How Everytown, USA Became My Travel Writing Goldmine

By Theresa St. John

I decided that I wanted to be a journalist/travel writer in 2013. Of course, like many others starting out, I had big dreams and bright, shining stars in my eyes. I thought I’d be traveling to exotic countries, hosted at five-star hotels, spoiled rotten, all on someone else’s dime.

And, those things certainly did come, but it took a little while to get there. I needed to concentrate on establishing myself first.

I’d just come out of a nasty divorce, with fistfuls of bills I couldn’t pay. They were killing me. Thanks to my gambling now ex-husband, we’d lost every single thing and I was struggling to get back on my feet.

I realized that my freelance writing career would need to begin closer to home, right in my own back yard, so to speak. I embraced that reality immediately and my mantra soon became ‘Everytown USA is a destination for someone, especially my town.’

And it was true. I’d hit a goldmine.

Today, less than four years later, I am hosted in other towns, cities, states and countries. I do stay at luxury resorts, in vacation rentals, enjoying private tours, museums of interest and seven-course dinners.

I’m published over 200 times; in several on-line, in-print and in-flight magazine arenas. I write about travel, history, food, and local attractions in any area I’m invited to visit. I get to interview the most interesting people, and submit those articles to various publications as well.

I still love local and find new things to write about here all the time.

Make sure you’re familiar with your area. If you’re not, it’s time to get started!

I’d always gone to museums in my area. I loved taking a few hours out of my day to learn about the past, present and future of my hometown.

There are so many attractions here, I couldn’t count them if I tried, (some discovered for the first time on Google ) and they cost little to nothing to visit.

Now that I knew I wanted to write about the place where I had roots, I jumped in with a notebook, pen and my camera. I was enthusiastic, revisiting places I enjoyed and even attractions I had no initial interest in.

Look for local publications

Once I had a few visits under my belt, and good notes that I could use to weave a story, it was time to look for someone who might want to buy my article.

There are a lot of opinions on writing. You’ve probably read them all. Should you ever write for free? Should you write your story before you pitch, or visa versa ? What about those pitches – should you query one publication at a time – or send out an email blitz and see who bites?

My first two articles were written for free, just so I could claim a few by-lines tucked under my belt. I understood that it was important to start building a reputation as a writer. Soon though, I began looking for outlets that paid their writers.

I decided to begin my queries with a single, local publication, rather than an email blitz. I searched for local publications on Google and found  ‘Discover Saratoga.’ It was on-line, and a member of the Chamber of Commerce. I searched for, then targeted my pitch, to the woman in charge.

This is what my query letter looked like:


Dear Miss ——-:

Good Morning:

My name is Theresa St John. I’m a freelance travel writer and photographer based right here in Saratoga.

I’ve always loved this area of Upstate New York and am hoping you are open to working with freelancers, as I’d like to submit some content to your website.

I’m very interested in visiting our local attractions and museums. I am thrilled that we have so many in Saratoga to choose from! I’d like to craft a story about each, then submit, along with a photo essay, for your consideration.

I truly believe, because I am local, my insight would appeal to your readership. An ‘insider’s view’ can go a long way sometimes.

I appreciate your time and look forward to hearing from you.


Theresa St John

4316 Route 50

Apartment 5E

Saratoga Springs, New York 12866

It took less than a week to hear from the editor, who loved the idea and gave me the green light. Besides that, I was actually able to gain free entrance to many attractions, in exchange for coverage in an article.

This is one of the articles I wrote for ‘Discover Saratoga’s’ website.

I didn’t wait for it to come out. I visited another attraction, wrote a second article and sent it in, just a few days later. Over time, I built a solid relationship with the editor, was sent on several assignments and at the end of that year received a $100 gift certificate to my favorite restaurant in town. It was a nice surprise!

Think about paid publications, we all want to see the money!

I still kept it local, but this time it was a farmer’s market that I wanted to write about.

Saratoga Springs has a huge following in Farmers Markets. Fresh fruits and vegetables, organic gardening, it’s an entire mindset here in our area.

I got in touch with one of the founders, asked if I could come talk with a few of her vendors, and take some pictures for a story I wanted to write. She was thrilled!

I took the idea further and did some research on the history of Farmers Markets. Where and when did they start? How did it become a culture and how did they make their way to Saratoga?

Once I fleshed out some historical facts, I came at my travel story from a specific angle, moving from the past into the present day farmers markets.

And I looked hard for paying publications.

I learned something interesting in that process; Just because I lived in Saratoga and often wrote about Saratoga didn’t mean I had to keep my story in a local publication. I decided to cast my net further and went to work, searching Google’s tool bar.

This is what I typed in, and I believe it would work for whatever genre of writing you decide to pursue.

“Submission guidelines to farming magazines that pay freelance writers”

I prepared my query letter, included my published links and sent this pitch to 10 magazines I thought might be interested.

My article ended up in a beautiful print publication called Farming Magazine and it paid $125.

It’s actually the first link that comes up on Google. If you’d like to go view back issues, Mine appeared in Winter 2015. ( Note: The process from pitch to publish can take awhile sometimes. I queried in April of 2014! So, keep in mind, patience is a virtue. Every writer needs it. )

The truth is this: Everything, everywhere, is a story

There might be a local restaurant or new theater you want to write about. A stay in a  luxury hotel or visit to a hole-in-the-wall bar make a great story. And the interest in dog-friendly attractions is huge, no matter where you go!

There are museums that appeal to many, and new coffee shops pop up on all four corners of any downtown block. Believe me, I find new things to write about all the time. Now I have fun, digging for publications I know might be anxious for new, interesting content.

I’ve moved on to land several covers of magazines. I often write features, round-ups, food articles and profile pieces. I’ve traveled extensively, most often hosted by visitor’s centers, all over the country. I’ve also been sent to Ireland, Paris and Fiji, covering luxury vacation rentals and writing about local attractions.

I just had to take those first steps.

No matter what area you want to write in, you need to do the same. Take those first steps in the direction you choose to go. Make it happen.

Theresa St John is a freelance travel writer based in Saratoga Springs, New York. She has been published over 200 times. She writes about travel, history, food, and local tourist attractions.

Want more case studies? This book is excerpted from The Case Study Guide to Freelance Writing. Get your copy here.


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