Rick Steves Shares His Best Tip For Being Successful As A Travel Writer

Travel guru Rick Steves is best known for his expertise in European travel — Steves has helped tourists build a perfect European itinerary and shared the one item you should splurge on in order to enjoy the best trip to Europe. In addition to leading tours of the continent, Steves has written over 50 travel guidebooks. It certainly sounds like a dream job if there ever was one, so naturally many people are interested in how Steves has found so much success in the field of travel writing.

"I would say be a traveler first and a writer second. Choose an area you're going to be specializing in, and then just be passionate about trying to help people's travels there," Steves told the blog Green Global Travel. "I measure my profit, not in dollars earned, but in trips impacted. If you have that attitude, love your work and keep at it for a long time, you'll probably make a lot of money, too."

In 2015, Steves shared an excerpt from his memoir "Postcards From Europe" on his website. He recounts giving advice to a fan he met on a bus during a trip: "'You can't just want to be a travel writer,' I said. 'You have to be a traveler first. I traveled for six summers purely for kicks.'"

The one rule Steves has always followed

In the excerpt from his book in the aforementioned blog post, Steves says he has followed one strict rule since day one: "Never finish a day without writing it up," he wrote. "Accidentally, by finding scenes I could bottle and sell back home, taking careful notes, and teaching my love of travel, I became a writer."

Although Steves wrote every day during his global travels, he never took a travel writing class. Instead, he gave talks about travel to audiences, and he credits that experience for his ability to write bestselling guidebooks. "I talk and talk and talk to groups about travel and sharpen my message," he wrote in "Postcards from Europe." "Then I talk the same way to the page." To hone his writing, he relies on the book "On Writing Well," by William Zinsser, which he re-reads whenever he feels he needs to.

However, the destination itself is always top of mind for Steves. In another article on his website, he explains that when he's writing a guidebook, each day is dedicated to research. His best source for said research? Steves interviews the people running the restaurants and hotels that he will feature. "They think I'm friendly and gracious to take time to chat, and while I truly enjoy it, it's also the best way for me to learn what works and what doesn't, along with the pitfalls and frustrations experienced by people traveling with my guidebooks," he explained.

What's it like working for Rick Steves?

Having Rick Steves' job is the ultimate dream, but the next best thing just might be working as a member of his team. In a guest blog post on Steves' website, Cameron Hewitt recounts landing a job with Steves in 2000, after some post-grad wandering through Europe. 

Hewitt notes that, although he has a dream job, it's "much less glamorous" than people think. He describes it as hard work due to "long, tedious days, exhausting assignments, and unforgiving deadlines." And, like any other career, you have to pay your dues in order to even reach the level that would be considered a dream job.

"If you're an aspiring writer, 'paying your dues' means actually writing. It's great that you have an English degree. Now show the world what you can do with it. When young people ask me how to break into the travel writing field, my answer is simple: Travel," Hewitt wrote. "Then write about it — a lot. Start your own blog. Build a real portfolio. This helps you develop your skills. And it demonstrates not just that you want to be a travel writer, but that you are a travel writer."

For more on the travel guru, check out Rick Steves' top travel tips.