When people learn that I support my lifestyle as a full-time globetrotter through travel writing the immediate reaction is always envy and sentiments about how I’ve landed the dream job. They’re correct, I absolutely have, but travel writing is no holiday. Breaking into travel writing is challenging. But, if you have unique stories to tell and you’re already traveling it isn’t too far-fetched to aspire to be a travel writer. A great place to start is by launching your own travel blog. It can be daunting if you’ve never sent a query, developed a pitch, written an article, or established media contacts. Luckily The Content Castle has launched a writers’ retreat located in Thailand’s second largest island, Koh Samui. Thailand is one of the most affordable places to live overseas.
The Content Castle Founder, Kaila Krayewski was an early pioneer of the digital nomad lifestyle. She began her expat journey teaching English in Japan then backpacked around Southeast Asia and was one of the first female travel bloggers in the region. She worked on various gigs in freelance writing to fund her travels. Ultimately, she placed roots in Bangkok where she worked as the Executive Editor of Inbound Asia Magazine, which was a luxury travel magazine. Her path to becoming a digital nomad may seem complex but it’s really quite normal. She believes that “once you make the right connections and make a name for yourself, it’s not difficult to support yourself while working from anywhere with an internet connection.”
The Content Castle, which Krayewski believes is the first work exchange program of its kind, came to be after she hosted a writers’ workshop two years ago. Her students at that workshop gushed about how much they’d grown as writers during the program and thus her passion for helping new writers find their way was born. Originally from Canada, Krayewski has lived in Thailand for almost a decade and brings over 15 years of expertise in writing, editing, marketing, and journalism to those she mentors at the writers’ haven. The Content Castle is built upon the foundation of being a collaborative community space where writers can gather to learn, share ideas, write, and read throughout the day. Instead of expensive daily fees for similar co-living and co-working spaces, guests pay for their room and board solely through content creation with weekly word count minimum.
If you’re thinking about applying to the program Krayweski shares that two things stand out–passion and talent. If you’re new to travel writing and don’t have a blog, published writing clips, or bylines don’t be distraught. “I say passion first because I find that almost more important than talent. Writing is a skill that can be taught but passion cannot be.” Take time to create a detailed cover letter or make a short video clip that shows why you’d be a great fit for the program. In addition, applicants need to include their resume and three writing samples.
One successful applicant and past resident is Lynn Hulver, a recent college grad from Ohio who spent a month at The Content Castle over the summer. She’s forgoing the typical path of climbing the corporate ladder in the States to pursue remote work as a digital nomad. Hulver saw The Content Castle as the perfect starting point for launching her remote work journey and seized the opportunity to enhance her writing skills. While at The Content Castle Hulver focused on her writing assignments by day and in the evening taught English online. It was her first co-working experience and exceeded her expectations. “I can see a noticeable difference in the way I write. Words come easier, my sentences flow better, and the overall readability of my pieces is a lot better. I was challenged by the style of writing and learned to adapt my voice to fit the clients brand.” She’ll carry these lessons over to her work at BossBabe where she regularly pens blogs geared towards millennial entrepreneurial women.
Savannah Liu is spending 3-months at The Content Castle to fine tune her writing skills after recently completing a journalism degree in London. She ended up at the writers’ retreat by a “fluke” when she discovered the program after spending a few weeks in Koh Samui saying that she’s a big believer in “everything happens for a reason”. She traveled for a few months around Southeast Asia before beginning her residency and is working on developing her voice to share her own adventures. Liu joined The Content Castle as she was eager to see what the digital nomad life was all about, meet other traveling remote workers, develop a network, and learn the skills necessary to tackle the world as a successful freelancer.
Hulver’s favorite writing assignments while at The Content Castle were travel-related pieces catering to luxury travelers. Liu has written an assortment of travelogues and trip itineraries. Daily writing assignments vary from reoccurring demands from top travel sites to creating social media content. Some gigs may be a bit obscure as residents have been assigned pieces on cryptocurrency and cybersecurity. Hulver also wrote stories about remote work, guides to Koh Samui, and managed The Content Castle social media during her stay. The variety of projects guarantees that residents will have the opportunity to try their hand at a variety of verticles.
The writing process at The Content Castle is entirely collaborative. Writers lean on each other and the leadership team for brainstorming, feedback, and edits. Hulver explains that once she’d complete a polished first draft the article would be cross-edited by another resident and then polished by the leadership team. After revisions have been made residents receive the piece back with detailed notes so that they can make necessary revisions to perfect a final draft before submitting the assignment to the client.
Frequent workshops serve as learning tools for residents. Liu credits the ‘How to Pitch Properly’ and ‘Editing Skills’ presentations for aiding her in pinpointing her weaknesses and providing clear steps on how to improve in those areas. Workshops and brainstorms are spearheaded by Cici Meis who is the Head of Content and live-in House Manager. She’s an established journalist who jumped at the opportunity to build her freelance portfolio while supporting novice writers in a tropical setting. Meis is adored by the residents who are continuously learning from the editor’s extensive background in print and digital journalism. Meis mentors the residents and introduces them to resourceful Facebook groups and journalism tools all while reinforcing their confidence as budding writers.
Meis will be running the ropes at The Content Castle until January 2019. Her day-to-day is a bit different than the residents as her role is more in the editor sphere than content creation. She handles overseeing all assignments from posts for clients and blog entries for The Content Castle website. Meis edits the resident’s final drafts and provides feedback on context, flow, and SEO. “To be a good editor, you must first be a great writer. Adapting my editing style to the individual needs and backgrounds of residents has helped me grow. I’m now hosting a weekly editing/grammar workshop as many of our residents are self-published bloggers and lack some of the nitty-gritty grammar that is my specialty,” she says.
When deadlines are met and assignments are completed residents can head across the street to Koh Samui’s world famous beaches, trek to waterfalls, and visit gilded Buddhist temples. Staying fit as a digital nomad can be a challenge but in Koh Samui, there are endless fun physical activities. Developing a work/life balance and time management is another skill that residents hone in on during their time at The Content Castle. What could possibly be more encouraging to complete your work efficiently than the ocean beckoning from The Content Castle’s rooftop terrace?
Those who’ve completed a tenure at The Content Castle feel more confident in their abilities to create content, pitch ideas, adhere to deadlines, and manage themselves remotely. Liu’s contract with The Content Castle will end soon. She feels ready to efficiently market herself to potential clients and has developed a realistic expectation as to what to expect as a freelance writer. Liu shares that being a digital nomad now “seems like a reality.” The Content Castle’s motto “Your write of passage” echoes the sentiment that writers will gain all the skills they need to launch their careers as freelance travel writers after completing their intensive residency which can last as little as one month and up to six. While not every assignment gives a byline writers will have published work to create a robust portfolio of clips.
Coworking and coliving hubs have quickly become a popular way of living among international remote workers who prefer to work in a diverse environment rather than isolated in an Airbnb or hostel. The Content Castle offers residents everything they require to be comfortable and productive from twice daily home-cooked meals, strong WiFi, private and shared bedrooms, discounted access to gyms, swimming pools, and more.
Are you a digital nomad? Tell us about your favorite workspaces around the world in the comments.