Colorado-based, freelance writer Gigi Ragland specializes in active travel, sustainable and cultural issues as well as food journalism. Her freelance writing has appeared in multiple outlets reporting on a variety of topics from cycling the Camino, foraging Irish fairy potatoes to hiking with llamas in the Rockies. Her work has appeared in: AARP, AAA EnCompass, Adventure Travel, American Cowboy, American Way, Adventure Cyclist, Cheese Connoisseur, Cowgirl, Denver Life, Living Naturally, National Geographic Traveler, Saturday Evening Post, Sierra, TravelAge West and Women’s Adventure where she served as the magazine’s first travel editor. Gigi is the author of Best Easy Day Hikes Oklahoma City, A Falcon Guide.
1. What got you into travel writing?
I kept travel journals when exploring new countries, unique places and cultures. It was a way for me to keep the experience alive, so I could return to it later and reminisce. Eventually, after taking a few creative writing classes I mustered the courage to transform those notes into essays.
2. What’s the most challenging part of being a travel journalist for you?
When you know you have a really great pitch and the rejections start piling up. Some stories have taken me a few years to publish, I didn’t give up on the idea and would re-work the angle over and over until a story was assigned. Fortitude and patience, tough qualities to develop as a freelancer, but very rewarding when it pays off.
3. What is one thing [equipment or personal item] you can’t go without on the road?
Notepad and a pen. My favorite pen? A blue ink roller ball-point. I get so irritated when a pen snags across the page while I’m scribbling notes.
4. What’s your most unusual and/or memorable travel experience?
That’s a tough question to answer. My guess is most travel journalists roll their eyes at that one because there are SO many fantastic experiences. We are so lucky. I usually say it’s the last trip I’ve been on. There’s something memorable and unique everywhere. But…off the top of my head, one experience has to do with sitting next to cheetahs in Namibia.
5. How did you learn about NATJA and why did you join?
Honestly, I don’t remember how I discovered NATJA. It was probably through writer friends. I joined to network and commiserate with other writers and editors and to gain access to new tools and skills.
6. What is the best piece of advice you could give to a rookie travel journalist?
Remember to use the senses. Don’t get too caught up in note-taking or interviewing that you lose sight of how the experience is affecting you or the people and environment around you.