How I Became a Travel Writer: Judith Fein

About me: How I became a travel writer

Judith Fein is an award-winning, international travel writer who has contributed to over 100 publications. She is the author of LIFE IS A TRIP: The Transformative Magic of Travel and THE SPOON FROM MINKOWITZ. An acclaimed keynote speaker, and workshop leader, she sometimes takes folks on exotic trips with her. Her website is: and you can watch her TEDx talk on deep travel.

If I had known there was a professional called “travel writer,” I probably would have chosen it at the age of 10.  However, since I didn’t know about it, I sort of stumbled into it. I was a regular contributor on national public radio on a show called “The Savvy Traveler.” One day I said to myself, “self, maybe now that you have a national audience, you can also sell stories to print publications.” I had just come back from a highly unusual trip, and I wrote it up and sent it to a major newspaper. Lucky me, they bought it. Then I tried other newspapers and magazines and before I knew it, I had a bundle of clips. I told you, it was all stumble, stumble, luck, and more stumble.

MatmataHow do I decide what to write about?

I have a predilection for quirk, so I always look for an unusual subject or an unusual take on a usual subject. When I think about what I want to write, I mentally reach out to an imaginary audience and try to inspire, amuse, entice, or in some way affect them. I write to connect and to communicate. If I’m passionate about a subject, it’s my job to get my readers excited too.

Some advice to writers

challahassignmentFirst, don’t think you will make a lot of money doing this. Do it because you have to do it. Be honest. Be transparent. If you use first person, try to make it an inclusive first person. In other words, of course it’s about your experience, but think of yourself as a guide, a friend to the reader, someone who invites the reader to participate in the experience, rather than someone who needs to talk about herself. Only use details that carry the story forward. Don’t fall in love with your words; be a ruthless editor. Consider yourself fortunate that you can express yourself with words. It is a great blessing.

Pros and cons

Gudvangen vikingleir vikinger LArs Magnar Enoksen kurs i galder og runer intervjues av New York Times

The cons are this: It may be difficult to deal with rejection and editors who don’t answer at all. It is difficult if you are depending on this as your sole source of income. The market has changed radically in the last year or two. There are fewer outlets buying freelance stories. The pros are this: You are one of the fortunate humans whose work and passion are one. You do what you love for a living. You get to live an experience, and then live it again as you write about it.

Funny things that happened to me

Every day on the road something funny and crazy happens. I inadvertently insulted the High Priest of the Ancient Israelite Samaritans by telling him I had tasted camel. My husband and I got stranded on a small pond in a swan pedal boat in New Hampshire; there was one big stone in the pond and we were on top of it. In Azerbaijan we could not get our clothes to dry, and we were checking out of our hotel in an hour. We gathered up the wet clothes, went to a park, and draped all the clothes over us so they would dry in the sunshine. People in the park tried not to stare. Then they figured we were trying to sell our clothes, and started making offers on them.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below


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14 CommentsLeave a comment

  • love it, Judie–your life is a trip! And we lucky ones get to live your life vicariously through your writing,

  • Those of us stumbling into travel writing since the change in the market aren’t quitting our day jobs. The advent of the Internet is a mixed bag. More opportunities, less compensation. However, as you said, if your soul demands that you travel and demands that you write, travel writing is a natural result. Happy New Year. Write on!

  • Love those funny moments you had.well how about me getting stranded on a sheep mountain because my gps led me there in NZ. Singing to hundreds of cows while getting lost on a hike in the winter in NZ. Having birds pooped on my several times in Sri Lanka etc. it was fun times for me too. Love your story.

  • judith, Love your stories and it makes me want to do more because I love traveling. I guess I had more travel mishaps than anything else. I was even stranded during the war in Zagreb and had to travel in a van during the nights to get away from the country. And I was in jail for punching a man because he didn’t want to give up on selling something to me which I didn’t want to buy etc… I can write a book.
    I love the insights of a travel writer and see what it takes really be a good one.

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