Kathy Chin Leong is a three-time award winning journalist. Her articles have appeared in numerous publications including Sunset Magazine, Working Woman, TravelAge West, Bay Area Parent Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, Dallas Morning News and San Francisco Chronicle. She’s also the founder of BayAreaFamilyTravel.com. She joins us this week to talk about her multi-faceted career and some of the rewards along the way.
I understand you covered technology and business for ten years and worked for various computer and networking publications. How did that evolve into a travel writing career?
When I transitioned into freelance writing after I had my first baby and left my full-time job as a technology journalist, I began covering home remodeling, environmental, and family issues for various publications. As my family grew, travel became a key component to our lives. My husband and I wanted to build memories with our children through camping, skiing, hiking, snorkeling, and swimming around the country. Those experiences became fodder for my stories and that continues even as they have become adults.
You also cover health and wellness. Do you feel that niche helps you with your travel writing goals? Why or why not?
When you travel, of course, much of the experience is derived from the food you try. And in every region, farmer’s markets are the community watering hole. I love to taste new foods and make it a point to visit a local market at each new venue. And in travel writing, I love to integrate an exercise adventure into my articles since scenic beauty invites all to explore. To me, diving into nature means tackling it in physical ways. Whether it is bouldering or running, exercise and health and wellness are all important to me and should be for everyone. Those topics feel right to write about in order to inform the public.
Tell us about your website: Bay Area Family Travel. How did you get started and what has that journey been like for you?
The website has been around since 2004, and it was quite a unique site at the time. Few travel writers had their own websites, and even fewer had others writing for them. It is a wonderful place holder for my articles, and it provides a venue for other travel writers looking for a place to park their articles. We cover all types of travel including multi-generational, pet travel, and special needs travel. Since I write for a variety of publications, I do not have time to always keep up with it. The site began as a monthly, then bi-monthly, and now quarterly. Posting seasonal articles throughout the year is a good rhythm for me since I am the only one putting this website together.
You have a local focus for Bay Area Family Travel, how has that benefited the site?
People who are new to the area and existing locals tell me they do not know where to take their kids on a daytrip. When they rummage through Bay Area Family Travel.com, they unmine jewels in the region they never heard of. They are going to new parks and places and trying new things. I heard folks are booking trips because of what they have read on my site. That is rewarding.
What advice would you give to someone launching their own website to help them grow the site?
Do look to increase eyeball readership by sharing your link with everyone. Do invest in Search Engine Optimization services to get your website appearing among the top ten websites when folks do a topic search. Do print your site on your business card. Promote it on your social media pages. Be willing to invest the time to do all this if you are serious about growing your hits.
We all make mistakes along the way and often have to regroup. Have you learned from past mistakes and how has that helped you in your journey to where you are today?
My biggest mistake was cold calling top editors saying I was going to a particular place and that I was willing to write a story for their publication. I had no credentials, and I had no angle to my story. An article on Canada with no angle is going to be a flop. I learned to write small, niche stories that really boosted my skills. My story on the Fire Engine Tour of San Francisco for the Dallas Morning News taught me a lot about writing in detail. My other story on Five Wellness Trips challenged me to do research around the world.
If you could only travel to three destinations, where would you go and what would you do?
First, I would want to go to any Olympics and watch the opening ceremonies. Secondly, my go-to vacation spot is Hawaii, and I would eat all the local savory and sweet foods with local ingredients, and I would hike in order to burn off the calories. Third, I would go to Big Sur, California and spend a month or more living on a waterfront property writing and reading and learning to be still. That is hard for me.
Kathy writes profiles, general interest, and travel articles for both regional and national magazines and newspapers. In addition to travel and technology, she also covers health and wellness. Her BayAreaFamilyTravel.com site serves as a great resource for parents in San Francisco’s Bay Area.