New York Times on Travel Guidebook Work

Posted by Chika On 9:45 AM

A Happy Travel Writer

That's Brad running through the water in some warm, sunny place. Since it seems that most readers of this blog can't be bothered to click the links, I'll go ahead and give you a heads up about the recent story in the New York Times about the "trials and tribulations of being a travel writer." See, it fits right into my theme.

It's summer now, and countless travelers are fumbling their way around the globe, heads buried in guides published by Let's Go, Lonely Planet, Rough Guides and Frommer's among others. Probably few stop to consider what goes into producing travel guides or even who wrote them. And as it turns out, many of the intrepid young writers scouring the planet doing research for next year's crop of guidebooks never stopped to consider what those jobs would entail, other than the romantic — and often overstated — prospect of being paid to travel.

While the phrase "travel writing" may invoke thoughts of steamer trunks, trains, Isak Dinesen and Graham Greene, or at the very least, well-financed junkets to spas in Rangoon for some glossy magazine or other, writing budget travel guides is most decidedly yeoman's work. Most who do it quickly learn the one hard and fast rule of the trade: travel-guide writing is no vacation.

"Many underestimate exactly how much work goes into making a guide book," said Jay Cooke, an editor for Lonely Planet. "Some potential authors think it would be fun to travel and get paid for it. But they're expected to write tens of thousands of words. It's a big, big job, and it goes far beyond journal keeping on a beach somewhere."

Indeed a day in the life of a guide writer can be wearying. Amelia Atlas, a recent Harvard graduate who is now in Berlin researching a guide to that city for Let's Go, said that last Wednesday she set out early to case a new neighborhood, Prenzlauer Berg, for her Berlin guide. She visited three hostels and three restaurants before collecting the shopping and eating options around a particular square. She visited a section of the Berlin Wall that still stands, made notes about the historical displays there, and set about walking the neighborhood block by block to see what she might find. After a quick dinner, Ms. Atlas went to her apartment to write about the day's findings. Then she planned to go out to sample the night life. "Manic is a good word," she said.

New York Times Link

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