The Matador network is one of the most popular series of travel websites about; the network actually consists of different websites all focusing on different parts of travel and is the largest independent online publication. Their latest addition was expanding with their own travel writing school MatadorU. I signed up.
There has been a lot of promotion about the course, and people linking themselves as an affiliate to generate income from people signing up, but I actually have completed all 12 weeks of the course so feel I am in the best position to now give an opinion.
The structure is fairly unique. The course doesn’t just concentrate on travel writing, but life as a travel writer in the modern world. Along with guidance on how to write, they detail how to get published, build a blog with a following, promote your work, and talk about the importance of photography in addition to writing.
On top of the course (of which the material is available online for life) you’ll have access to the students forum and market leads.
The market leads are updated on average 5 times a week with different positions to get a foot in the world of writing, it’s not just one-off articles, but jobs have been sought from here. I myself did not get anything from it though. My only critism of this is as a educational course, most writers won’t be experienced enough to pick up a few jobs, however Matador seem to keep this in mind with a few realistic market leads in there for beginners.
The forum is my favourite part of the course. You get to interact with other students and the editors. In effect, you get a network to start showing your writing off to straight away, which is in my opinion the biggest bonus to doing this course over reading a book about how to be a travel writer.
An addition to the forum is the writing labs. The weekly assignments set in the course can be publically published, and with the writing labs you can have the Matador editors critising your work; again, this is something you’re not going to get by reading a book.
So that’s 2 mentions of reading a book now, Why? Because in addition to the course I have been reading Lonely Planets guide to being a travel writer. The $14 book stands up to the $350 course in the first few weeks and has a chapter on ‘how they made it’ by some very well respected authors which is well worth a look at and the Matador course lacks.
MatadorU is advertised with the line ‘accelerate your travel writing career’, and I think this is an appropriate slogan. You can get everything in the course elseswhere online for free with a lot of research and time. There is plenty of material about on how to do this from the travel writing, to the blog building, publishing and photography. But you are not making a commitment for doing so. This will sap your time and it’ll be VERY hard to get in touch with an editor prepared to help you aim and pitch your writing correctly. These are the real reasons to join the course, to walk the path pre-laid out rather than chop through the internet like a lost hunter with a machete in the rainforest (and get help on how to avoid writing clichés as terrible as that).
One final note: they offer a money back guaruntee if you feel it’s not for you within the first 3 weeks, I almost left within this time as I was not initially impressed however the Matador editors listened to requests and adjusted the course, so it’s much better for new students now that guinea pigs pioneers such as myself have gone through it.
If you are serious you can struggle for a year or so collecting all information, and use the trial and error approach to this difficult path in life. Or you can accelerate your travel writing career and join up with MatadorU.