I Got Zika While Traveling: Here’s What No One Told Me

Did you know I got zika on my latest trip through Central American and the Caribbean? I knew it was a risk when I left, but I went anyway. I tried to spray myself with DEET as much as possible, but what most people don’t know is that in the tropics, it’s virtually impossible to protect yourself 24/7. The symptoms first kicked in in Rio Dulce, Guatemala, and followed me into Belize. It put me out of commission for a week, but I still wouldn’t trade my trip for anything. For me, it’s just part of being a traveler, but not everyone feels the same. My latest piece for Oyster explains everything: IMG_20160319_101644009

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5 Best Places to Eat for Cheap in Caye Caulker, Belize

Belize is known as the most expensive country in Central America, but it doesn’t have to be if you know where to look for cheap eats. The food in Belize is exploding with Caribbean flavor, and it’s all made with love. During my week in Caye Caulker, I became a bit of an expert on finding the best, cheapest places to chow down. Here are the 5 best cheap places to eat in Caye Caulker, Belize:

 

  1. Southside Pizza

Photo courtesy CCToday.biz

Pizza is hit or miss in the Caribbean (weird processed cheese, ham toppings, oddly-textured crust). But not at Southside. Here, the gooey mozzarella cut into triangles is like the best of New York-style meets the best of Chicago-style. I wish the pizza in Minnesota was this good. You cannot eat just one of these slices. One tip: call ahead. This pizza takes a long time, but it’s so worth it.

  1. Belizean Flava

If you see a bunch of guys in the street standing next to a grill and yelling at you, you’ve come to the right place. Turn to your left, go up the stairs, find a hardworking Belizean lady leaning over a fiery-hot oven, and you’re there. You can get a plate of lip-smacking BBQ chicken (or jerk if you’re a spice lover) for $15 Belize ($7.50 US), which includes two sides (including salad, garlic mashed potatoes, rice, or fries) and two (count ‘em two! rum punches). It’s the best deal in town. This is also where I indulged and ordered lionfish for the first time (an invasive species in the Caribbean, and thankfully highly delicious when grilled in foil with peppers and tomatoes). I must have eaten here 4 times during my week in Caye Caulker, and my friends started going there too.

  1. Ice & Beans

Three words: Free Mini Donuts. And their French press Belizean coffee is the best in town. Even the guy from Best of the Fair–who gets his fill of fried foods daily–told me he goes here daily for his free mini donut and coffee fix.

  1. Errolyn’s House of Fryjacks

Have a fryjack, you’ll never go back (I came up with that). I’m officially obsessed with these puffy, deep-fried Belizean breakfast specialties. Personally, I can devour five of them plain in one sitting, but if you’re more adventurous, at Errolyn’s they come stuffed with ham, cheese, beans or any other breakfast food you can imagine.

  1. Best of the Fair

This is pure indulgence, but hey, you’re on holiday. As a dedicated goer to the Minnesota State Fair, I felt right at home eating the Tornado Potato, Bubble Waffles, and deep-fried corn dogs.

5 tips for publishing your travel writing on major sites

Recently, I was chatting on a message board with a fellow travel blogger, who had come across my site and saw all the badges on the the side of my blog. “I’d love to write for some of those,” she said. “But I don’t know where to start!” I was surprised, because she’s a successful blogger who’s got slick concept and a great-looking site. But, like most bloggers, she’d love more exposure for her writing and the perks that brings–traffic, more paid assignments. Hmmm, that gave me an idea for a new post!

I’ve been a professional freelance writer for almost a decade, long before I started this blog (although I had other blogs, a long time ago in another life!) I know there are a lot of bloggers who’ve yet to do any freelancing, but would love to gain a bigger audience by publishing their work beyond their blog, but may not know where to start. I’m here to help!

Weirdly, I found one of my biggest travel writing clients, Matador Network, by accident, when they syndicated my post on XOJane, which was an article that arose out of my book, Princess of Pirates: How I Ran Away to Sea. But if they aren’t coming to you yet, go to them!

How To Get Started Writing for Travel Sites in 5 Short Steps

  1. Decide where to pitch. Don’t know where to start? Start at the easiest place–with the blogs you already read and love. Chances are you might have an idea for a post on a subject they haven’t covered and are looking to cover. Don’t be afraid to think big–even if a blog has a lot of traffic, that doesn’t mean they aren’t looking for a subject matter you might be an expert in–like working a yacht, for example, or train travel, or luxury hotels in Singapore, or…
  2. Do your research. Log onto the site, browse it thoroughly to make sure you get their tone down and get a sense of what they seem to publish most often. You don’t want to waste your time pitching “10 tips for solo travel in India” when they just published “What I learned from traveling alone in India” two days ago. (At least you know there’s an audience for it, so save that piece for somewhere else!) Be sure your concept is fresh, but still falls within the scope of what they publish. For instance, Matador had published pieces on yachties, but nothing on tall ships. Cha-ching! Found my niche. The subject doesn’t have to be brand-new, either. You can also adapt one of your previous posts (generally they don’t want a complete duplicate, so you will have to change it a little).
  3. Craft the pitch. Offer to write about something that they haven’t covered, and convince them why you should be the one to do it. What are your qualifications? give them a link to your blog and/or portfolio. Remember don’t bore them with a bland, predictable pitch: “This is what I’m going to write about…” You’re writing, so write the pitch the way you would write the post. Make it sing!
  4. Send your pitch. Make sure to check out their submission guidelines to see whether they accept pitches or want you to submit the entire piece, or have any policies you should know about. Sometimes they’ll give you a generic email address (e.g. info@bigtravelsite.com.) If you can try to find the name and email address of an actual PERSON. If you can greet them by name, it helps shape personal connection that makes them less likely to ignore you.
  5. Follow up. Editors are busy–don’t be afraid to nudge! If you don’t hear back right away, don’t throw up your hands and give up. I can’t tell you how often editors have gotten back to me and said “Oops, I never saw this. It fell through the cracks, but we’d love to publish it!”
  6.  Don’t give up. Rejection SUCKS. Believe me, I hate it more than I hate just about anything in the world–which as a writer, is quite unfortunate for me! (The only thing I hate more than being rejected is being ignored altogether, which also happens). But I grit my teeth and keep going, because this is my business; this is my life. Rejection is NOT a referendum on you as a human being, and it doesn’t mean your story is worthless. It just means “not here.” Maybe you’ll get accepted right away. Maybe you won’t. Find another market who does want it (see below). Remember, as long you think it’s going to take to get accepted, it will most likely take 100 times that, or longer. But if you keep pitching, brainstorming, and sending great ideas, it will happen. Take it from me, the Rejection Queen.

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Here are some great resources I’ve found for finding new places to submit your work, tips on submissions, and all around support:

  • Facebook Groups for Travel Blogging. Once you request to join, these are incredibly useful in networking with other bloggers, sharing ideas and (sob) stories, getting advice, and spreading word of mouth about sites who are looking for writers/pitches! Plus, helping other writers makes you feel fuzzy inside! The ones I belong to:
  • Next Level Travel Blogging
  • Female Travel Bloggers
  • Girls vs. Globe
  • Drifters Unite
  • Pitch Travel Write. Veteran travel writer Roy Stevenson has written literally thousands of articles for travel sites, and has dozens of valuable tips for how to pitch, what to pitch, and the business of travel writing.
  • Make a Living WritingThis site isn’t specifically about travel writing, but it is covered in several posts, as well as hugely use list of sites paying $50 and up, including a long list of travel-related sites. Carol Tice is a rock star when it comes to offering tips to chase big sites and clients, and more importantly make $$$!
  • Matador Network. The site actually offers a class on travel writing called Travel U. I haven’t tried it, but it’s got great testimonials and it’s something to think about if you’re serious about getting more work. But they also have a great free how-to series on travel writing by editor David Miller that are just as valuable (e.g., “Why lists are killing travel writing!”)

What about you? Any techniques that have worked particularly well for you in getting your writing published? Any that haven’t? Share below!