A Conversation with Robert Curley

Bob Curley on TravelWriting2.comRobert “Bob” Curley is a freelance travel writer working for a number of publications, notably Coastal Living, AFAR, Wedding Style magazine, and Business Traveller. He has spent many years covering Caribbean destinations. Bob is also the author of the travel guidebook, Rhode Island: Off the Beaten Path. He joins us this week to share his background, advice to those thinking of taking the freelance leap and a few pet peeves.

You have a varied background that ultimately led you to travel writing, tell us about your journey.

I always knew I wanted to travel, but my path from graduating college as an English major to becoming a freelance travel writer wound through several years of “real jobs,” starting with working as a technical writer at a bank and as an editor at a community newspaper on Long Island. Later, I wrote about healthcare for a newsletter publisher and providing online content for nonprofit and for-profit companies.

All the while, however, I was doing freelance work on the side, and my entree to travel writing came when an editor of a Rhode Island lifestyle magazine I worked with asked me if I wanted to take over writing a travel guidebook on the state that she didn’t have time to do. I wrote and updated Rhode Island: Off the Beaten Path for about a decade and leveraged that experience into other travel-writing gigs and assignments.

Bob Curley on TravelWriting2.com

If someone close to you wanted to venture into the travel writing world, what advice would you give them?

“Marry well,” ha-ha. My wife is an attorney so that helps pay the bills. It’s hard to make a lot of money in freelance travel writing, although it is possible to do well if you build a good personal brand and have a well-defined strategy for developing and pitching stories and delivering good copy on time. Part of my secret to success has been that I’ve usually had one single, solid client providing at least half-time work — not necessarily in travel — that pays well and serves as a base for doing travel writing that’s more rewarding but less lucrative.

Bob Curley on TravelWriting2.com

You’ve written for several well-known publications including Coastal Living and About.com, what advice would you give to travel writers hoping to break into larger publications?

Like any job, and especially freelance work, it’s all about relationships. In these two examples, I had an established relationship with an editor from my home state at Coastal Living and knew other writers who had worked at about.com who recommended that I apply for the job as Caribbean Travel editor (and put in a good word for me).

How do you build good relationships? Go to conferences and events where you can meet other writers and editors. Be reliable and responsive when you get assignments. Be nice to everyone you meet, and it will get paid back somewhere down the road. It’s no different in travel writing than in any other profession — or life, for that matter.

Bob Curley on TravelWriting2.com

We know editors have their pet peeves about writers, what are your pet peeves about editors?

I’m dealing with a couple right now — insufficient direction at the time the assignment is made, and overly ambitious expectations. If an editor has a clear idea of what they want in a story, don’t make me waste my time writing in a vacuum and then send me a raft of edits and changes based on a vision of the story you never shared with me before. And don’t expect a story with 10 sources if you’re paying $200 for a 1,000 word article. You get what you pay for.

Bob Curley on TravelWriting2.com

If you could only travel to three destinations, where would you go and what would you do there?

Japan has always been a dream destination for me, especially Kyoto. I’d love to get back to Australia — I went once on a whirlwind 14-day, multiple destination trip, but I want to go back and spend months, not days, exploring that vast and fascinating country. Ireland is my ancestral home. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Caribbean as an expert on that region, and have loved every minute, but now it’s time to broaden my horizons!

Bob is based in Rhode Island but spends a good amount of time in the sunny Caribbean. In addition to his freelance work, Bob writes about Caribbean destinations and experiences on his new website, Caribbean Bob. You’ll also find Bob’s travel content on his portfolio site, HonesTraveler.com and on his Rhode Island travel site RITravel.org. You can connect with Bob on Twitter and Facebook.

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