In the interview, Mr. Kohnstamm, a travel writer, described the experience as one of "the darker realities of the job." He added that he stared death in the face on an assignment when the brakes of his car failed on an icy road in the Andes. Other realities of the job, he said, were "being broke, spending massive amounts of time staying in fleabag hotels, and there are aspects of the writing that are just data entry."
It's summer now, and countless travelers are fumbling their way around the globe, heads buried in guides published by Let's Go, Lonely Planet, Rough Guides and Frommer's among others. Probably few stop to consider what goes into producing travel guides or even who wrote them. And as it turns out, many of the intrepid young writers scouring the planet doing research for next year's crop of guidebooks never stopped to consider what those jobs would entail, other than the romantic — and often overstated — prospect of being paid to travel.
While the phrase "travel writing" may invoke thoughts of steamer trunks, trains, Isak Dinesen and Graham Greene, or at the very least, well-financed junkets to spas in Rangoon for some glossy magazine or other, writing budget travel guides is most decidedly yeoman's work. Most who do it quickly learn the one hard and fast rule of the trade: travel-guide writing is no vacation.
"Many underestimate exactly how much work goes into making a guide book," said Jay Cooke, an editor for Lonely Planet. "Some potential authors think it would be fun to travel and get paid for it. But they're expected to write tens of thousands of words. It's a big, big job, and it goes far beyond journal keeping on a beach somewhere."
Awright, awright, we haven't gone though any of the bad shit the article describes, and with the exception of being unable to sit comfortably for a couple of months because we had a few minutes of stupidity, and getting chewed by mosquitoes in various parts of India, we quite enjoy our little breaks.
Psst. Shameless self-promoting plug time. We have a little piece on Bombay in the rains in this month's issue.