Have you always wanted to be a travel writer? Do you dream of visiting Japan? Rough Guides has a new contest that could help you jump-start your career. Jaunted has the scoop: apparently, they are offering a chance to get training and experience as a professional travel writer for free. If you win the contest, you get a free trip to Tokyo, Japan. While you’re there, you’ll be doing research and writing to update the Rough Guides to Tokyo.

You’ll work with a “writing mentor” and spend 7 days traveling, staying in different hotels and working on the guidebook. Of course, all work and no play makes for a dull vacation. So, after you’re done, you’ll get a 4 day tour to yourself.

You can enter by submitting your best 500 word travel writing sample. You must write about one of the following topics:

  • A Journey that Changed Lives
  • Responsible Travel
  • Adventure in an Unknown Culture
  • A Memorable Experience Involving Food in a Foreign Country

To enter, you have to meet 3 qualifications:

  • You must be over 18.
  • You must not be a professional writer (curses!).
  • You must have a valid US passport.
  • You must be ready to go in February 2010.

What if you love to travel but don’t have a US passport? No problem-the applications aren’t due until December 21st, so you still have time to apply.

Of course, if you apply with normal processing, it will take at least 6 weeks for you to get your passport back. Expedited service from the government takes about 3 weeks. To get your passport more quickly, of course, you can use a private expediting company like RushMyPassport.com.

An expediting company forwards your application to the US Department of State for much faster processing-anywhere from 24 hours to around a week, depending on the option you choose.

Ready to make your travel writing dream come true? Apply for your US passport today!