Travel writing was once something reserved for the pages of books, and glossy magazines, though today we live in an age where anyone can create their own platform, and become a travel writer purely based on their own means.
Travel writing is certainly a more practical career goal than it used to be, though whether you’re writing for blogs, newspapers, or creating travel guides, the ability to create well written, quality content is still something you need.
Fortunately, if you’re passionate about writing, this is a skill that can be honed. If you’re looking to sharpen your travel writing skills, the following are 6 strategies that have worked for me.
How to Improve Your Travel Writing Skills
Read Great Travel Writing
One of the best ways to improve your own travel writing is to familiarize yourself with the work of others. Identify successful travel writers, and leaders within the field, and block off some time to read through their work.
Sign up for subscriptions to magazines like National Geographic, make a daily habit of reading the travel section in publications like the New York Times; when you absorb work from advanced writers you’re able to understand the craft behind it.
Make sure that you’re not just reading one type of content though; exposing yourself to a range of different writing styles and topics means that you’ll pick up new techniques, and maybe even some fresh inspiration.
They say that practice makes perfect, and this is definitely the case in travel writing. No-one’s first ever piece of writing is award winning, but it’s important that you have the confidence to just start.
The more you write, the better your writing will be. And it can often time to develop your unique voice and style, so the sooner you start writing, the sooner you’ll start producing good writing.
If you’re worried because you’ve never written anything before, you could pick up a writing manual, or think about taking an online course. Learning by doing is great, but sometimes you want a straightforward explanation of the basics.
Pro Tip: Reading through your old work might make you cringe, but it’s a great practice to go back and re-write those pieces you wrote when you were just starting. This allows you to take note of how your writing has improved, and allows you to identify mistakes you used to make so you don’t repeat them.
Take Notes on the Go
Great travel writing is about bringing an experience to life; how a destination made you feel, perhaps how something smelled, and often it’s the small details that really transport the reader there with you.
But when you’re constantly on the go it can be difficult to recall those small details a week, or even a month later. So it’s important to take notes and document your experiences in the moment.
Take note of the things around you, whether that’s by traveling with a notepad and pen, or a sound recorder / dictaphone. Record how you’re feeling right then and there in the moment.
Having these type of notes will go a long way to bringing the memories back to life and making your article stand out.
Pro Tip: Having notes handy will also help in identifying your angle once you sit down to start writing. Just writing about a destination isn’t an angle; you’ll need something more defined, like being a backpacker in that destination, or traveling as a woman alone.
Expand Your Experience
You can’t truly be a great travel writer if you haven’t experienced anything first hand. That first hand experience is crucial to being able to write a really authentic article, and accurate portrayal of a destination.
If you do travel quite frequently, but still find that your writing is stuck, consider pushing yourself outside your usual box of experiences.
If you find you always play the typical tourist, on your next trip make the effort to talk to locals. Being able to include a local perspective will make your writing more diverse.
If you’ve only ever stayed in hotels, perhaps you could look into a home stay experience, or book a bunk in a shared dorm room. This could be the fresh type of experience you need to inspire your creativity.
Pro Tip: If you are quoting locals, quote people accurately and identify them, who are they, where did you meet them?
Don’t Rely on the Internet
There’s nothing unique or creative about content on the internet. For any search term, the top page of Google will bring up 10 articles that are usually carbon copies of each other, and quite often the facts might be incorrect.
It’s very important to write as much as you can before consulting the internet, so that your ideas and story structure aren’t influenced by something that’s already out there.
The internet is a fabulous resource for ideas, inspiration, comparisons, and fact checking (when fact checking make sure you use reliable sources and double check that they are correct), but relying on it can often stunt your creativity.
Don’t Get Too Fancy
Having a wide vocabulary is essential for a writer, though it’s important to stay true to your own writing style and personality, and not go over the top or try too hard to be fancy.
Don’t use phrases or words that you wouldn’t normally use in conversation, and don’t try to be too clever or formal, or force humor if it’s really not you. The best travel writing sounds natural, and captures the writers personality.
It’s also important not to waste words or throw in empty fluff just for the sake of meeting a word count. Condense your sentences where possible, avoid cliches (because they’re so cliche!!), and instead focus on filling your writing with detail.
Don’t use words like “stunning”, “fabulous”, or “amazing” – these are empty words that don’t mean anything anymore, and are incredibly overused. Be specific, and aim to come up with original descriptions that actually mean something.
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Write, write and write some more Meg. I advise folks write 500 words daily offline, minimum, to get clear on your writing skills. Even if you do not publish posts daily get writing practice in. Excellent tips.
That’s really great advice Ryan, the best learning is through doing!
Now, you know I don’t write a travel blog, but those are the techniques that I use to develop my posts. I take notes from everywhere (and probably read almost everything), I work with clients (yup- notes there, too), I visit interesting firms (you guessed it- notes up to a point [can’t write down their trade secrets, unfortunately]), and then coalesce those- with my memories and impressions- into a blog post.
Fantastic to hear we’re on the same page Roy … must be great minds think alike :D!
Hi Meg, thanks for these great tips. I’ve always felt my travel writing could need some more guidance, also because I’m not a native English speaker. We’ll see, at some point I might invest in a course, but for now it’s mostly about reading other quality travel articles out there and taking (at least mental) notes. Still a lot of work to do, though! The process never ends :)
I’m always very impressed with people who not only speak two languages, but write in English when it’s their second language. You have my respect! Courses can be great, though I really do think you can get a lot out of purely reading and immersing yourself in great writing.
Agree that the process never ends though! Constantly evolving and refining my own skills!
Happy writing Veronika :)
Thank you for your helpful recommendations. As for me, now a lot of writers and blogs who write about tourism or travel (I think there are millions of them). But to tell the truth, not everyone writes well or serves a particular story correctly. As for me, the best story is the one that captures you and encourages new actions and travel. Your story as you conquer the top should make the reader grab a backpack and repeat your exploits and events. They have to cause the best emotions or why then it everything?) Now a lot of stories about the journey absolutely no, and have more advertising than a good story. But the goal is probably different, isn’t it?
You’re welcome Benjamin, I’m glad that the post was helpful :) And I agree with you, technology now means anyone can call themselves a ‘writer’ and it’s very much become a grey area with news organizations accepting content now from citizen journalists. The internet is awash with really bad writers who call themselves writers, and maybe 20% made up of those with actual skill!!
Absolutely on the best writing being that which inspires someone to throw caution to the wind and book a ticket! And yes, it’s a sad reality that these days advertising does tend to dictate the way a story is written. Stories written for the pleasure of recounting a journey / to entertain seem to be a dime a dozen these days. Definitely different goals :)
Thanks for your comment!
Nice. I am thinking of opening a personal blog. I would like to write articles about things I like to do.
Fabulous Henry! Glad our tips could help :)
Good to see travelogue tips. It really helps.
Glad the post was helpful for you Sajjad :)
Excellent English writing skills come from constant practice and hard work. No one is born a great writer. It will take a lot of time and practice to learn to write well in English.
Absolutely Judith, ultimately practice makes perfect! Every great writer had to start out somewhere, but you’ll never start honing the skill if you don’t have the confidence to start writing :)
Thanks for reading!
That was a really helpful post. But in this world of competition, where everyone consider themselves as a writer, it vecomes difficult for you to create an audiemce of yours. But i think with great practice and observation skill, one can create his or her own identity in the wolrd of travel writing.
I would be grateful if you check out my blog theglobetrottersush.wordpress.com and give reviews about my writing style.
Glad the post was helpful for you Sushree! Absolutely re practice, and being confident in carving out a distinct identity being the two keys to giving yourself an edge against the competition :)
Thanks for sharing your blog :) For reviewing your writing style, feedback would only be helpful once you’ve determined what you’re writing for – ie what are your goals etc. For instance, if you’re writing for SEO as opposed to an established audience, my feedback on style would be completely different. Feel free to shoot us an email if you would like feedback on a piece of writing, and include details as to what type of feedback you’re looking for, what you want to achieve through your writing etc, and I’d be happy to take a look :) Email is email@example.com
Thank you for these tiips for travel writers Megan
You’re welcome Charlie, thanks for reading :)
Thanks a lot Meg! This is nice, detailed article. Quite useful and hope to practise them.
You’re welcome Hemi! So glad the post was helpful. Happy writing :)