Sarah Duff (@travellingduff on Instagram) is a freelance travel writer and photographer from Cape Town who says she is happiest when on the road with her camera. As the editor of Peregrine and former web editor of Getaway magazine, she’s seen her fair share of exciting and exotic places and is about to embark on her greatest adventure yet: traveling around the globe for an entire year! Sarah uses Instagram to share her travels, and us desk-bound folk can’t wait to see what she gets up to in the coming months (though admittedly we’re a tad envious!). Before jetting off, Sarah was kind enough to take a break from packing for her trip to answer some of our questions about her job as a professional traveller:
I think there’s one burning question on everyone’s minds: how do you get to do what you do?
I interned at Getaway magazine before starting to write for the magazine, and years later I became a freelancer. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into being a travel writer – you don’t immediately get to go on trips to exotic places!
What’s the best thing about your job as a travel writer? (probably an obvious question but we want to hear it anyway!)
Apart from the obvious, which is that I get to travel for a living, it’s that I get to find out the stories behind the places I visit by doing research and chatting to as many locals as I can. Each destination you visit has a whole world of stories, which often as a tourist you don’t really find out about.
What’s the most difficult/unpleasant thing?
Coming home after a trip has ended! I often go on short trips to amazing destinations, so just when I’m really starting to get into a place I have to leave. Almost always, I make a plan to return one day.
What has been your best travel experience to date?
It’s really hard to pick one. From almost every trip I’ve done I’ve been lucky enough to experience things I will remember forever: sleeping under the stars in the Namib Desert, tracking mountain gorillas in Rwanda and Uganda, seeing sea turtles lay their eggs on a beach in Costa Rica, road tripping around Malawi in a Mini, seeing in the New Year on a houseboat on Lake Kariba, seeing a wild cheetah for the first time in the Masai Mara… the list goes on.
And the worst?
I haven’t had any bad trips, but I’d say that breaking up with my boyfriend in Swakopmund and then driving 1700 kilometres back to Cape Town together in a car with no radio, wasn’t exactly fun.
How have social media platforms (particularly Instagram) changed your job?
The best thing about using social media platforms as a travel writer is that you get to engage with an audience while you’re travelling. When you write for a print publication, you have no idea who ends up reading your stories, but when you post images and snippets from your travels in real time on social media, you get immediate feedback. It’s great when people tell you that you inspire them to travel!
We know you’re about to leave on an incredibly exciting trip – can you tell us about what you’re going to get up to?
I’m travelling around the world for a year! I’m starting off in the USA, where I’m spending a while in New York before road tripping across the country and ending up at Burning Man, and then heading to South America for a few months, followed by Central America and Europe.
What’s the most useful piece of advice you could give to aspiring travel writers and Instagrammers?
Don’t be generic – don’t write about and shoot the same places from the same angles. Try and work out why travel is important to you (hopefully it’s not just about staying in luxury hotels) and create your work around that idea.
Who are your favourite travellers to follow on Instagram?
@alexstrohl – a Canadian-based photographer who shoots epic natural scenes.
@passthemap – a Joburg couple who’ve been travelling around Africa and India recently, sharing beautiful nature and wildlife shots.
@jakerwin – A photographer from California whose feed is almost entirely comprised of incredible shots of mountains.
@amivitale – a National Geographic photographer who shares photos from his assignments around the world.
The world through the lens of a travellingduff:
Words: Kristen Duff Images: Sarah Duff