THE BLOG

How Far Would You Go for a Career in Journalism?

06/07/2013 15:04 BST | Updated 04/09/2013 10:12 BST

Everyone knows that it's tough getting a great job today. It's even harder to break into journalism when so many young graduates are working for free as interns, desperate to find a paid position somewhere - anywhere.

But what about if you are a bit older and have career experience in areas other than journalism? That's the problem facing Michael Lee Johnson from Manchester. His dream is to become a travel writer, but as a web designer with around 20 years experience his challenge is finding a new employer that would be interested in letting him make that career leap.

But the lack of experience and contacts hasn't deterred Johnson. He decided that if he wants to get a job in travel writing then he should travel and start writing about the experience.

Later this month he will fly to Beijing in China and will then spend the next three years walking back to London. All in the pursuit of his dream to work in travel writing.

I asked Johnson to explain why he is going on this journey. He said: "Originally I was just going to do it as a journey of self-discovery and adventure, as well as finding a new job, but it has become something bigger and more humanitarian [he is aiming to raise money for UNICEF]. It is about a career change because I am a web designer and I want to be a travel writer and I think the best way to do that is to just create my own travel brand."

He also explained why China was the route of choice: "I've always been interested in the heritage of China. I wanted to follow a lot of Marco Polo's route because it was one of the most interesting things about history that I can remember from school."

Johnson has sponsors. Companies like AMD, Nokia, and Seagate have all helped him with electronic equipment for the journey and he is being kitted out in The North Face hiking gear, but he is still looking for additional financial support. He said: "I've been busy getting sponsors and advertisers. I have some savings already and my ongoing costs will be very low, because I will mainly be staying in people's homes and tents."

Johnson has been actively building a network of places to stay - in addition to just pitching up by the side of the road.

"There are really three options for me. I've been growing a big network with the couchsurfing community. And the people in the cities that are in this community have parents and family out in the countryside. I will also be camping in tents and just staying in people's houses. Really I will just be staying wherever I can," he explained.

He departs for China on July 26th and the 15,000km walk is expected to last for three years. There is no way to plan the exact timing, but he has performed extensive research by talking to people that have completed walks across China and Europe.

Ultimately this is about a career change though. Taking three years to focus on something entirely different in the hope that the experience gained will be enough to carry him into a new writing career.

"I am creating my own future. I have my own personal goals about achieving connections on the walk and what I am really doing here is creating a new job. I don't see it as extreme - for the past twenty years I've just been sitting at the computer, so I don't see these three years as something epic, I just see it as the next part of my life," Johnson explained.

To most 'normal' people, walking 15,000km is pretty epic. I do hope that Johnson succeeds in his quest. Not just to complete the walk, but in finding an employer at the end who appreciates that someone who will devote three years to a change of career is probably someone worth hiring. Johnson has just raised the bar for every wannabe journalist.

You can follow Michael's adventure walking from Beijing to London on Twitter here.