Travel expands horizons, refreshes the soul, and gives the traveler a new perspective on life. But not everyone can afford to travel or knows where to go. Great travel writing can help those who have never been to a place to get a sense of what it is like and what they might discover by being there. If you are one of the thousands of people looking to share your travel story with the world, you want to make sure that your travel writing is creative, compelling, and effective.
There are seven key measures you’ll want to use to guarantee that the next travel piece you write will capture your audience’s attention.
- Have a story to tell. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that going on a trip is the same as having a story to tell about the trip. Think back to the movie scenes where friends and neighbors are forced to sit through a boring slideshow of somebody’s vacation. Those slideshows are boring because there isn’t a story to hold them together. Instead, you need to make sure you have a clear tale to tell, with a beginning, a middle, and an end, with forward momentum to carry the audience from once incident to the text.
- Open strong. The reader will decide whether to read your article within a paragraph, so be sure that you open with a compelling hook that will make the reader want to hear more. Start with an anecdote, a compelling piece of information, or anything that you think will grab the reader’s attention and make them desperate to find out what happened next. Don’t open with a simple statement of where you went or what you learned.
- Establish a goal and select material to fit. Real life is messy, with innumerable detours and random circumstances. Your article, however, only has one or two thousand words to make a point. Tell your reader up front what your travel goal was—to visit a specific place, to learn about a culture, etc.—and be selective with the incidents you use to illustrate your journey to that goal. Focus on the facts and information that are relevant to your readers.
- Use quotations to compel interest. On your trip, you talked to people, and you heard people talk. Share some of what they said to help give color to your description, break up long blocks your writing, and spark interest in the reader. After all, hearing the bus driver scream, “Oh my God! That zebra nearly crashed into the bus!” is a lot more interesting than reading “A zebra crossed the road close to the bus.”
- Be vivid but specific in your language. Thanks to the internet’s endless need for new content, far too many articles and essays are quickly written with clichés and vague language just to fill space. Your article should be specific, using words and phrases that describe exactly where you went in ways that can’t apply generically to basically anywhere. For example, “a land of contrasts” might apply to any place, but “Across the capital, the ornate Baroque palaces of the country’s imperial past crouch in the shadow of monstrous, geometric towers from the Communist era looming over the Old City” is vivid and specific.
- Use transitions to keep the reader oriented. As you write, it’s important to keep the reader oriented so the reader can follow your journey. Your transitions between sections of your article can serve a great place to remind the audience of where you are and where you are going. For example, you could geographically orient readers: “Mumbai had been an amazing experience, but our flight to Kathmandu beckoned.” Or, you could use thematic links: “We had learned much about the Inca at Machu Picchu high up in the mountains, but our quest for the origins of Andean civilization soon took us to a much older site, far down on the coast.” The key is to keep the reader oriented so the reader can remember what came before and has an idea of what comes next.
- Finish strong. Remember to leave enough space for a conclusion. Rather than simply stop the story with your return home, sum up what you learned and share some of the deeper themes or lessons from your trip that go beyond simply explaining whether you had a good time. Your readers want to know how your journey transformed you, so share with them the power of the experience and how you became a different person by living through it.