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Ship Log

Permission to be Nosy

[Another tale told for pay. Visit International Living to sign up for “Fund Your Life” e-newsletters or to subscribe to their magazine.-KH]

Editor’s Note:
The perks to being a travel writer are many and we’ve covered them in detail in this e-letter.
But something we’ve seldom touched on is the perk that Kristin considers the most valuable.
She reveals it below.

Rob Carry
Editor in Chief, Fund Your Life Overseas

* * *

Is This ‘Working?’

By Kristin Henning

On a family trip to northern Minnesota when I was young, I remember waiting in the car while my father paid for gas at a random station. It was a long wait, but when Dad returned to the car, he said, “I just met Bronko Nagurski!” – a retired Hall of Fame Chicago Bears football player. My father was thrilled, and I was impressed at how a little conversation at the cash register could be so important.

Curiosity might kill the cat, but it feeds the writer—especially if you’re graced with the ability to strike up a conversation with strangers, like my father was.

Writing gives me permission to be a little nosy, to ask for recipes and names (with correct spelling), to get the background on how people came to live where and how they live, and to take photos with permission and purpose. Sometimes I’m writing for my family and friends who insist they are living vicariously through me. Sometimes I’m writing so I don’t forget the characters I meet along the way. As a chronically curious traveler, I’m always writing to process the world I’m experiencing.

Luckily, my writing habit is occasionally rewarded. Every now and then someone publishes one of my articles and I get paid—it’s really satisfying selling a story and seeing it in print or online, knowing others will share the experiences I’ve had.

My “work,” of course, can be chatting with people, wandering around a strange town, eating in a new restaurant, or capturing a beautiful landscape or odd sign. Even eavesdropping can be inspirational. For me, this is not a tough assignment. But while I can use the title “freelance writer” as an excuse for my prying questions, my professional life doesn’t fool everyone. As I write this, for example, I’m house-sitting in a gorgeous old home on one of the urban lakes of Minneapolis. I told the handyman who was here supervising some repairs, “I’ll be out on the front porch working.” He answered, “You can call it whatever you want.”

In the past couple years, I’ve published an opera review in Sydney, a variety of restaurant and hotel reviews on travel websites, a couple articles in International Living, and fairly regular posts to my own blog. I continue to shop stories to newspapers and magazines in the U.S. and abroad, and am teaching myself how to edit recorded interviews so that I can produce work for radio.

Acceptance of a story can take time, but I’m not holding my breath. When payment is sent to my account for a story, it’s all the more pleasing being unexpected, a bonus for having found an audience for a completed story. Every bit reinforces my curiosity, encourages my writing, and funds the simple experiences that will fuel the next chapter.

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