong support system, there were two things about this course that really made me feel like it was worthwhile. The instructor in charge of the course, Julie, is the most helpful teacher I have ever had. I was always amazed at how much thought she put into giving me feedback on my assignments and my endless questions and e-mails. She has taken the time to Skype with me about future steps in my travel writing career and has even set me up with some networking projects. I am not sure how she finds the time to give each student so much attention, especially since she is a travel writer herself, but she does.
The other factor that has really made me a fan of MatadorU is all of the resources that I have, and always will have, access to. Just the Magazine List alone, with publication information, submission guidelines, and editor contacts for over 100 travel-related magazines, was worth the cost of the class. There are also pro-modules that are helpful to alumni, as well as a Market Blog that posts press trips, job leads (I have actually gotten paying assignments and jobs from this), and a weekly Writing Lab where you can have any piece of writing you wish to submit critiqued.
So what did I get out of the course? A lot. By taking this course I have not only helped enhance my writing, researching, note-taking, social media, and blogging skills, but have also seen that it’s actually possible to be paid to do what I love most, travel.