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The tough truth is that at 17 years old you will most likely not get a publisher to finance your travels, The business is hard enough for experienced, published writers to make a living, much less get your travels underwritten by sponsors.
You have to get a track record. I cannot advise you how to do that. Maybe start a personal blog and slowly work up your exposure as you gain followers. With good content, people will notice. It may take years but if you stick to it and your work is good, you will get offers.
As an African-American, you can use that in your favor as a niche and develop that market. As you have noticed, you have little competition and that is your strength. Use it to your advantage. If you are talented, you will be noticed but it takes time and effort. Good luck!
I'm afraid I have to agree with many of the other writers who've replied to this thread - most people have to work, scrimp and save for years before they can make a career out of writing, especially out of such an oversubscribed field as travel writing, and to be honest that experience probably makes them better travel writers, because they have been through a wider range of life experiences.
Having said that, once you turn 18 you may want to look at the Glimpse travel writers' programme here: http://glimpse.org/correspondents/ - it sponsors young travel writers (and note that they consider 'young' to be anything up to 36, which may seem ancient to you) with a small(ish) stipend, as well as giving them editorial support and feedback.
With regard to the people claiming that writing is colour blind - hmmm. That looks optimistic to me. It may not be specifically racist, but certainly in the UK a lot of it is about who you know, not necessarily about the quality of the writing you're capable of. You only have to look at the travel sections of some of the British broadsheets, peppered with mediocre articles by minor celebs or children/spouses of same, to see how much nepotism there is in this sector - the crowning example being the time a few years back when a kind of annual internship place at the Guardian, which involved two young writers being funded to travel round the world and blog from their trips, was given to the son of the travel section editor, who was fairly speedily removed after he turned in some pretty lousy work. See http://www.anorak.co.uk/180734/broadsheets/nepotism-in-the-media-th... for more of the story... not necessarily a racism issue, but the way the stats shake out, with excessive quantities of well-off Oxbridge graduates depending on the Bank of Mum & Dad to see them through some unpaid internships at London-based newspapers where they can cosy up to plenty of editors, the sector is by definition going to be badly skewed towards white candidates.
First of all, congrats at having the dream to travel the world at 17 years old.
Secondly, no need to be intimidated if you don't see many Black people or other people of color - we are traveling in huge numbers and writing about it as well. It's just that the mainstream media doesn't typically focus on affinity groups so much. We are creating our own media to voice our travels - the websites Monique listed are great examples. There's also the Travel Professionals of Color (TPOC.org) which I believe has a student/writer membership available.
Aside from that, a huge majority of people of color who travel usually travel together to events/trips like Tom Joyner's Fantastic Voyage, Festival at Sea, various music festivals, etc., which is typically put on by an agency/tour company of color, so will not necessarily get the mainstream media coverage.
It's interesting because even in the cruise industry, some of the cruise lines are just now starting to make an effort to include diversity in their brochures and ads. Which is surprising considering the mainstream cruise lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian have a significant amount of passengers of color who sail with them (especially for a family reunion or multigenerational family cruise).
So, again, don't be intimidated. This is an industry where you can carve out your own niche (just as Monique has done) and make it what you want it to be. There's a lot of opportunity, especially now with various forms of social media. You may want to consider starting a blog - it's a good way to get into the travel writing industry. Plus, it's free and you can create a following and niche for yourself.
Good luck with everything!
Yours in travel,
Leslie Richardson, MCC, CTA
Cruise Planners/JetSetters Travel LLC
When I was in college, i worked part time and slowly saved up 6,000$. After graduating, I joined this program called BUNAC. They are based in CT and you can pay a very small fee in exchange for a temporary work visa. you are on your own once you arrive in the country but i worked in both scotland and ireland and saved up a lot of money and then literally traveled around the world. I was 23. you should wait a few years. 17 is a bit young in my opinion. get some more life experience and you'll be great!
I would second Allan's idea: think of writing as a pool of water and you are in the middle, write about what is closest to you, expanding your reach in circles or ripples as you get experience in the craft and confidence in your abilities.
I started at 14 writing about what interested me then (history) and kept at it, outside of school requirements, until I felt I could stand up with anyone, student or teacher, and discuss my work, my passion. College changed my interests as I saw things I never knew were possible and I learned new (to me) ways to present my ideas.
None of this had anything to do with travel, I fear. That came in late middle age (64!) when my work in my other genre gave me a presentation skill set that won over a magazine publisher and I suddenly was a travel writer/editor. Again, as Allan says, it's the ability to communicate, not the preferred topic, that makes a writer valuable. I called myself a "hack writer" for years because I felt I could communicate in almost any field, on any topic, given time to research it and get comfortable with it. The key was being able to string words in a way that made people want to read on. Work on that, the rest will come.
Check out two great African American travel writers Renee Gordon who writes Renee's Route (http://www.americanroads.net/renees_route_winter2014.htm/ ) and Americans on the Road and Eleanor Hendricks McDaniel who writes Exploring With Eleanor (http://www.americanroads.net/exploring_with_eleanor_winter2014.htm/ ) Both of these talented writers write for other publications also.