An Interview with Beth Whitman

Beth Whitman knows India, vegetarian food, and the women’s publishing industry.  Starting her travels with a three-month stint in Thailand, India, and Nepal, Beth fell in love with travel and has since expanded her passion for the world by started her own publishing company (Dispatch Travels), writing the Wanderlust and Lipstick guidebooks for women travelers, and leading small trips for women through India and Bhutan.  See her complete bio and website here.

When you’re not on the road, what do you do in a typical day? How much time do you spend on different aspects of your business?

I’m generally up at 5:15. After a bit of meditation and some exercise, I make myself some tea and get working (usually by 7am). I’m then blogging, writing for other sites and working on details for my tours. I’m also always trying to figure out how to better promote all aspects of my business – promoting tours, getting interviews that can be tied into the books and website and creating content for the site. The website takes up far more time then anything else and I’m also finding that I’m spending at least 2-3 hours a day just responding to email. It’s kinda gotten out of hand the amount of email I get!

I do have an assistant who is awesome but there are a lots of pieces to the business that only I can do (such as the writing, tour development and answering interview questions!)

Where do you see your career as a travel writer being three years from now? How will your income mix change and what are you doing to adapt to the changing media landscape?

As other parts of my business grow (namely tours), I think that my writing will continue to be less of a revenue generator and more of a means to help promote and sell the Wanderlust and Lipstick tours.

Knowing what you do now, if you were starting from scratch today to become established as a travel writer, what steps would you take to ensure success?

Knowing what I know now I might be too intimidated to start! Seriously, I wouldn’t do anything differently. We’re all trying to find our way as the world of travel writing changes and shifts daily.

What advice would you give to someone near and dear to you who wanted to become a travel writer—assuming they had zero credits to their name. (Besides “Don’t do it”?)

I would recommend that beginning writers become affiliated with the top travel websites that they enjoy the most. They might consider blogging or writing feature stories and getting feedback from those sites’ editors. Even if that means they have to contribute their writing for free – if they can make enough of an impression on an editor, they could possibly land a paying gig.    Many beginning writers hold out for gigs that will pay them. While that’s noble, it’s not realistic as so many talented people are giving away their work or taking little pay.     Personally, I’ve taken on interns who’ve “worked” for me for free and then I end up hiring them as contract workers because I couldn’t function as efficiently without them. Same with my bloggers. I have a network of bloggers – one has become so successful that we are creating a site just for her and will do a revenue split on ads.

You’ve built a solid trio of income sources in that you publish books, you lead tours to exotic lands, and you publish a website with several thematic branches. What have you learned from all this that has defied your expectations?

I’ve learned that there are a lot of really lovely people in the world. On the business end of things, I’ve found so many people willing to share information and help me grow my business and I, in turn, have helped others by providing details on what I’ve learned.

I’ve also enjoyed leading tours more than I ever thought. I get to meet so many diverse people who join my trips and it’s interesting to see how they respond under new circumstances. Even under stressful conditions, everyone walks away feeling stronger and more enriched – and that’s what travel is all about. I love observing that transformation.

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After teaching travel-related workshops in the Seattle area for nearly 15 years, Beth decided to get her message of encouragement and inspiration to more people. She started her own publishing company (Dispatch Travels) and began writing the Wanderlust and Lipstick guidebooks for women travelers (now including The Essential Guide for Women Traveling Solo, For Women Traveling to India and is the publisher of Traveling with Kids).  She is the editor of www.WanderlustAndLipstick.com, the women’s travel columnist for Transitions Abroad and occasionally writes for Perceptive Travel.  Beth leads trips to India and Bhutan and is toying with leading a group of motorcycle riders through Europe in 2010.

Interview conducted in September, 2010 by Travel Writing 2.0 author Tim Leffel and edited by Kristin Mock.

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