Freelance travel writer Colby Lee Burke

Colby Lee Burke is a sought-after freelance travel writer. Based in both Portland, Oregon and Charleston, South Carolina, he has a fresh and unique outlook on American travel. Burke also travels around the world, with recent trips taking him to Scotland, Italy, and Switzerland.

Burke grew up in Portland and attended the University of Oregon in Eugene. He majored in English. While he was studying abroad in Florence, he began writing travel pieces for his college newspaper. A mentor encouraged him to begin a career as a travel writer. Burke worked as a copy editor for a major Northwest newspaper for several years before he was able to make travel writing his full-time job.

When Burke explores a new city for the first time, he is careful to leave enough time in his itinerary to discover new things. He believes that every traveler should search off the beaten path for the best possible experience. He uses his language skills to communicate with the locals wherever he goes, and they give him tips on their favorite restaurants, activities, and accommodations.

When Colby Lee Burke is not traveling, he enjoys spending time with his partner in Charleston and Portland. He enjoys cooking, bicycling, and high-adrenaline outdoor activities like whitewater rafting. He has written a novel to be published in the coming year.

Burke’s award-winning writing has placed him on the short list of today’s best travel writers. His recent pieces on Lucerne, Switzerland, and Edinburgh, Scotland have received wide acclaim. Burke will continue to be an exciting new voice in the travel world for years to come.

How did you get started with travel writing?

I had an amazing semester abroad in Florence. It was such an enriching experience for me. I learned the language and spent time wandering around the city and around the countryside looking for new experiences. I wrote about my experiences for my university newspaper. When I returned home to Oregon, my art history professor told me that I should consider pitching my pieces to a travel magazine. Eventually, I decided to take the plunge.

Is travel writing your biggest passion?

Writing as a whole is definitely my biggest passion. I have not only been successful with my travel pieces, but I have also written a novel that I hope will be published in the next year or two. Travel is another passion. I enjoy getting to a new place and experiencing all that it has to offer. Travel writing is the natural culmination of my career.

What motivates you?

The spirit of exploration motivates me every day. Even when I’m in Charleston or Portland, I continually seek out new experiences. I probably get on my friends’ nerves because I’m always asking them for suggestions for new things to see and places to eat. I don’t like to get into a settled routine. That restlessness is what makes me a great travel writer.

How do you stay ahead of the competition?

There’s a perception out there that writers don’t have to deal with competition. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There are only so many quality assignments available, and every talented travel writer is going for the same slots. When you’re freelancing, you have to be willing to put yourself forward in every way. You can’t sit back and wait for work to come for you.

Which business leaders, past or present, have inspired you?

I’m fascinated by the career of Sir Richard Branson. He has a totally unique vision for the potential of his businesses. I would love to get a ticket on Virgin Galactic. I wonder whether they already have a travel writer lined up for that first flight.

What is the next step for you?

I hope to keep traveling as much as possible. Since I had some health problems in the past year, I’ve been at home more often than not. This gave me time to finish my novel, but I’m itching to get out there again. I am planning a trip to China and trying to pitch enough pieces to support my travels. I’ve read a lot about the history of ancient China, and I want to see the historical sites.

What are some of your favorite tools and resources for your work?

My laptop is my number one tool. I have a Macbook Air, and it is powerful enough to make my work go smoothly.

Travel writing can be taxing, how do you relax?

I don’t find travel writing to be that taxing. I believe that when your work is your passion, it won’t feel like work. Nevertheless, I do like to read, especially about history. I also enjoy adventurous sports like whitewater rafting.

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