Carol Patterson, Travel Writer
How does an accountant become a travel writer?
It’s working harder than I ever did when all I worried about was balancing debits and credits. Attending Book Passages travel writers conferences were also very helpful in learning the craft of writing.
What publications have you written for?
My travel writing has been featured in CanGeoTravel.com, Westjet, Calgary Herald, NatGeo, Fodor’s Travel, BBC Travel, World Nomads, Roads & Kingdoms, Saltscape, Forever Young, Avenue, and Roadstories.ca, among others and I’m the author of several books including Sustainable Tourism: Business Development, Operations and Management.
I love to travel. Can I become a travel writer too?
Sure, but just like having a brain doesn’t mean you’re qualified to do brain surgery, loving travel doesn’t make you qualified to be a travel writer. It’s hard (see What’s a typical travel writer’s day like?) and requires a lot of skill, the stamina of the energizer bunny, and a tough skin for rejections. No one wants to host a travel writer who can’t sell a story so a lot of your success depends on your ability to pitch story ideas or promote your blog. Getting rejected (a lot) is part of the deal. Rebecca Weber runs a great online pitching course that increases your odds of success.
What’s a typical day on the road like?
Wake up early (be prepared to start your day at sunrise for best pictures) and then photograph your breakfast while asking the chef insightful questions (try being profound at 7am) and taking notes while you nibble. Then head off for a day of activities that crams as much into 12 hours as you might in 12 days on vacation. I’ve gotten into a canoe, paddled for 15 minutes to get the ‘right’ picture and gotten out to hike. Dinners are usually fancy with chefs dazzling you with their best cuisine. Or not. You can also find yourself stuck in an airport far from home looking for reasonably priced food and writing a story due the next day. Not gaining weight and getting sleep-deprived are regular challenges for me on the road.
Is it true you once flew snakes on a plane?
Yes, long before there was a movie with that name I created a Flying Zoo and stuffed whatever animals Calgary Zoo keepers would trust me with into a Cessna 172 and flew to small Alberta communities for nature talks. It made my flying a lot more fun and snakes turned out to be some of the best animals to fly with. They have no ears so never got airsick. Now I ride further back in planes.
What’s your favorite place to travel?
Canada. Any part, any time. It’s got the best wildlife viewing, tons of diversity, and it’s a safe place to be. You can learn more by downloading my free guide to my favorite destinations.
What’s always in your carry-on?
A journal and my favorite Pental pen. Flying is a great time to create (how else to distract your mind from that guy in 11D who’s got his elbow in your side?). A small blanket that doubles as a shawl.
Have you won any awards?
To my great pleasure I’ve received four Travel Media Association of Canada awards for stories on Environmental/Sustainable Tourism. I was awarded a Woman of Vision award in 2008 and made a fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society in 2017. I am also an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the University of Calgary’s geography department. Pretty cool stuff for someone who started their career as a professional accountant (CMA/CPA)
What can I learn from the stories you share?
Where the best places are to see wildlife and some of the cool places that most tourists overlook. I also try to showcase interesting people who are the champions in their community or doing something very cool. One of my favorites is the story on Charles Waterton and Waterton Lakes National Park that was a 2016 Alto finalist.
What’s a Woman of Vision?
A very cool recognition by Calgary media and community. You can watch more below.