While John Lamkin is best known as a travel, wine, and food writer and photographer, he’s also a resident expert on Mexican lifestyle and cuisine and writes for publications such as LuxuryLatinAmerica.com. In addition to his writing and photography, blogging, and social media networking, he sits on the board for the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) and publishes The Soul of Travel magazine, an online platform for developing writers and photographers to showcase their talents and practice their craft. He’s also got a book about the Yucatan coming out in 2012. Check out his IFWTWA profile page or his personal website here.
How did you “break in to travel writing”? What have been the keys to your success?
I first started travel writing many years ago to satisfy my love for travel. Also, as a way to be able to quit my 9 to 5, white-collar job. Then a divorce happened, I quit the job and started a photography gallery (San Francisco Camerawork—which is still going after all these years), and took a long hiatus from travel writing. A few years back, still with a love for travel and for writing, I decided to launch my travel writing career again. Any success I have had I attribute to the personal passion I have for the work.
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?
Were I starting out from scratch, my focus would be at least 85% Internet. That would include social networking, blogging and submitting to online publications. I would also attend travel writing trade shows such as the Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference in Corte Madera, California and join travel writing associations such as SATW, NATJA and IFWTWA for the networking and exposure. I would also start with my own website (portfolio site) to promote my work. Also, I would learn some SEO (search engine optimization) to make sure people could find me, my blog and my website.
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”?)
If someone dear to me wanted to become a travel writer, I would advise that they look deeply and see if it is really their passion. Contrary to what the travel writing schools advertise about earning six figures a year, doing it only for the money is a sure way to fail. If it is your love and passion push ahead! Go for it!
What have been the advantages for you in spending part of your year living in Mexico?
Besides some R & R, my place in Mexico provides a wealth of stories—culture, cuisine, archeology and more, as well as being a great jumping off point for the rest of Latin America.
Shameless plug opportunity: why should someone join the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA), where you’re the membership chair?
First of all, I would recommend also joining other journalist associations as each has its own set of benefits. The IFWTWA is, as its name implies, international and provides for networking world wide. Some of the benefits are an online magazine (and blogs) in which to publish your work. Several press trips are offered each year and it has an excellent monthly publication with a wealth of markets, news and tips. You can find out more on the website ifwtwa.org.
What’s next on your project list? Where do you see things heading in the future?
My “project list’ is overflowing! I plan to put more energy into my blog(s) and monitize it/them. I am getting more into food and wine (and other beverage) writing and also bicycling, adventure and other hot trends. As far as travel is concerned, I want to explore Eastern Europe, the Middle East and some of the off-the-beaten-path places such as Borneo.
Editor’s Note: Look for John’s new books about the undiscovered Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico (available from Amazon.com & others in 2012) and other parts of Mexico (2013).
In addition to freelance travel journalism and photography, John Lamkin writes on a regular basis for several online magazines. He is a board member of the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) where he also serves as Membership Committee Chairman. Although he travels much of the year, mostly, but not exclusively, in Latin America, he spends his time at home in a small village in northern New Mexico, near Taos or in his second home on a stunningly beautiful lake in southern Mexico. You can find out more at his IFWTWA profile page or at his website.
Interview conducted in September, 2011 by Travel Writing 2.0 author Tim Leffel and edited by Kristin Mock.