I absolutely love traveling abroad and exploring exotic new destinations. But there is something quite satisfying about exploring your own country. This pandemic helped me rediscover my love of South Africa by forcing me to explore my own backyard. But it also helped me realize the major opportunities that present themselves to local travel bloggers who make a name for themselves in their hometown. Something I had completely forgotten as my travel writing career progressed is:Partnering with local travel brands is the fastest way to start landing both sponsored & paid collaborations as a new travel blogger. Click To Tweet
So, if you’re just starting out as a travel blogger and want to quickly land your first sponsorship, consider starting local. Instead of trying to become a successful travel blogger abroad, first, become a successful travel blogger in your own hometown. If you’re serious about writing about your travel experiences and earning an income from your travel blog or published travel content, then you need to be willing to start small.
This is how I got started and likely most of your other favorite travel bloggers as well. In a way, I’m grateful that the pandemic reminded me of the joy of exploring my own country. Especially since my husband and I just moved from the city of Johannesburg to the most beautiful part of South Africa; the Garden Route. We’ve been in Mossel Bay (a gorgeous coastal town founded by Portuguese explorer Bartholomeu Dias) for a few months now and already I’ve connected with local brands for collaborations.
To help you do the same in your hometown, I’ve compiled a list of 5 tips that will help you succeed as a travel blogger in your hometown:
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As a travel blogger, it’s important that you always remain curious. Being inquisitive is one of the core lessons I’ve learned on my journey as a travel writer. Having the true child-like wonder type of curiosity will get you far as a travel blogger. I’ve never asked as many questions in my life but I’ve also discovered that people like to share. They want to talk about themselves, tell their story, be heard. It’s human nature. So, if you learn to be curious and ask the right people the right questions, the story practically writes itself.
People appreciate thoughtful questions and meaningful conversations. I promise you this is true whether you’re speaking to a local in some foreign land or an acquaintance in your hometown. Get out there, network with others, and let your natural curiosity guide you as a travel writer.
Make Yourself Available
I have collaborated with a number of PR agents that all love that I am a resident of the area where their publications are included. Since I live there, I usually respond to last-minute invitations to attend events they just have been informed of or to meet with them for coffee to discuss their ideas about articles for the brands they represent.
A PR agent friend regularly contacts me about Press Trips being arranged by the local hotels, lodges, and resorts she works with to ask if I am free to go on these trips? My proximity to these destinations and my relationship with her put me first in line for these exciting opportunities in both my hometown and South Africa as a whole. By being accessible and available for local collaborations, I get offered a lot more partnerships.
Businesses in South Africa have finally all reopened after our last lockdown and they are all in desperate need of media coverage. Most of these companies have had to dig into their marketing budgets just to survive the past year and a half. That means they have no money left over for expensive marketing campaigns. It is more cost-effective and highly beneficial for them to partner with local content creators. By thinking outside the box and coming up with relevant stories from a different angle, I’m more likely to have my articles picked up by local, regional, and even international publications. This gives my local hometown brands a fight chance to survive post-pandemic.
One of my favorite coffee shops has an onsite roastery. The baristas are well educated on the coffees they serve and sell, and I’m always happy to sit and chat to learn about both.
How many articles do you think I could pitch to editors in just one visit?
Let’s see: I could write about any one of the kinds of coffee they serve and sell the idea to a health and wellness publication, touting the many benefits of freshly roasted ‘real’ coffee.
I could write a profile piece about the owner—she travels worldwide in search of the best coffee. Everyone loves a story about an entrepreneur dedicated to sourcing only the best for their customers. You get the idea.
One of the reasons that I am successful in my career as a travel blogger is because I am a local. This has proved true when I lived in Johannesburg and is true now that I’ve moved to my hometown the Garden Route. Since I’m local, people know me or have at least heard of me.
This is actually how I landed my highest-paying client earlier this year. A PR agent reached out to me via email saying she had an exciting opportunity for me if I was interested. When I gave her a call she informed me she had found me via a Google search for “luxury travel writer in South Africa”. My name popped up 3 times on the first page and because she had heard of me from others in her industry she just knew she had to reach out to me. Just like that, I secured a job writing press releases for a new hotel chain opening their first resort in Southern Africa.
No matter who you are or where you might be in your travel writing journey, your list of published stories and opportunities as a travel blogger will only grow if you’re approachable and genuine. Believe me, authenticity is a quality that people (including editors) love. Your reputation in your hometown and further afield will precede you, so make sure it’s positive.
I have talked to several ‘travel writers’ who quit even before they even really began. They didn’t recognize the importance of hometown stories. I always questioned why they believe that their only amazing and sold-out stories could come from extravagant trips to other countries.
I completely understand the appeal of writing articles that cover far-off lands because as I have written a lot of those too. I think exotic destinations are fun to write about, and if the stories are beautifully written, they will urge the readers to travel to those places.
But most of us actually live in interesting places (destinations that others spend money to visit). I have found discovering local businesses, history, and characters to be an enriching experience and I encourage you to do the same by getting to know your hometown too.
Become a Hometown Travel Writer
You have the potential to be a successful travel writer, right where you live. I promise. PR Agents, editors, and travel brands all need folks like you and me to share our corner of the world with the rest of the world. Stick with it—you can make it happen. I believe in you!