Thoughts about Better Travel Writing
Earlier in the year, I wrote a series of posts about avoiding travel writing rejection. My reasons for doing this were two-fold. First was my sincere desire to help other writers get published more often. I believe that we always need more people travel writing, and writing well. The second reason is more personal. As the editor of a large travel site that publishes travel stories, I receive many submissions that could use a lot of help. While, the first series of posts helped. There is still a ways to go. The following is a cartoonish example of the type of writing In The Know Traveler receives:
“I went to this okay place on the advice of a friend. It was just okay. I do not have own a thesaurus, but I can attest that my nameless friend is correct. It was just okay. Then we went to dinner at this restaurant, near the okay place, and it was so-so. I ate lots of food, which was not bad and the service was not memorable because I am not describing it. I was with my boyfriend Larry. He does not do much but he was with me at dinner and thought I should include him in this story. Actually, I am not doing or thinking much here either, so there are no valuable insights about the okay place or the so-so restaurant. Everything is just okay. Welcome to my trip.”
While I go over the top with my example of nothing happening in a travel story, you might be surprised at what shows up in my inbox from writers that are not interested by their own stories. As a rule of thumb, I ask myself, why am I travel writing this story? If you had a so-so time, why do you think a reader needs to be aware of uninteresting places.
Interesting Travel Writing
There are a ton of bloggers want to guide you to “be remarkable” but few say anything about the subject or how to improve your travel writing. Here is my secret, I do not write travel articles. I pretend that the reader is my friend. When I tell a story to my friends, there is nothing too embarrassing to talk about. My best friends get all the dirt. In fact, they revel in the ridiculousness of the moment with me. So I try to give the reader the details. I want to read every horrifying, disgusting, salacious, incriminating, outrageous detail available. It is here, with all the details out in the open, that I can offer the reader a chance to identify with my experience through my travel writing.
Travel Writing on the America’s Cup
I recently went sailing on one of the “America’s Cup” boats. Because I am not a winner in the water, I ate a sack of Dramamine and threw caution to the wind. Yes, there was some seasick anyway. There were dry heaves and introspective moments that attempted to quell the feelings of wretch that crept up my spine and sat on my tonsils and kicked at the that weird hanging thing in the back of my throat. I held ice cubes to the back of my neck and wished I had made up a huge excuse for not getting on the boat in the first place.
Still, my nausea did not stop the captain from asking me to steer the ship. I allowed him to pull me toward the wheel, which helped me focus on the horizon. While I steered, the crew began spinning those bicycle-like spinning hand cranks in unison that helped raise the sails and ignite the meager wind. I never barfed. The fifty-million dollar boat never caught a breeze and never sailed more than a couple of knots of speed (about as fast as an old lady walking the plank). I gripped the wheel tightly for fear of loosing my balance and my lunch. And for one small moment between the quesy and un-easy, the chilly wind filled my lungs and I felt what it must be like to love boating. Just because I am in a far off place, does not make the place or me being in it all that interesting. I have to make you understand through my travel writing.