Welcome to the wonderful world of travel writing! The beginning of this article has certainly been a challenge for me because I didn’t really know where to start – but as it begin to unfold, the clearer my thoughts became! Thank God for cut and delete on my computer!
In this new age of laptops, digital cameras and no telling what other gizmos are on the market today, travel writing is still what it is! It’s a real to life and vivid documentary of the things you saw, heard and did while on vacation or while just traveling through some town or spot in the woods! It is your view or your reaction to the surroundings around you. When putting it all together for a travel article, it’s up to you to bring your readers into the picture and let them feel your reaction as if they were right there beside you. That’s why it is so important to go beyond simply documenting your travels. Live them, feel them, and let your readers feel your reaction through your words.
The next time you are going out on an assignment or just going for a weekend getaway, don’t forget the digital camera, an ample supply of rechargeable batteries, extra memory cards for picture taking and a purse full of ink pens and purse-size spiral notebooks for note-taking.
When you’re actually where you want to be, and start taking photos, write down everything – write down your reaction to the old lady in the window who looked like a witch and kept staring at you as you walked toward the restaurant. Who was she? Why did she look at you as if she had seen a ghost? Why did she look startled when your eyes met hers?
Be observant of your surroundings – and the people you encounter. Write down anything that might be of importance to your upcoming story – don’t trust anything to memory. Too much information is way better than not having enough.
Visit local tourist centers and request brochures and travel guides. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the locals. Find out if there is any history in the area that is noteworthy for a destination travel article. Suppose Jesse James stayed at the historic hotel across the street and they had a room full of memorabilia – his boots, gun and gun belt – other things he may have left behind. There’s one angle for your travel story – but dig deeper – what if that hotel is said to be haunted by someone other than Jesse James? Jesse James isn’t really enough to get people to travel this far in no where country to a small run down hotel simply to see a small room half full of Jesse James memorabilia. You have to dig deeper and find something your readers can get excited about.
Request a room – stay there – hear the creaks and things that go bump in the night – listen for the ghost that haunts the hallway late into the night – did you see anything? Did the hair stand up on your neck when the cold draft of wind from nowhere hurled by you as you were standing in the hall?
Write down the things you saw and heard. How did you feel? Let your readers feel the fear you felt as you were alone on the upper floor of that haunted hotel. Where was everyone else? Why were you all alone? Was it really haunted? Or was it just your imagination from the stories you had heard? Write it and let your readers help you decide whether the haunting was real or not. Did anyone else hear the noises you heard? Who’s shadow was it that crept by your doorway just before you shut the door? Who was crying in the hallway after you went in and locked the door? When you opened the door the sound stopped – there was no one there.
What about that blurred image that kept showing up in some of the photos you took? What was it? Who was it? You didn’t see anyone when you were shooting. Creepy, huh?
Write them an article that will entice them to come to that particular place – an old run down hotel with a creepy past ninety miles from nowhere – let them feel your excitement and fear as you crawled back into bed – don’t only tell them about the noises you heard coming from the hall late in the night – let them hear the fear as you write especially when you heard the woman scream out in the room next door and you were too afraid to climb out of bed to go see.
It may scare the ‘hec’ out of some people and they may never want to visit the haunted hotel, but chances are that your story will draw quite a lot of people to that little hotel located in no where country just to see for themselves if it were haunted or not. That’s what your travel article must do – go beyond documenting the things you learned, the things you saw or heard – your readers must feel the same excitement you do about a place or all the documenting in the world will never lure them to this place – especially if it’s ninety miles from nowhere!
In essence, you must present a travel story that goes beyond documentation – it must have real feelings that awe the reader and make them want to visit the place of interest. Leave the dull documentation to the travel brochures and the like.
Bring out the realness and the life of a place and people will be drawn to visit time and time again.