It’s the same story every time.
I am reaching out to express my utmost interest in publishing my story for your website. You see, I have recently quit my job to travel! Have made the life-altering, intimidating decision to leave my cushy job in advertising in lieu of an unconventional path marked by ever-changing hotels, far-flung destinations and poetic musings on the meaning of life.
I am a modern-day Henry David Thoreau and the world (dare I say it?) is my Walden’s Pond. I will throw off the shackles of routine and commitment and embark, instead, on a soul-searching adventure alone. Did I mention that part? I will be solo traveling! I know what you’re thinking: “Oh, great, another EAT PRAY LOVE pitch,” but hear me out! My proposed story (or stories?) will follow my transformative adventure in South America and Iceland! I hope you’ll consider my story.
At first glance, this pitch isn’t half bad, until I close the email and realize I have about 50 more just like it. Welcome to being a Travel Editor. In the past I have written about how to write a proper pitch e-mail and what NOT to pitch travel editors in hopes of offering advice to aspiring travel writers who long to get their work published. Having made the transition from freelance journalist to blogger to an editor, I am all too familiar with the rollercoaster-like process of pitching editors and waiting, with bated breath, for rejection, approval or nothing. Truth be told, even as an editor (which I had assumed would unlock some secret room to editorial approval everywhere) I still struggle with getting my pitches accepted sometimes.
It’s now been over a year of my being editor for Culture Trip and in that time I’ve noticed I tend to get variations of the same pitch: the “I quit my job to travel” storyline. The truth is that the whole “I quit my job to travel” storyline is entirely played out these days. We have read about these fairy tale accounts ad nauseam, in different variations. College students who have quit their post-graduation bartending job to take a gap year. Divorcées who turn towards international travel to heal a broken heart. Corporate drones who’ve suffered through one water cooler chat too many and book a one-way flight. Each story is inspiring, each story is special, each story is hopeful, but each story has been done.
This is not to say, Dear Reader, that your triumphant decision to walk out of your office and fly to Kenya isn’t worth telling, but when it comes to pitching it to a Travel Editor, you may not get that “WOW!” response you’re expecting.
When I worked as a freelance travel writer and full time blogger, I (admittedly) fell for all the pitching traps I advise against. I had quit my advertising job to pursue travel writing full time—calling off my wedding and flipping my life upside down in the process. To me, this series of events was (and still is) the most traumatic, life-altering and exciting year of my life. When it came to pitching my story, however, I was handed quite a large dose of reality.
My “trump cards” of being a female solo traveler and having quit my job, suddenly weren’t unique enough. I took this personally, only to realize (once I crossed over to Travel Editor) just how similar my story was to everyone else’s.
It seems every pitch received is a personal memoir on quitting a job, leaving a relationship or solo traveling. So how does one get their pitch to stand out?
While you can still publish your life-changing story, try to look for new angles to add to your pitch. For example, while solo traveling to Colombia, I decided to write a story about retracing a mysterious family murder in the context of examining the recent FARC peace deal. To break this down, rather than just focus on solo traveling in Colombia, I added a new angle that made the story unique.
The same could be said for any pitches you’re hoping to have considered! If you’ve recently quit your job to travel to Iceland, perhaps focus less on the quitting and more on exploring a local story, trend or controversy in Iceland. While travel writing will (and should) always contain a personal narrative, the trend of just writing about life transitions has unfortunately faded.