Travel Writer’s Notes

Story by Milli Thornton. Photos Copyright © Brian Williams & Milli Thornton.

THE FEATURE PHOTO, snapped by Brian as I wrote in our stylish and comfy room at Beacon Shore B&B, Ontario, seems to tell the entire story. I’m living the high life as a travel writer, taking trips whenever I want to (or paid for by an editor) and reporting from the road. I pound out copy on a travel-sized laptop after another day of sightseeing. I drink a bottle of red wine while I write.

Well, not quite.

For starters, I don’t usually do my travel writing while on the road. I like to enjoy my trip and then write about it comfortably on my PC with the 14-inch monitor after I get home.

(Though if I have to, for a story with a deadline, I’ll jump to it.)

I rarely drink alcohol while I write. It can be fun for the first half-glass, but it’s amazing how quickly it can leave you drained when you’re trying to be creative at the same time.

As for jet-setting around, writing from overseas, or traveling whenever I want . . . I’m not there yet. I would eventually like my writing to finance my travels, but it takes work to make it as a writer. Any kind of writer. Yeah, travel writer sounds glamorous and well-paid, but you don’t fall into that just by deciding to take it up.

So, what the heck? Where’s the motivational story?

The view from the window where I was writing

The view from the B&B window where I was writing with my bottle of vino

Well, OK. If you must drag it out of me. . . .

I’m having fun as a travel blogger. In fact, I’m having a blast! That’s even though the furthest I can travel right now comes down to how much gas we can afford to put in the car. I do this for passion. But it also comes with hard work.

In the words of Gene Simmons of KISS, from his fan mail page (I admire someone who personally answers his fan mail):

The initial reason we do most things we like doing is that in some way it’s rewarding. Yes. Creativity. But I believe the word is over emphasized. There is no substitute for hard work . . . whether you feel like it or not. Which is why I don’t believe in the notion that “inspiration” is a prerequisite. Nonesense. Get up out of bed and put in the time.

Fortunately, I can find inspiration almost anywhere. I’m happy doing stories from places that are not on the usual glossy travel magazine radar. Mind you, I want to be a globetrotter as much as the next person. But, in the words of another rock star: “If you don’t have what you need, just rock with what you’ve got!”

(Reputed to be spoken by Patti Smith.)

Writers and Self-Doubt

What about self-doubt? Ah, now we’re getting down to it. Any writers or wannabe writers reading this? Yep. Then you know I’m talking the nitty-gritty.

For me, self-doubt crept in whenever I compared myself to the Big Guys, the travel sites or magazines doing the Big Stories. Sure, I’ve been to some cool places: Montreal’s jazz festival. Swimming with dolphins off Cozumel. Big Chute in Ontario. And I’ve lived in some cool places: Taos, New Mexico, Australia.

But the reality of my life right now does not look like a postcard from the exotic ends of the Earth. I live in Youngstown, Ohio. (Have you heard of the Rust Belt?) Hubby and I work from home running our online businesses. But not as money-making gurus of anything. (More like fingernails on the cliff edge at times.) I’m a writing coach and the owner of an online course. Brian writes his own software for emergency communications. Still trying to pay off our taxes for last year. . . .

The carousel horse in Mansfield that blew me away with its beauty

The carousel horse in Mansfield, Ohio that blew me away with its beauty

But something provocative happened recently to remind me I’m on the right track, writing with passion from whatever comes to hand. We went deep into the heart of Ohio to meet my brother for coffee. My brother was here from Illinois, visiting cousins on the other edge of the state. We needed a central place to meet and I chose Mansfield, Ohio.

Travel, Power, Freedom

It was definitely a sleepy little burg on a Sunday, but Mansfield turned out to have some pretty cool tourist attractions that became fodder for several stories for this blog. And during that little trip down the road to a place only two hours drive from home, I got so many indications that THIS IS what I should be doing I would have been a goofball to ignore them.

The best one happened when I saw the carousel in the center of town. I took a bunch of pictures of the carousel animals, but the one that stood out the most was the beautifully-costumed horse. I didn’t realize just how stunning he was until I looked at the photos later at home. Ever have one of those a-ha moments when something you thought you saw the first time leaps off the screen of life and forces you to really LOOK?

I’m a believer in totem animals and the carousel horse wasn’t the only horse I saw that day. They were everywhere I looked; there were even horses painted on the fire hydrant in front of the carousel. Whenever an animal is grabbing my attention, I look it up on a site I like called Lin’s Domain.

Here’s part of the totem message from Horse:

Travel, Power, Freedom

Horses are symbols of freedom.
This totem brings new journeys.
It will teach you to ride in new directions and discover your own freedom and power.
Guide to overcoming obstacles.

After that, most of my doubts about my ability to be a travel writer took a hike and now I know I’m on the right path.

Doing it my way.


Travel Writing in the 5th Dimension: Transport Your Inner Armchair Traveler!

7-day travel writing workshop in New Mexico, October 2013. No travel writing experience required


Milli Thornton

Milli Thornton

Milli Thornton (aka Milliver) is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She is owner of the Fear of Writing Online Course, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli blogs at the Fear of Writing Blog and coaches writers individually at Writer’s Muse Coaching Service.

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  1. Good for you, Milli! I LOVE that you are doing what you’re passionate about! The carousel picture is incredible! It’s amazing how many people – myself included – fail to travel in their own backyard.

    Also – I loved the Gene Simmons quote….

    • Ann ~ I’m thrilled you feel the same way I do about the carousel picture. And chalk one up for Gene! 😀

      This part of your comment has been resounding in my head every since I read it: “It’s amazing how many people – myself included – fail to travel in their own backyard.” I’m going to think about what else I can do with that concept. Thanks!

  2. It’s so clear in all your travel writing how much you love it — you are so good at it! And I agree how important it is to do it our own way, whatever that is! The hard part for me is reconciling “my own way” with the financial realities of keeping away from the edge of that cliff. *That* makes me wish I were a more realistic or conventional person, not necessarily following the writer’s path. (Sorry to get all serious on you here!)

    • “The hard part for me is reconciling ‘my own way’ with the financial realities of keeping away from the edge of that cliff.”

      I hear ya! This article was one of the products of a month’s worth of intense journaling, exploring the idea of going from hobby to pro travel blogger with Milliver’s Travels. I went upside-down and backwards on all the reasons why I wouldn’t be able to pull it off. But it had the reverse effect: I finally could see ways to do it and baby steps to take. I wanted to publish this article as a way to remind myself of some of the creative epiphanies I’ve had along the way.

      (I’d have to start a separate blog for the business and blogging stuff I’ve learned by pushing myself to look at stuff I normally consider dry.)

      Good luck with your own realities of trying to combine passion and practicality for a writing career. It’s definitely a challenge.

  3. I LOVE those those a-ha moments when something you thought you saw the first time leaps off the screen of life and forces you to really LOOK.
    This piece is wonderful, and that horse on the carousel looks stunning. And it’s such a lovely feeling when you notice how you’re on the right track to… wherever you want to go.

    • Thanks, Estrella! Makes me happy to know you enjoyed it.

      Sometimes we notice we’re on the right track but forget to chronicle it. Then, a little further down the track, we get dissatisfied with our own progress. I’m hoping this article will leap off the screen and remind me of what’s really important whenever I most need it.

  4. I love it! And the picture of you as a travel writer is precious and priceless. That should give you loads of inspiration. I don’t know if you use vision boards (I haven’t started any yet) but if you do that picture needs to be there.

    This piece has reminded me that I think we know where we’re going, but we need to also enjoy the journey getting there. 😉

    Thanks for sharing!


    • Aw, thanks, Patti. ❤❤❤ Feels good that you feel the picture of me as a travel writer is precious. It’s precious to me, too, because travel writing makes me feel kid-like.

      I wanted to have at least one picture where it looks like I’m living the “ideal” travel writer’s lifestyle. It’s like a one-note vision board posted on my blog.

      I’m happy my story could remind you to enjoy the journey. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  5. Love this. You are a wonderful travel writer, Milli. I am honored to be a part of your big beautiful plan. Of course, I immediately went to that site and checked out ZEBRA as totem. I like horse better. 😉

    • Thank you, dear j. I’m equally honored to have you as part of the plan for peddling fun here at MT.

      Horse *is* pretty cool, though Zebra definitely offers qualities worth having. 😀

  6. BetsyV says:

    Hello Milli,
    I am a friend of Ann’s(Cookinghealthyforme)
    She brought this blog to my attention!. I LOVE it. You are a great writer and doing something I have wanted to do for many years now.
    You are a great inspiration! Thanks!

    • Betsy,

      I love Ann’s blog and I’m pleased that was our reason for meeting. 🙂

      I’m thrilled that my post about writing inspired you so much. Many good wishes for your writing dreams.

      ~ Milli

  7. Milli,

    This post was just wonderful — inspiring and encouraging. I’m going to read it often as I transition into more writing and blogging myself. I know the life of a travel writer is not always as glamorous as we believe it to be, but I would still like it to be at least a part of my life.

    My partner and I are also hanging on by our fingernails at times, but both doing what we love to do and that is worth so much more than anything else. We’re off to Costa Rica in a month to try “location independent” living and working — I hope I can tempt you with a tiny little story (or two?!) as to what that is like.

    Keep doing what you’re doing, Milli! Clearly you were meant to: judging by all the wonderful comments you get on each post, what you’re doing is working wonderfully.

    • Lisa, we meet again. 🙂

      Having previously read your bio on Intralingo during a blog tour (I wish I could remember whose site sent me on that tour), you could already easily tempt me with stories from your previous adventures living in the Netherlands, Seville, Peru and Mexico. (I also love visiting/writing/publishing stories about Canada, so your home turf is just as interesting to me.)

      And now that you mention “location independent” living and working in Costa Rica . . . I’m way beyond tempted. 😀

      My husband and I hope to eventually do the same thing. We don’t have a particular location in mind yet; we’re simply calling it “Going Mobile” and building up our Internet businesses to help make it possible. I’ll be famished for whatever tips you can give once you get down there!

      I’m so happy my post about writing/travel writing encourages you. That’s music to my ears!

      ~ Milli

  8. Good luck with your plans! I would love to be a travel writer too, but I’m raising kids for now. We have quite a bit in common (though I disagree- for me writing gets even more enjoyable during the 2nd glass. LOL). I grew up in OH, lived in Santa Fe, and met my husband while traveling in Ireland 14 years ago. I am still here. Our travels can lead us down the most unexpected roads, and what an exciting journey that can be! I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts.

    • Robin, thanks for finding this post. Wow, Ohio and Santa Fe. Who knows, we might have been within shouting distance of one another at some stage. (Though I’ve only been here in Youngstown, OH for 2.5 years. Sounds like OH was a long time ago for you.)

      I love the look of your blog and it looks like you live life with passion!

      I saw on Twitter that you’re doing a writing workshop – sounds intense for you (or, at least, the first day did). If you ever want to do a bit of travel blogging for relaxation, feel free to check out my guest blogger guidelines. Doesn’t sound like you’d have any lack of material. 🙂

      What part of Ireland?

      • Thanks for the compliment re my blog layout, Milli! Thanks also for the suggestion about travel/ guest blogging. I would love that! 🙂

        Yes, my workshop was intense but also enjoyable. I just wrote a post about all the incredible writers I came into contact with. I’d highly recommend the West Cork Literary Festival if you ever want an excuse to travel to Ireland! It’s very scenic, plus now you have a contact here to show you the sights!

        • Excellent news, Robin. I clicked on your CommentLuv link above, “Elevator Moments,” and I see that takes me straight to the post you mentioned about the incredible writers at the workshop. Can’t wait to read it!

          And I’ll gladly take you up on that willing tour guide to show me the sights if I ever make it over to Ireland. 😀

          Look forward to hearing from you about a guest blogger appearance. I haven’t had any stories yet from Ireland so you can carve a new niche on Milliver’s.

  9. Milli..loved this article. So glad you are doing what you love. I know exactly the “fingernails on the cliff edge” I’m so glad you decided to push through and bring us milliverstravels…thank you 😉

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