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travel writing

What makes a great travel article? We’re not talking listicles here… we’re talking about the kind of travel writing that immerses readers in the locale, tells them something new, and inspires them to make their own trip.

In this writing lab, Business Optimizer considers some of the best ways to bring life and color to your travel writing – whether you are writing for friends and family, for publication, or to carve out a new career for yourself as a travel blogger.

#1. Don’t start at the very beginning

Immerse your reader in the action in the very first sentence. Drop them into a point of your story where they can smell the sweet scents of almond blossom mingling with the tangy sea air in the breeze, feel the crunch of crispy sardine skin as they bite into the chargrilled flesh, hear the sound of seagulls as they weave and dive overhead.

Your story doesn’t need to be told chronologically – your reader doesn’t want to begin and end at the airport terminal. Instead, take them on a journey through the sights and sounds of the place with you.

#2. Be clear about what story you are telling

Why should your audience read your article over the hundreds of other articles about the place online?

Understand what you are telling the reader and why. This will guide you in choosing the anecdotes you need to share to tell your tale – including the all-important first and last paragraphs!

#3. Get the basics right

Travel writing is usually told in the first person and the past tense. If you are deviating from these basic norms, then be clear about your purpose in doing so.

#4. Avoid cliches

There are a lot of cliches in travel writing. The azure sea… the sparkling sands… the crystal-clear waters. Yes, it might be true, but what can you tell the reader about the place they haven’t heard before? What can you tell them specific to that immediate locale – and not the hackneyed phrase of a bored travel writer who could describe almost any resort in the world?

Katie Diederichs of travel blog Two Wandering Soles recommends, “Travel writing should be exciting to read. It should make the reader feel like they are next to you on the powdery beach with a warm breeze tickling their shoulders. They should be able to taste the curry, rich in coconut, lime, and lemongrass. They should be able to hear the chaos of the city traffic and smell the sewage wafting from the grimy streets.”

#5. Check your facts

If you are going to quote people, identify them and quote them accurately. Check your facts too! Perhaps you picked up an interesting piece of information along the way – but is it local folklore, an interesting line spun to tourists, or real?  Always double-check using reliable sources.

#6. Be a good editor

Like all writing, travel writing doesn’t emerge fully formed. Editing is arguably the most important skill a writer can develop. You’ll likely need to go back and read what you’ve written critically several times before you have a polished article. Don’t skimp on this stage – it’s what turns your writing into great writing!

#7. End on a high

Just as you began, avoid chronological storytelling. You don’t want to leave your reader in the airport terminal. Rather than telling them what a great place to visit your location is, leave them with an anecdote that shows them a real flavor of why they should visit. Try to find an anecdote that encapsulates the place and your reason for writing and that leaves the reader feeling surprised, satisfied, and inspired.

#8. Don’t worry about the location, focus on creating a sense of place

You don’t need to travel hundreds of miles to be a great travel writer. Travel writing can be about your own town and still take the reader on a wonderful journey. It’s all about opening the reader’s eyes to a new way of seeing or experiencing a place.

In the words of American writer Henry Miller, “one’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”

Feeling inspired? Read our other writing labs.

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