Whenever the travel writing profession is mentioned, romantic images
of destination hopping, endless days of exploring, and breezy evening
sitting in cafes writing up all the adventures immediately spring to
mind. But is what is the reality? Our 2012 Rough Guides
mentor, Richard Lim, shares his tips and experience for all of you
aspiring travel writers. Do you think you've got what it takes?
Richard Lim swapped Singapore's sultry climate for a life
in the UK more than 25 years ago. He has worked in various editorial roles in
book and magazine publishing, and was on the staff at Rough Guides for several
years before turning freelance.
Richard is one of the authors of the Rough Guides to
Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, and also works on the(city edition) Rough Guide to Singapore.
Besides the Far East, his favourite part of the world to
travel in is the Middle East and North Africa. He has a particularly soft spot
for Morocco, Lebanon and Israel/Palestine.
1. ) How did you break into travel writing?
I'd been working in
academic publishing and had got a little bored. When the opportunity
arose in 1999 to join the staff of Rough Guides, I jumped at the chance.
However, I don't regard myself as a travel writer - what writing I do
is primarily guidebook writing, which is quite different to writing
travel pieces that can be more impressionistic and personal. I do hope
to put more emphasis on travel features in the near future, though.
2.) Did you have a mentor when you began in the industry? Who did you look up to?
never had a mentor as such, though I would say that everyone who's
given me a break in terms of letting me tackle a new role in publishing
has been a kind of mentor to me. As for who I might look up to, I
suppose the very best travel writing for me is about cramming in the
maximum of trenchant observations and personal experiences accompanied
by as little of the writer's ego as possible. I particularly enjoy
reading Tim Mackintosh-Smith.
3.) What publication inspired you to write when you started out? What inspires you now?
knew I loved Rough Guides - I'd travelled with quite a few of the books
and loved their mix of intelligent commentary and practical
information. And I've always loved, and still love, National Geographic.
4.) On assignment, what is the day to day life of a travel writer?
you're doing a guidebook, it can be pretty formulaic - trudging the
streets in cities and towns checking out accommodation, restaurants,
even bus stations, plus a few attractions when you get the chance. Doing
a travel feature is a lot more fun since you get to concentrate on
5.) What is your favourite destination that you have covered?
I have a soft spot for Morocco, especially the south of the country.
6.) What is the best thing about your job? The worst?
best things about the job would be getting to some pretty special,
often remote, locations and meeting really interesting local people
along the way. The worst thing is definitely the writing up - bringing
guidebooks up to date is exhausting work if you want to do it as you
should, ie without cutting corners.
7.) This all sounds awesome, I want to be you! Where should I start? What are 3 tips you have to aspiring travel writers?
isn't a standard way to get started, of course. But as far as
individual skills go it pays to have an eye for detail, an analytical
mind and, of course, decent writing ability. It's a good idea to hone
your writing by doing stories - they don't have to be travel, other
features and news will do as well - for whichever outlet you feel is
worthy. And of course if you want do some travel writing, you also need
to do some travelling, to develop specialist knowledge of a certain
region or activity, like trekking, that you could write about in a way
that shows a distinctive, personal take on things. Learning the language
of the area you want to cover is also not a bad idea. Being willing to
work on a guidebook can be a good entry point to writing travel
features. Is that three tips? I'm not sure, but I hope it's all useful.
Are you itching to start your career in travel writing? Apply now for our 2012 Travel Writing Scholarship to Southeast Asia.
A Travel Writer's Survival Kit: 5 Tips for Researching your Destination
you travelling safely. Whether you’re off for a long weekend, looking
for the ultimate adventure or living the nomadic dream, you’ll stay safe
with Travel Insurance you can buy online, anytime, and the latest travel safety advice. Learn how to flirt in over 25 languages with our free language guides and have an experience of a lifetime on a travel scholarship. We'll also help you share your journey with a free travel blog, get answers from other nomads to all of your travel questions (try the new 'Ask A Nomad' iPad app) and donate to a local community development project through our Footprints program.
WorldNomads.com - an essential part of every adventurous traveller's journey.