With society miles away from where it was, it’s understandable that many want to make a change. I caught up with Thom Brown, Meaningful Travel Writer, and talked with him a little about his experiences whilst travelling. He also discussed how his travel writing business works, giving tips on how he’s managed to earn a living doing what he loves.
Can you tell us a little about your time and experiences while travelling?
My first taste of independent travel came while I was at university. Over three summer holidays, I travelled to the USA, Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, and Cambodia, This got me hooked.
A year after I’d graduated, I was earning all of my income online by writing content for different websites. I used this as an opportunity to explore the world while I earned a living. I’ve travelled hard every year since.
Most recently, while staying in Estonia for a few months, I landed a job as a travel writer based in Ghana and Kenya for a year. I spent three months in Ghana before the Coronavirus hit the travel industry hard. My company collapsed and I was laid off. Since then, I’ve been trying to rebuild my career from my home in England. So, like everyone, I’ve not travelled much recently.
But during that time, I’ve managed to launch my own travel website which I’m really proud of. Hopefully, I’ll be back on the road soon, gathering new content to publish.
How do you think the future of travel will be shaped by the virus?
For me personally, this time stuck at home has been a period of reflection. Yes, my feet are itching to travel again, so I’ll likely hit the road hard when I’m able to. But I want to do it more consciously; to be a better traveller . I want to travel in a way which is ethical, which doesn’t damage the environment, and which is personally fulfilling.
I hope others will be more conscious of their travel habits as well. I think certain airlines have acted quite appallingly during this crisis so I’ve pledged not to fly within Europe again if it’s possible to travel by train or bus.
One thing many have learned from the Coronavirus lockdown is about their ability to work from home. I understand many jobs don’t allow this, but people who work in offices have found they can be just as productive (if not more) when they work remotely. I’ve been banging on about how remote work is better for employees, employers, the economy, and the environment for years.
I think this message is finally becoming mainstream. This should mean that more people are able to do what I do: travel while you earn. So there’ll be more full-time travellers than ever. I just hope everyone travels in a way which is sustainable and ethical.
Do you have 5 top tips for people hoping to travel independently?
1 – Find a remote income: If you’re earning money as you travel, then you can keep doing it forever.
2 – Research living costs: the cheaper the living costs of your destination, the longer you can stay there and the more comfortably you can live.
3 – Become a minimalist: remove any distractions from your life and redirect your time, energy, and money to fulfilling your travel dreams.
4 – Don’t wait: Once it’s safe to do so, you have to just take the plunge and book a trip. Don’t wait for friends to agree to come with you. Go alone and don’t ask for permission.
5 – Remember your ‘why’: Travel should have a purpose, so consider what you want to get out of it. The truth is, time alone on the road can be lonely, scary, and depressing. Remembering why you do it will get you through these times.
What is your favourite piece of travel writing?
I’ve written many pieces that I’m really proud of for many different websites. I like taking a philosophical or psychological approach to travel topics and really delving deep into interesting ideas. The most important piece I’ve written recently, though, has to be my mission statement on better travel .
This article sets out my five key goals of travel: it should be easy and accessible to all, ethical, ecologically sustainable, individually sustainable, and purpose-driven.
These are lofty goals, ones which we all fall short of. However, this should be the aim of all travellers. This article is the foundation of everything I post on my blog and everything I do as a traveller. I’m always thinking to myself, ‘ how does this fit into my message on better travel? ’.
Why did you start your blog?
I started my blog during the UK’s 2020 Coronavirus lockdown. At first, it was just an idea, then I took some courses on making and monetising a travel blog using WordPress.
On June 1st, the website officially launched with 14 fully written and optimised articles. Since then, I’ve been publishing two articles a week, while also building the website, improving functionality, and working on SEO, collaborations, and marketing.
What is Thom Brown Travel’s main goal?
Thom Brown Travel promotes better travel. It’s a simple message on the surface, but it’s laid out in detail in the article mentioned above. On the one hand, Thom Brown Travel is a way of educating myself, holding myself to account, organising my thoughts, and implementing change. At the same time, this is a resource for travellers of all levels.
What was it that influenced you to start writing about travel?
Before I was a travel writer, I was really just a writer who travelled. I actually avoided travel articles for a while since I didn’t feel I had any expertise on the topic. Yes, I’d had those three summer trips while in uni but at first, I just wanted to make a location-independent income.
When that happened, however, I began travelling full time. Over time, travel became one of my passions and areas of expertise. My transition to writing about travel, then, just happened naturally. I started to consume travel publications like National Geographic and Wanderlust and it just seemed like exactly what I want to do. If I can one day contribute to either of those publications, I’ll feel like I’ve really made it as a travel writer.
Do you have any tips for people who would like to start travel writing?
Do a course and get to know the industry. My bachelor degree was in Politics and Philosophy and, while interesting, it taught me nothing about being a travel writer. I undertook a diploma in freelance journalism and this has been infinitely more valuable to my career, despite being a fraction of the cost of a degree.
I was already an okay writer, but learning how to pitch and write pieces that sell was incredibly useful. This course gave me the confidence to pursue my dream of being a freelance travel writer and I haven’t looked back.
After becoming unemployed, I completed another diploma in travel blogging. Though I’d already done blogging for other sites, this diploma showed me how to set up my own website, get it up and running, and start earning an income from it. This gave me a solid basis and the confidence that I could make this work.
The market is pretty saturated with travel writers at the moment, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Start connecting with them on social media. Send them messages and ask if you can provide content. It’s like any other industry: the more you do it, the better you’ll become.
Write for others where you can, and start your own blog while you wait for other opportunities. I’ve previously had my own blogs, which weren’t much good, but it was at least some writing practice which eventually led to me setting up Thom Brown Travel.
Travel writing is a lot of work, but if you’re passionate about it, that shouldn’t matter. Don’t wait for opportunities to come around. Find a story that interests you, figure out a unique angle, and go show the world why your writing is worth paying for.
How can people get in touch with or work with you?
My contact details will remain up to date on my contact page , but you’re best off sending an email to [email protected] . I’m also very active on Instagram so follow me @thombrowntravel ! I’m very keen to collaborate and work with other travellers, writers, and entrepreneurs to create exciting content.
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about the author
Ellis Harris runs FieCo Accountancy and Marketing, offering web design and accounting services built for small businesses. He worked as a purchased ledger and credit controller, before moving to a multi-million manufacturer, implementing a new accounting system. After several years, Ellis started up FieCo, with the goal of bringing affordable, complete and friendly essential services to startups to small businesses.