How I Became a Travel Writer by Accident

Larry M. Lynch

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The abrupt change from the air-conditioned bus my wife and I had been cradled in for the past 14 hours overnight from Oaxaca to the dripping heat of late morning Cancun was murder. Ceiling fans roaring mercilessly in the compact main bus terminal provided some relief. We set to work straddling our bags in front of a pay phone and started dropping coins in a greedy slot. No answer to the first number. The second was no longer in service. The third was now a residential number. The fourth hotel we called from our recommended list no longer existed. It had closed nearly a year earlier.

How could that be? I’d planned so carefully but hadn’t called long distance to check the hotel information. After all, it had been barely a couple of months since the newsletter back issues had arrived in the mail. I’d devoured them hungrily, my heart burning bright with hopes and plans for our first trip to Cancun together. Years had passed since my last visit.

My wife had never been to the cool white sands and palm-lined beaches that beckoned from travel magazine photos and slick TV commercials. More family members were arriving in a couple of days – booked into the high-rent district that the resort area sported so proudly along gleaming stretches of creamy softness lapped by azure waves. Their “$1200 dollars for five days" hotel tab was more than out of my league. We were here in Mexico for more than a month’s stay with three weeks of our time and at least two more cities still ahead. Those prices would bankrupt us and I hate washing dishes on vacation.

But my promised leads of affordable hotels in Mexico’s highest-priced city wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on. There wasn’t a moment to lose. “Get me a phone book!", I barked to Doris. A binder of dog-eared yellow pages appeared. For the next 30 minutes I thumbed, scribbled, dialed and cursed as one by one the failures mounted and my change purse thinned. And this was only the first hour of a ten-day planned stay in Cancun. “At least it can’t get much worse", I thought. Boy, was I wrong.

Thus began my stint as a researcher/writer for a “Mexico-content Newsletter". Each month as subscribers open their e-mails to read the latest newsletter, they looked for accurate, insightful, first-hand information that hopefully would fuel their dreams for a new life or at least a paying adventure south of the border where the weather, food (and often the women) are hotter than where they were now. My disappointment, frustration and panic that morning in Cancun fueled my desire to e-mail the former editor, spouting, “I could provide you with better, more updated information than this!"

“Okay, so show me", she replied by e-mail.

And did I ever with a detailed article on Merida, in the Yucatan. A crisp, slightly humorous Oaxaca piece followed a little later and finally a timely Cancun report after sending in a voluminous feed on central Mexico City. I dug up info on 55 jobs for that issue. It was a monster! That was in 1999. As I’ve wormed my way incessantly through central Mexico from the cactus and scrub clad stretches of the Yucatan through Mexico City and Toluca’s chilly highlands and down to sparkling “Acapulco Diamante", I carefully documented the best and worst, endured vampire bats, gut-wrenching bugs, biting flies and uncovered both the delightful and dangerous aspects of living, working and enjoying our vast southern neighbors. Being able to speak Spanish was at least three tractor-trailer loads of help to me.

Why? For mere coin of the republic? No. Sooner or later, if they hadn’t already been, subscribers were going to go to Mexico. It was my job and my pleasure to make sure they were as prepared as possible when they did. Not “if" they went – WHEN they went. No question about it. And sooner rather than later, if I had anything to say about it. “They were tall words from a stranger – weren’t they?" Well, yes they were, but I wasn’t a “stranger" any longer. I’ve been writing travel, destination and foreign food and cultural pieces ever since. Look around you, no matter where you live stories abound. Look at your surroundings with a fresh eye. Write about what you see. Become a travel writer without even leaving home – at first. Need a starting point? “10 Tips for Writing Exotic Articles About Where You Live" at: may help.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is a bi-lingual copywriter, expert author and photographer specializing in business, travel, food and education-related writing in South America. His work has appeared in Transitions Abroad, South American Explorer, Escape From America, Mexico News and Brazil magazines. He now lives in Colombia and teaches at a university in Cali. Want lots more free tips, help and information on language learning, public speaking, writing and mental skills development? Go now to: where you can also contact the author by e-mail.


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