Debbie Stone is a travel writer and columnist, who explores the globe in search of unique destinations and experiences to share with her readers. She’s an avid adventurer who welcomes new opportunities to increase awareness and enthusiasm for travel and cross-cultural connections. Her travels have taken her to over seventy-five countries and to all seven continents. She joins us this week to talk about her career and offer a little advice to rookie travel writers.
You’ve been a writer for many years in a variety of genres, please share with us your background and what the road to travel writing has been like for you.
I got into travel writing after working in a number of different careers: play and dance therapist, ESL teacher (in the U.S. and abroad), airline public relations rep, adult basic education instructor in the prison system and newspaper reporter. While a journalist living in Seattle, I began writing tongue and cheek stories on the side about family vacations I took with my husband and sons. I showed them to my editor one day and she opted to publish them. Thanks to her encouragement, I decided to explore the world of travel writing in earnest. I am happy to say that I have been involved in the profession now for over fifteen years. Yes, there were definitely some bumps along the way, but I was determined to keep at the craft and learn from all the advice, constructive criticism and suggestions that other writers and editors gave me. It has been an evolution that continues to this day, as I view each story as an opportunity for additional growth and enrichment as a writer.
You’re an active member of NATJA and IFTWA, what do you see as the advantage of being a member of those types of organizations and what advice would you give someone considering membership?
Being a member of NATJA and IFTWA has many advantages. These are organizations devoted to travel writers and thus provide a myriad of opportunities for communication and networking, continued education in the field, conferences and press trips, as well as offering a platform for self-promotion and marketing. Being a member has also given me a sense of belonging to a group of kindred spirits, who I can reach out to for feedback, information, referrals and further connections. I would advise anyone who is a travel writer to seriously consider joining such organizations for the valuable benefits they offer to those involved in our profession.
What advice do you have for someone just starting out as a writer?
The best advice I can give to rookie travel writers is to start by writing about places that are very familiar to you before branching out to destinations you’ve yet to explore. Familiarity will give you confidence to present a place or experience with that special insider’s view. I would also emphasize the necessity to develop a thick skin, if you don’t already have one in place. Don’t let rejections of your queries or work get you down or prevent you from continuing your pursuit. Keep writing, and keep reading all different styles of travel writing. Attend conferences and workshops and talk to established writers for guidance, tips and insight.
What is your favorite thing about being a travel and lifestyle writer?
Being a travel writer allows me to share my innate sense of curiosity and love of adventure with others in the hopes that it will whet their appetites for making some travel memories of their own. I get so much pleasure from doing my job that it is hard to consider it work most of the time. I am able to derive immense satisfaction from visiting unique destinations, interacting with people from all walks of life and learning about other cultures. Travel engages all of my senses, providing me with enriching experiences that serve to open my mind and heart. As a writer, I strive to translate these experiences into words, infusing them with color and expression, to make them come alive for my readers.
I happen to know you’ve been a lot of places and are up for almost any adventure! If you had to choose your top 3, what would they be and why?
It’s difficult to choose my top three destinations. It’s like asking me to choose my favorite child and the answer to that depends on what day it is! I adore Italy and never tire of visiting this fabulous country, as it has so much to offer visitors –art, history, food, wine, fashion, picturesque scenery, warm and openly expressive people and an unpredictability factor that I relish. I am also drawn to destinations that allow me to observe wildlife in their natural surroundings, such as Africa, the Galapagos Islands, Antarctica and the Amazon. Visiting such places gives me valuable opportunities to learn more about animal behavior, a subject that has always held much fascination for me. Our country’s national parks have long been some of my favorite destinations, as they present dramatic landscapes where you can see Mother Nature at her finest. Being a very active traveler, I choose to explore these adventure playgrounds via numerous ways –on foot, in a raft or kayak, atop a bike, on a horse – in order to fully experience the terrain. Each of the parks are unique and special, from the rugged grandeur of the Tetons to the lunar-like landscape of Death Valley, and they are definitely rank among my top destinations.
Debbie Stone’s stories appear in a number of publications and outlets including Luxe Beat Magazine, Northwest Prime Time, Big Blend Magazine and Big Blend Radio, Los Alamos Monitor, Travelworld International Magazine, Northwest News, Santa Fe Fine Lifestyles Magazine and AAA New Mexico Journey among others. She currently resides in Santa Fe, NM, where she enjoys hiking and skiing amid the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, volunteering as a docent at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and occasionally appearing on stage in community theatrical productions. She is an aficionado of New Mexican cuisine, preferring to order her chile “Christmas” style, for the ultimate infusion of spice. Connect with Debbie on Twitter here.