Kim Dinan is an author and adventurer. Her writing has appeared in Parks and Recreation, Northwest Travel, Trailer Life, Go Explore, and OnTrak, among others. Her blog, So Many Places, was named one of the best outdoor blogs by USA Today and has been featured online by such sites as Huffington Post and BuzzFeed. Her travel memoir, The Yellow Envelope, hits shelves in April 2017.
How did you get started traveling?
I don’t come from a family of travelers but, for one reason or another, I’ve always wanted to know what was around the next bend. As soon as I knew it was a thing people did, I decided that one day I would travel the world. It wasn’t until the age of 26, after a few years of working full-time, that I could afford to travel outside of the US. I got my first passport and booked a trip to Costa Rica. It’s funny because I used to think that 26 was such an old age to first get a passport, but now it sounds so young!
How did you get started writing?
I’ve always been a writer and I majored in English in college, though I stopped writing for a long time in my twenties while working a 9-5. I eventually decided I wanted to take a shot at this writing thing, so I started a blog. Shortly thereafter I began working (in my free time) for a small online newsletter that reviewed local businesses in Portland, Oregon, where I lived. Then I started pitching local travel magazines. I have a photo of the first check I ever received as a paid writer.
In 2012 my husband and I quit our desk jobs and sold all of our stuff to travel around the world. While traveling I poured much of my energy into my blog and it grew a strong following. I pitched magazines and slowly built my portfolio.
Then in 2014 my husband and I were hired to work for Backpacker Magazine. We weren’t actually writing for the magazine, we were on a speaking tour. But the job gave me a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the industry and I made some industry contacts.
In this writing journey one thing keeps leading to another. It was (and still is sometimes) slow going, but I’m continuously pushing forward.
What do you consider your first “break” as a writer?
The job at Backpacker was a fairly big break, but I got my best break as a writer when I landed my literary agent in January 2015. At that time I had a travel memoir I was working on and a friend who’d sold her own travel memoir told me that I should put down the draft and start working on a book proposal. I spent a few months on the proposal and then began the search for a literary agent. I was lucky to find a great one right away and a few months later my book, The Yellow Envelope: One Gift, Three Rules and a Life-Changing Journey Around the World sold.
As a traveler and fact/story gatherer, what is your biggest challenge on the road?
There are times that I want to just turn my writer brain off and enjoy the experience but I struggle to do that. I’m constantly writing the story in my head or jotting it down on the notebook I keep in my pocket. When you’re a writer you’re constantly analyzing every experience and looking for the angle.
What is your biggest challenge in the research and writing process?
I really hate making phone calls. I have to fight the urge to just send emails.
It’s also hard for me when I don’t get clear editorial direction from an editor. I like to know that I am delivering a story that the editor will like but direction is oftentimes vague and I just have to go with my gut.
What is your biggest challenge from a business standpoint?
Sometimes the hustle gets old and I miss just showing up at a cubicle and collecting my paycheck. The absolute worst part of freelancing for me is tracking down payment. I don’t like being a bill collector, but it comes with the territory.
Have you ever done other work to make ends meet?
Yes! Right now I juggle life as an author (promoting my book and working on the next one), pitching and writing for magazines, blogging, copywriting and consulting with clients to help them work on their non-fiction book proposals. One day I’d like to run workshops, but that’s something to look forward to in the future.
What travel authors or books might you recommend and/or have influenced you?
Well, your book, Vagabonding, had a huge influence on me when I was contemplating a trip around the world.
What advice and/or warnings would you give to someone who is considering going into travel writing?
Be persistent. At the end of 2016 I set a goal to get 100 rejections in 2017. If you aren’t getting rejected on a regular basis you aren’t pushing yourself.
What is the biggest reward of life as a travel writer?
I am such an advocate of travel. It opens minds and hearts and makes the world less scary. I think Rick Steves said that fear is for people that don’t get out much and I completely agree. When you’re lucky enough to see the world you realize that people are good and more alike than not. At the end of the day we all want the same things. So, if something I write encourages someone to go somewhere they have never been and, because they went, they gain new insights and less fear, then I can think of no greater reward.