Be a Travel Writer
Copyright Jennifer Stewart
As the baby boomers hit retirement,
the travel industry is set to explode. Why not take advantage of this interest
by writing about your travels?
One tip is to make sure you stay at some of the
best and worst hotels. Having an open mind on accommodation will give you
an open perspective on what destinations have to offer.
Here are some of the things to avoid in travel
writing and some of the things to include...
- Use cliches. Editor of The Australian Way, the QANTAS inflight
magazine, Tom Brentnall comments: "A pearl is found in an oyster. There
is only one Mecca, the birthplace of Mohammed, in Saudi Arabia - it is not
some trendy retail strip of designer clothing stores." (Ouch! How many
writers have been guilty of this one?) Brentnall continues, "Paradise is
where you go when you die (it is not five minutes from an airport) and a
magnet relates to electrical polarity."
- Overdo the adjectives. Words you wouldn't dream of using in conversation,
often appear in travel writing: "fabled, wondrous, roseate."
- Go silly with personification. Do buildings ever really smile; do ruins
beckon at every turn; do chimney tops sing their welcome? I don't think so.
- Use the first person. Fascinating as your reactions might be to your
immediate family, the rest of the world frankly doesn't give a damn what you
thought as you took your first mouthful of Mexican food.
- Mention religious or ethnic differences. It's so easy to patronise when you
wax lyrical about the quaint little customs of the villagers; the interesting
way the townspeople behave at funerals etc.
- Use "reverse-racism". To quote Brentnall again, "It is sad
how many articles we get that describe people of non-Caucasian descent as
being 'well-trained', 'polite', 'professional', 'well-spoken' and 'hygienic'
- State the obvious. Most people who travel are aware that the sun rises in
the east - even if you add something about the skyline, this is still old
news! If you're at the beach, don't write that, "the waves rolled up on
the sands" - surprise ... that's what a beach is.
- Use journalese. How many places have you read about where "old meets
new"; how many places have "twisting alleys", "bustling
thoroughfares", "half-forgotten byways"? Too many!
- Discuss the gory details. Travel writing is meant to accentuate the
positive, not the negative aspects of destinations. (Unless, of course, you're
doing an expose.)
- Be a snob. People from all backgrounds travel these days, don't alienate any
of your potential readers by using obscure language or allusions.
- Use short words in preference to long words (likewise for sentences and
- Focus on what's interesting and different about the spot. Find details that
are significant in some way - they might be unusual, colourful or humorous -
just look for something that makes the place special. Usually this will be a
combination of the place and the people. Look around for someone or something
that catches your eye and use this as the focus for your piece. Maybe there's
an unusual colour scheme in shop windows or buildings; a pedestrian that
causes you to stop and look, or an absence of something that you'd expect to
find in the area.
- Give concrete details. Don't tell us that "food was dirt-cheap";
do a bit of that maths that your teacher told you would come in useful in
later life and convert the price of the meal to your own currency. Tell us -
specifically - what was in the meal; elaborate on the service, the setting and
so on. Describe not just the big things - the buildings and bridges, but also
the little things - the street signs, the road surfaces, the seats, the grass
and the smells.
- Keep all your senses open for those little things that evoke atmosphere -
aromas of food cooking, perfumed plants, seaside smells (salt air, seaweed,
marine fuel), newly cut timber; bird sounds, night sounds - frogs, crickets,
cars, fog horns ... Atmosphere is all around you ... you just have to learn
how to recognise it.
- Structure your piece logically - it doesn't really matter whether you go
from the general to the specific or vice versa, as long as there's some method
- Don't be afraid to incorporate interesting information about the history of
the place - if it's relevant and accurate (but don't rely on what the bus
driver told you on the way ...) Check your facts and make it obvious why
you've referred to past events.
- Make use of the tried and true devices of comparison and contrast - you may
have visited a similar place and can clearly describe why the two are so much
alike. Maybe you've been somewhere that is a complete contrast and can offer
suggestions about the reasons for the differences (climate, geography,
history, economic considerations etc). It doesn't matter how obvious the
differences are - a South Sea Island is naturally going to be very different
from a Scandinavian city - but reading about them is still interesting.
- Check your spelling, punctuation and expression.
- Read your work - aloud - to yourself; this enables you to check for any
clumsy constructions, any repetition etc. Get an editing program to do this
for you. Click for your free
- Check for the interest factor. Once you're happy with your piece of writing,
read it again and see if it's interesting. If you hadn't been to this place,
would reading your article make you want to go there? Or not?
About the Author
Jennifer Stewart is a professional writer who offers copy writing, proof
reading and editing services for businesses and individuals from her site at Write101.com.
You can subscribe to free Writing Tips to improve your writing
She has undertaken a variety of assignments - writing articles for ezines and
the print media; preparing award submissions for business clients; copy writing
and proof reading works of non-fiction; editing web pages and ebooks; writing
press releases and much more.
Want to write about the great
golf courses of the world? First you have to know how to play golf!