Yep. That’s right. For those who have passion for travel and a desire to work at it, the ability to be paid to travel around the world is closer than you think. If you’re interested, let me tell you about a little class I’m involved in by the name of MatadorU. As I write this, the first rays of sun are just starting to appear on the tops of the clouds visible from the window of Cathay Airlines seat 63K. I’m on a 14 hour flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong, final destination Kathmandu. Most people groan at the idea of being in the air for 19 hours, but for me, it’s a total blessing. With articles due for 6 different outlets you could say I’m a little busy right now and could use the time to sit and work. It wasn’t more than four months ago that I was a mediocre-at-best travel blogger with exactly zero steady outlets and no expectations whatsoever of being whisked off to Nepal.
That’s when I decided to enroll in MatadorU. Now, my itinerary is starting to look like the one I’ve always dreamed of. Granted, there was a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work along the way, but as an old mentor of mine would constantly remind, luck is simply when preparation meets opportunity. With this in mind, there are few things that someone who wants to be a serious travel writer can do to better prepare themselves than by enrolling in the MatadorU travel writing course, and now, I am being rewarded with a dizzying array of opportunities. So, here’s how the course works, what it’s done for me, and how it can work for you. Already having won a highly esteemed Lowell Thomas Award for travel journalism in only its first couple of years, the MatadorU travel writing program is part of the greater Matador online travel network that’s comprised of multiple online travel blogs and a passionate, burgeoning travel community with thousands of members and counting. Tuition for the course runs $350 for a 12 week curriculum which you can move through at your own speed, with resources at your disposal that are laughingly beneficial when considering the overall sum. Put proper effort into the course as well as into your own writing, and the tuition should pay for itself multiple times over. Case in point: round trip flight to Nepal to participate in a 13 day trek through the Annapurna Circuit with Gecko’s Travel and Adventure Center, arranged by applying for the press trip as a MatadorU student/alum. As I write this, fellow student Keph Sennett is currently in Istanbul, Turkey with Intrepid Travel.
Ok, so there are some great perks , but what actually is the course and what does it get you? As I said, the course is comprised of a 12 week curriculum that ranges from understanding the realities of the travel writing industry to learning how to focus your efforts on the market in which you can exhibit an expertise. Sensitive to the shift from print to digital media, the course is intensive on instructing how to establish your own blog, grow your online presence, and foster your own personal online brand that you can carry along with you in your professional development. All assignments are posted in an online forum and critiqued by fellow students and staff.
On that note, the course is curated and moderated by Matador Network’s managing editor Julie Schwietert, who aside from providing irreplaceable and genuinely thoughtful feedback on your assignments also posts potential job leads and market news that students and alums can access. Through these leads I now find myself researching—and being paid for—assignments ranging from articles for a hotel chain in Belize to being an official hotel reviewer in Hawaii. I never would have landed either of these assignments without the inside connections and help of MatadorU.
Asa testament to their influence, MatadorU just recently signed a partnership with the National Geographic Traveler editors who have agreed to contribute to a series of educational videos that tell the student exactly what they are looking for in great travel writing. Below is a teaser for the films (which I of course watched immediately), and once registered for the course you get full access to the entire series.
Aside from simply establishing connections and reading examples of great travel writing, the course genuinely helps you become a better writer. It analyzes elements of writing from how to create an attention-grabbing introductory paragraph to how to leave the reader with a meaningful and thought-provoking conclusion. These skills I learn in the course are skills I can then translate into assignments that may or may not be related to MatadorU. For example, I am a staff blogger over at Gadling, and based upon the success of travel narrative styles learned in the MatadorU course I am in the works of creating my first ever weekly column, Vagabond Tales, which will be published to a global online audience.
In the meantime, before I even realized it was happening, I suddenly manged to quit my day job and have enough writing assignments to keep me busy, traveling, and most importantly, actually pay the bills for the foreseeable three-month future. To give you an example of what MatadorU can help you accomplish, let’s take a look at my schedule for the rest of 2011:
Sept 21-31: 10 day roadtrip through Oregon researching assignments to be published on the Matador Network.
Oct. 1-Oct. 5: Writing contracted research articles on Belize for Amble resorts, a job found on the MatadorU market blog.
Oct. 23-Nov. 4: Roadtrip across 10 US states from San Francisco to North Carolina writing articles for Gadling.com/AOL Travel
Nov. 8-23: Three weeks in Maui, Hawaii working as a hotel reviewer for the islands of Maui, Kauai, Lanai, and Molokai for Gayot.com, again, a job found by following leads in MatadorU.
Nov. 24-Dec. 4: Diving trip to the Philippines (assignments hopefully pending)
Dec. 5-Dec. 15: Cambodia working on my non-profit, One Degree Forward
Dec. 15-?: Relocating to New Zealand.
Although in the last 5 years I have traveled through 55 countries by saving money and traveling on my own dime, I now find myself being able to be location independent and, as the title promised, being paid to travel the world. Perfect timing. I just landed in Hong Kong. Time to go climb Victoria Peak and get some great chinese food. Thanks again Matador U.