The five questions travel writers always get asked

It's not that I'm sick of being asked these questions. It's completely understandable. There are certain things everyone wants to know about any profession. I always ask my engineer mates, "So, what do you actually build?" And my finance friends, "So, what do you actually do?"

Usually, when people meet travel writers, they ask these questions. And these are my answers.

What's your favourite destination?

Argh! I don't know! Berlin? Buenos Aires? Tokyo? San Sebastian? Somewhere in East Africa? Peru? Canada? This is such a hard question to answer. It's like choosing your favourite child, assuming you had about 500 children who all spoke different languages and had unique talents. I wish there was just one place that I could definitively name, somewhere I knew would always be my favourite, somewhere so much better than everywhere else that I'd only ever need to travel there and know I'd be completely satisfied. But there isn't. If there was such a place I'd probably be living in it.

The truth is that there are so many amazing destinations with so many different attractions. I love beaches, but I also love mountains. I want to go scuba-diving, but then I want to go snowboarding. I love being submerged in a huge city, but then I crave wide-open spaces. I want fine-dining – but then I want food from the streets. So the answer to this is that there is no good answer. Sorry.

Do you ever get sick of travelling?

Yes. Sometimes. I think you'd have to be some sort of jet-lag-proof, long-queue-loving, security-line-fancying, iron-stomached, backpack-lugging, indefatigable superhuman to never get sick of travelling. Usually I love it, but every so often, it sucks.

It sucks when you're lying in some average hotel room far away from everyone you know while fighting your third case of gastro in a fortnight. It sucks when you miss a wedding or a birthday party or just something fun back home. It sucks when you want a home-cooked meal. It sucks when you've been ripped off for the thousandth time. And it sucks when you realise that you can never complain about any of this stuff when you're back home because No. One. Cares.

Have you ever been somewhere that was so bad that you couldn't write about it?


Never. I've found you have to work extremely hard to have a bad time while you're overseas (though some people manage it). Most places are pretty amazing, and even if they're not perfect, you can usually find something positive to take out of the experience. 

I've been on plenty of trips where things have gone wrong, but those are the ones that make the best stories (case in point: Bangladesh). I may not make them into a nice feature for, but there's always somewhere you can use tales like these (case in point: this column).

What does your girlfriend think of you travelling all the time?

The answer to that would probably lie in the fact that I don't have one right now. A life of constant travel is good for many things, but maintaining a steady relationship maybe isn't one of them. I've actually been lucky to have a few very patient, supportive long-term partners during my time as a travel writer, but it still puts a massive strain on things.

"But you can just pretend I'm in the army!" I've said. "Soldiers have to go away all the time! Or what if I was a fly-in, fly-out miner?" Both fantastic points that don't mean anything in the grand scheme of things, not least because those are serious professions that their practitioners probably don't enjoy doing while they're being forced to spend time away from their families. I, meanwhile, am basically being sent on free holidays. Completely understandably, the ones who are left at home don't really dig that after a while.

So… You actually get paid to travel? How do I steal your job?

I don't technically get paid to travel: I get paid to write stories about travel. The actual travel is something I have to take care of myself. Granted, there are often wonderful companies and organisations around the world who will help facilitate that travel, because it's pretty much impossible to make a living out of this if you're paying for everything yourself. So I might not get paid to travel, but I get some of my travel paid for. That's nothing to complain about.

If you want my job, you'll need a blend of luck, persistence, luck, skill, and luck. Did I mention luck? You need to be in the right place at the right time. You need to know a few of the right people. You need to realistically want to be travelling all of the time. Mostly, however, you need to just get writing. If you want to be a travel writer but you've never written any travel stories, you're probably not really on your way. Start a blog; send your stories to friends. Their feedback – or lack thereof – will very quickly tell you if you're onto something.