Christopher P. Baker has written for more than 150 publications worldwide as far-ranging as Newsweek, Elle, Islands, National Wildlife, Caribbean Travel & Life, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor , and the South China Morning Post. His numerous books include best-selling guidebooks to Cuba, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Bahamas, and elsewhere on behalf of such publishers as Avalon Travel Publishing, Frommer’s, Lonely Planet, National Geographic Society, and Prentice Hall. He has also contributed chapters to books on behalf of Time-Life, the Discovery Channel, etc. and is the author of the best-selling literary travelogue, Mi Moto Fidel: Motorcycling Through Castro’s Cuba, which won the 2002 Lowell Thomas Award as “Travel Book of the Year.”
How did you get started traveling?
At university (London), where I studied geography, I participated in two Sahara expeditions and a student exchange in Krakow, Poland. My first trip, driving overland from the U.K. to Morocco, gave me the bug.
How did you get started writing?
In 1978, I hitchhiked around North America for six months and wrote up reports of my travels for a local newspaper in England. At the same time, I was writing on Latin America for a political journal. Shortly after settling in the USA (1980), while working in the adventure travel business, I decided to become a travel writer.
What do you consider your first “break” as a travel writer?
In 1981, while working in the travel business, I wrote my first travel piece for a travel industry journal, TravelAge West. When the paycheck came, a light bulb came on: “Hey, I’ve found a new career!” The biggest break came when National Geographic bought rights to my literary travelogue, “Mi Moto Fidel: Motorcycling Through Castro’s Cuba.” I’ve since written two other books for National Geographic.
As a traveler and fact/story-gatherer, what is your biggest challenge on the road?
Staying motivated to give 100% and not cut corners. Getting out at night to research after an exhausting day.
What is your biggest challenge in the writing process?
Staying in harness. I have lots of creative ideas that begin to pull me to new projects.
What is your biggest challenge from a business standpoint?
Keeping abreast of future income. Working to solidify a continuous stream of income.
Do you do other work to make ends meet?
I teach travel writing, lecture on cruise ships, consult for Intel, etc. This work is very ephemeral. Projects come and go.
What travel authors or books might you recommend and/or have influenced you?
Eric Newby, Paul Theroux, Peter Mathiessen.
What advice and/or warnings would you give to someone who is considering going into travel writing?
Build up a financial base beforehand, if possible. Be prepared to struggle financially for awhile or for periods. Mentor successful writers.
What is the biggest reward of life as a travel writer?
Learning, adventures on the road, and the accomplishment of having books in print.