Ever dreamed of being a travel writer but didn’t have the courage to take the steps? Back in 2004, Rob McFarland was an IT consultant, but knew he needed a change. After a career break and a lot of self-help books, he decided he would give travel writing a go. Prior to leaving his IT career behind and making the jump he had never being published before. Today, Rob has gone on to become one of Australia’s leading travel writers and is a regular contributor to the Sydney Morning Herald, Sun-Herald, The Guardian, San Francisco Chronicle, NZ Herald, West Australian, Luxury Travel, Let’s Travel & GQ magazines. Rob has also won six awards including Travel Writer of the Year. We took the opporutnity to have a chat with him to find out a bit more about the travel writing industry and also asked him for some tips for all the budding travel writers out there.
Dividing your time between Sydney, New York and the UK, where do you call home?
That’s a tricky one. Most of my family still live in England, which is where I grew up, so in some ways that will always be home. But I’ve lived in Sydney for 15 years so that also feels like home now. And to be honest if it wasn’t for New York’s brutal winters I think I could live there too so errr…can I have three?
What inspired you to become a travel writer?
I studied Computing & IT at university and then worked as an IT consultant for 10 years before realising it wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. The problem was I didn’t know what I wanted to do instead. So I took a year off, read a bunch of career self-help books I swore I’d never go near (they were actually very useful) and came to the conclusion that I liked two things: travelling and emailing my friends and family while I was away. So clearly, I should just become a travel writer. I can still remember the look on my parents’ face when I announced after months of self-reflection that it was OK, I’ve figured out what I want to do – I’m going to be a travel writer. I don’t think my Dad has ever fully recovered.
Do you have any tips for someone aspiring to become a travel writer?
Absolutely – come on my course! Seriously, there are lots of tips and tricks it’s taken me 10 years to figure out but the biggest piece of advice I give to people is simply to persevere. I know so many great writers who haven’t been published because they haven’t kept at it and so many editors who’ve told me they eventually published someone because every week they kept popping up in their inbox.
What do you never leave home without?
My iPhone and earplugs. After living on the Heathrow flight path in London for seven years I can’t sleep without them.
What is your favourite thing to do in Melbourne?
Drink! Sydney’s bar scene is getting better but Melbourne is still the benchmark for atmospheric small bars.
Where to after Melbourne?
Brisbane to run another travel writing workshop then Queenstown to run a half-marathon for a story (which is something of a concern given I’ve never run more than 12km before…gulp…)
Are you interested in travel writing? Rob is holding a travel writing workshop next Saturday, 7 November from 10am – 5pm, at The Swanston Hotel.