I recently spoke about travel writing at the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA)'s national conference — and the usual question was posed by a member of the audience. "How can I get started as a travel writer?" he asked. He was thinking about the cost of a big, exotic trip and the uncertainty of getting a published clip from it. I answered as I always do — start local. All you have to do to be a travel writer is walk out your door and look around.
At that moment, we were in a hotel conference room on East 42nd Street in New York City.
Grand Central Terminal was on one side of the hotel and the Chrysler Building on the other side. Both of those would make excellent travel stories (Grand Central Terminal, with its international food court, shops, architecture, Oyster Bar restaurant, Campbell Apartment, history and connection to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who helped to save it from destruction — and the stunning, Art Deco Chrysler Building, which could be a lead-in to a travel article on Art Deco Manhattan).
There were at least a dozen more possible travel stories within blocks of where the man who wondered how to get started was sitting.
I admit that not every place is as rich in travel-article possibilities as New York City. But if you want to be a travel writer, chances are you're already sitting on a mine of material. Start digging.
P.S. — Even if you don't want to be a travel writer and find yourself in New York, I suggest that Grand Central Terminal is worth visiting. Here's the Web site for more information: http://grandcentralterminal.com/pages/default.aspx. If you're interested in Art Deco New York, start with the Art Deco Society of New York, www.artdeco.org.