Update: I no longer teach English or work as a freelance writer and translator. I now dedicate myself full time to my blog and providing Portugal travel consultations and itineraries. I’ve left this article as it was when I wrote it back in 2013 as a reflection.
Some of you know that as well as writing about Portugal on this blog and elsewhere, I’ve been teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) for many years. Long enough that my automatic response to forms which ask for an occupation has been to write ‘teacher’.
Things have changed.
Recently, I checked into a hotel and described myself as a writer.
Because I am a writer.
I still teach part-time but over the last couple of years, I’ve been working on my dream of becoming a writer and I feel I’ve come a long way. Far enough to describe myself officially as a writer and to get paid freelance writing work, at least.
How I became a writer
My writing journey started with a love of words and creating far-fetched short stories when I was a kid. My scribblings ground to a halt when I entered the world of boyfriends and banking. A mid-mid-life crisis in my late twenties resulted in me leaving the bank and boyfriend behind to travel around the world with a backpack.
When I got back to the UK with a deep tan and a broader outlook on life, I realised that I needed a location-independent career so I could live somewhere warm. I also needed a degree. I chose one in Communications because the syllabus included modules on teaching English, creative writing and journalism. By the time I finished the course, I knew I wanted to be a travel writer.
I failed, dismally.
I wasn’t doing any travelling and although I’d kept a journal, I hadn’t made any useful notes during my previous trips. That made it difficult for me to do any writing, at least that was the excuse I made for myself. I realise now that I just wasn’t focussed or motivated enough at the time.
Having put the travel writing dream back in its box, I packed my rucksack, moved abroad and qualified as a TEFL teacher. Teaching English has brought me countless rewards and allowed me to live out my other dream of exploring other cultures by living and working in different countries.
Even so, my dream of being a writer began to resurface before I moved to Portugal. Once I was well and truly settled in Portugal, it was time to put pen to paper once again.
I bought writing books, took courses in feature writing and short stories. I wrote every day. I started a blog. I won a prize for one of my short stories. I sold a couple of articles. Success! Or encouragement, at least.
At this point, my writing still lacked direction so I decided to limit the focus of my blog to living and travelling in Portugal. If I wanted to write about other topics, I’d have to find somewhere else to publish it.
So what’s changed since I started blogging about living and travelling in Portugal?
Lots! In no particular order, here are some of the most significant developments in my writing journey:
- I got to know other expat bloggers, in Portugal and around the world, especially through my Personal A to Z of Portugal, and discovered the benefits of being part of a blogging community.
- I learned how to use social media for marketing and networking.
- I started to get encouraging feedback from readers and the number of people using my site as a resource continues to grow.
- My blog won several awards, including the Gold Award for best expat blog in Portugal.
- I worked on my writing style and found my voice.
- The way I travel has changed. Whenever I go somewhere now, I take lots of photos and notes and collect information that might help my readers.
- I’ve attended two Travel Bloggers Unite conferences which have helped me to understand the value of my blog to other people and how to improve it.
- Being part of a wider travel writing community has given me the confidence to accept press trips and work directly with travel companies.
- Through my travel writing about Portugal, I started getting freelance writing work. I’ve worked on well-known guide books for Portugal, blog posts and travel brochures and set up a separate freelance writer website.
- My freelance writing work isn’t just about travel. I’ve worked on other business communications and even done some translation, all of which has come about via my blog.
- I’ve written and published an ebook, Money Saving Tips for Portugal and will be working on more books in the future.
Who knows where my writing journey will lead but it’s encouraging for me to reflect on how far I’ve come over the last few years and even more exciting to think about what lies ahead.
This post is part of my rather neglected Personal A to Z of Portugal, a blogging challenge I started in 2012.
What has writing got to do with Portugal?
For me, a lot, really. When I moved to Portugal, the elements I needed soon fell into place. I met my incredibly supportive husband here and our lifestyle allows me the space, time and freedom to nurture and develop my skills as a writer. Portugal is also a beautiful and fascinating country to explore, which gives me plenty to write about.