Travel Writing in Taiwan

How  to journal your experiences while living overseas

BY PHILL FELTHAM

Many excited expats living abroad put their careers on hold to teach English or work overseas. This decision is very difficult especially if a beloved career is being left behind.

Most of the time, one year is enough for expats to work overseas before edgy feet return them home and to their careers. A worry even before taking a career break is how long to stay away before the industry of choice moves too far ahead for an easy catch up. As you already know, it is harder to find a job once you already have one.

Re-establishing myself once returning home was always my nagging fear. Even before I finished my first year teaching English in Taiwan, my concerns of getting re-established in the Canadian journalism market consumed me. Teaching English was fun, but it wasn’t like operating a magazine or writing a news article.

My second year abroad started with a job search seeking employment in Taiwan’s English media market. Part time or full time. It didn’t matter as long as a byline was involved. The search results were pleasantly plentiful. In 2006, Taiwan’s English newspapers the China Post and the Taipei Times were always looking for English staff. Ads in the newspaper looking for copywriters and copy editors were normal.

The China Post usually wanted writers for its weekly publication, the Student Post, a publication geared toward second language English learners. A take home test was involved to evaluate English as a Second Language (ESL) writing skills. This test was long and required careful thought. A strong knowledge in grammar was an asset when writing this test. Many worthy candidates around the globe competed for these positions so interviews were never guaranteed, however, it was worth the effort to try anyway.

Besides stiff competition, language was another stumbling block in the search for full-time employment. The Taipei Times gave me the polite brush off because I wasn’t proficient in written and oral Chinese. A story can’t be written if the reporter doesn’t understand the native language. It’s discouraging, but there was a back door.

Since the search for full-time employment didn’t bear any fruit, I switched my efforts to freelance work. Published works in international publications were very beneficial for the resume.

In 2006, magazines and websites wanted articles about living overseas; of course, this was before everyone had a blog. Anyone who maintains a travel blog knows that family and friends are intrigued about travel experiences. Why? They can’t experience what you experience, and because of this, magazines pay money for travel experiences. The China Post may not offer you a full time job but they may pay you for your travels within Taiwan. That’s great because you got a byline out of it.

Other magazines such as Taiwan Fun Magazine and Compass Magazine pay foreigners to review restaurants and cafes. Also, websites like Forumosa.com provide a classifieds section for writers and editors looking for full time work.

Many technical companies, such as Global Sources, are always looking for copy writers and English learning magazines usually hire foreigners to write textbooks and articles. The Global Village adult learning buxiban in Taipei have a magazines at the intermediate and advanced English that usually pay for written articles.

These and more opportunities including voiceover and television work as well.

Freelance was the ticket. My final decision was to juggle my teaching jobs with my freelancing jobs at various buxibans while spending the rest of the time writing. I’ve also opened an online travel news blog that will keep my skills sharp and my resume full while I’m away from Canada.

I’m not making the same money as I was before yet and worries occur about paying the bills but the lack of greenbacks is replaced with irreplaceable experience and most importantly, a byline. iT!

Phill Feltham taught English and freelanced for various publications and websites while living in Taiwan.

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