Meet travel journalist Travis Levius who writes for the likes of Lonely Planet, Condé Nast Traveller and Nat Geo. He runs a freelance travel writing coaching program for aspiring and experienced writers looking to up-level their skills and bylines. Welcome to “Life by design”. This Discovery Sessions interview series probes prominent voices for their life design, entrepreneurship and travel ideas to inspire readers just like you.
Rosie Bell: Where are you from or where do you feel local to?
Travis Levius: I was born in Brooklyn and became an itinerant military child with no real “base”, and as an adult, I’ve lived in Atlanta the longest. But over the last few years, I’ve spent most of my time in London.
RB: How did you get into travel journalism?
TL: How I officially got into travel writing is quite bizarre, but long story short, I quit my assistant teaching job in Atlanta and booked a one-way ticket to London based on a strong gut feeling I had that “now” was the time to follow my dream.
I had no money but that same gut feeling led me to look for writing opportunities in London, and months later I stumbled upon a freelance career that’s now taken me all over the world. I didn’t know travel journalism was really a thing — let alone something I’d get into — prior to my big leap!
RB: What advice would you give someone looking to break into travel journalism?
TL: Prepare to “toughen up”. While freelance travel writing comes with many glorious perks, it’s also marked by tons of rejection and often underpaid work.
RB: What does a typical day in the life look like for you (if you have one)?
TL: As cliché as it sounds, every day is different. Most days are rather menial and centred around my laptop — reading or responding to emails from PRs and editors (if they ever get back to you), writing pieces, chasing late payments, staying on top of travel trends, etc.
I might have lunch or coffee with a new publicist contact or attend an evening industry event and catch up with my travel journo peers. But then there are days where I’m flying to the Maldives to profile a lavish 5-star resort, or waking at sunrise to catch the Big Five on a South African safari. I definitely prefer those types of days.
RB: What’s the biggest challenge of life as a travel journalist?
TL: The biggest challenge of life as a travel journalist is staying disciplined. As amazing as these three-to eight-day international trips are, they disrupt your routine and can get in the way of deadlines or other activities that could get you paid.
You’ve got to stay on top of your notes, deliver your work on-time and continue to generate ideas and pitch to make a living. It isn’t easy.
RB: What’s the biggest reward of life as a travel journalist?
TL: The biggest reward is getting to see the world — often lavishly — without putting a dent in my own wallet. I specialize in luxury travel, so people can’t believe the places I get to stay or the experiences I get to have while on assignments (though I display a good bit on my Instagram account).
Superyachts, mansion hotels, 3-star Michelin restaurants…you name it. I also love when I can take a friend or family member along for the ride and spoil them for a day or two.
RB: How do you measure success?
TL: My definition is two-fold: 1) overcoming difficulties or achieving something many deem to be difficult and 2) the positive impact one has on others.
RB: What habits, principles or ideas have served you the most in your life?
TL: Gratitude, employing a *modified* version of the Law of Attraction (I don’t think you can “just sit back and manifest” but I do believe in the power of thoughts), and honouring my intuition…even when it requires tremendous courage.
RB: What do you wish you did differently (in work or life)?
TL: I wish I didn’t avoid aspects of “adulting” in my 20s, like getting serious about financial planning.
RB: Which adventure has had the greatest impact on you?
TL: Definitely the Atlanta-to-London saga that’s gotten me where I am today. It was harrowing at the beginning, but it was all worth it.
RB: Please share one of your most treasured travel memories.
TL: I went on a group press trip to Kazakhstan, and it was very clear that many locals and regional tourists had never seen a black traveller in their midst. My favourite moment happened in front of a ski resort outside of Almaty, where a Siberian family approached me with excitement in their eyes.
One was an older man who spoke no English, and he slowly reached for my hand to shake and told me how he was so happy to meet me (as translated by our tour guide). When our groups parted ways, he says to me with the most joyous expression: “I love you.”
Being a black traveller abroad yields a wild card of reactions from other people, but that interaction moved me more than any other.