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Dream Job: Travel Writer

Vacationing for a Living

When you're lying on the white sands of the Mexican Riviera, the stresses of the world seem a million miles away. Hey, snap out of it! This is no vacation - you have a deadline to meet!

Therein lies the dilemma for travel writer and food critic Edie Jarolim. "I always loved traveling and always like to eat, but it never occurred to me that I could make money doing both of those things," Jarolim said. Now you can read her travel advice everywhere - in Arts and Antiques, in Brides, or in one of her three published books, including The Complete Idiot's Travel Guide to Mexico's Beach Resorts.

Her career in tourism writing began accidentally. After getting a Ph.D in English, she took an editor's test through an agency which, unbeknownst to her, was testing for Frommer's travel guides. She got the job. After working at Frommer's, Jarolim did stints at Rough Guides in London, then Fodor's, where she fell so in love with one of her writer's descriptions of America's Southwest that she moved there.

Now as a freelancer, she spends one-third of her year on the road. The rest of the time is spent completing her assignments and writing reviews of restaurants in her hometown of Tucson, Ariz. And what criteria does Edie apply to her meals and accommodations? "Basically there's a correlation between the price and what I expect. In a high-priced restaurant, the service had better be really good and the food should transcend the ordinary," Jarolim said.

As adventurous as the job sounds, the tough part is fact-checking all the details. Sure, it's great to write about a fabulous resort, but you'd better get the local museum hours correct or you could really mess up someone's vacation.

On Being Uncooperative
Like everyone, Edie has had mishaps - even when proprietors know she is there to review them. Once when Jarolim was dining alone at a bed and breakfast, a waitress asked her to join a group at another table. Jarolim declined, and the waitress yelled at her. When the inn's owner called to inquire why his establishment wasn't included in Jarolim's guide book, she told him why. The owner's response was, "Most of my guests cooperate."

Jarolim offered this advice for those who think they can advise others on travel and dining. "Start on a small scale," she said. That could include doing a few pieces for your local newspaper for free, which would provide you with "clips," every writer's calling card.

But remember this, Edie said: "The emphasis should be on the writing. Never tell people you love to travel; you have to be a good writer." And although you may dine and vacation like royalty, don't expect to receive a paycheck fit for a king or queen. "Money is not the priority here, but you're going to get to travel to a lot of good places and see a lot of interesting things," Jarolim said.

If you're hungry for a job as a professional vacationer, pack your bags and…dream on!