Wednesday, March 20, 2013

How to Write a Travel Article

I feel like I’ve been there” is the single best compliment I’ve received in regard to travel writing. For the past few years, I’ve written several travel articles for my local newspaper where I serve as a reporter-photographer. (It’s a small paper, so we wear many hats.)

Scuba diving in Puerto Rico (Looks like a fish is kissing me)
On the occasion that I’ve been on a trip and written about it, countless people have complimented me on these articles and said they felt as if I’d taken them along on the journey.

After profusely thanking them, I started thinking about why they felt this way. I mean…I know I’m a decent writer, even a good writer, but honestly to pen something that evokes such a connection must be great writing. The more I thought about it, the more I narrowed it down to two things—the first being voice.

For writers in nearly any situation, voice is what sets us apart and helps to create this connection between the words and the reader. The topic of voice is widely discussed among the non-fiction and fiction community alike and it’s no different in travel writing whether it be for an article or a book.

Writing a travel piece all begins with the place and the experience you had there. You might write an overview of a whole country or focus on a specific city. Take your pick. Though for the purpose of learning, it may be easier to choose a particular restaurant, museum, event, etc.


Okay…now that the locale is selected, you must figure out how to give the reader a sense of place by using the second thing—details.

Close your eyes.


What sticks out in your mind about the place?

Do you recall a specific scent? See unique colors, crowded streets, empty cobblestone lanes?

Do you hear music, loud noises, different languages?


Feel the soft tablecloth beneath your fingers or the coarse fur of a camel’s neck? Taste salt, sugar, exotic spices in the food?

Fellow Tourists in Cairo, Egypt
For additional help, look over your pictures, videos or souvenirs from the place. I always do and it’s another tool to help me be in the place again so I can take readers there too.

After re-familiarizing yourself with the place, hone in on one specific aspect of it (perhaps the answer to the question about what sticks out in your mind) and start writing. Don’t worry about writing it perfectly to sound like a travel guide or TV travel script.

Write about what comes to mind about the place—what you liked, were surprised about, activities you did, etc. Just write until you find a stopping point.

Read your writing (out loud is best) and circle or just take note of the details. Make sure several (if not all) senses have been represented.


Mirabell Gardens in Salzburg, Austria
For the opening of the article, look back over it and pick out the most interesting, shocking or funny detail or fact noted. The article must catch the reader’s attention right off the bat.

In my article about camping in an Arkansas teepee, I started with “This writer nearly shot an arrow through a peacock... ” I know…it’s an odd opener, but I felt it was a quirky happening of the trip. (To read more about the near peacock homicide, click
here.)

Whether your article is short or long, about somewhere nearby or far off, travel writing that connects with readers is about thinking back on the experience and its details, picking a starting point, being yourself and just writing it. Try it.


Have you wanted to write about your travels? Do you have any additional tips for writing about travel? Please share below and feel free to ask questions too. :)

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3 comments:

  1. Morgan, thanks for the great tips. Had it not been for you I would never have sold my first travel article last year. God bless!

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  2. Hey Morgan, thanks for the tips. I am not a great writing but I like to pen down things that i did for all my vacations. This time I had been to Houston Texas and surely charged up to pen down this experience your tips will surely help.

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