How to Break Into Travel Writing

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

As a travel blogger, editor and occasional magazine contributor, I often get asked this question:

"How do I break into travel writing?"

Writing has never been my passion. It's more of an acquired skill or a natural ability. But I've never really been crazy about it. It doesn't come naturally to me. Some days, I stare a word document for hours without bringing myself to type a single word.

I believe that there are 2 reasons that compel people to become writers: they are either gifted with a talent in writing that they choose to devote their life to it or they simply choose to live a life worth writing about. I probably fall into the latter category. Choosing a life of travel has enabled me to see the world a little differently from someone who sits in a cubicle. It has definitely not made my life easy- the total opposite is true. But I can say it's been quite an adventure.

Now here are 5 ways to turn those trips into writing that people will care to read about:

Why We Fall For Travelers5

1. Travel not required. 

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”— Marcel Proust

It's a misconception that you have to be well-traveled in order to be a travel writer. It certainly helps that you have visited several countries and have lived in different cultures other than that you have been born into. But it's not a pre-requisite. I started blogging only after having visited a few countries but I still had a lot to say. What I've discovered is that people are not just interested in knowing where you've been, but also in where you want to go and how you plan to get there.

Traveling doesn't just mean getting on a flight, collecting passport stamps or getting yourself halfway across the world. What is important is that you travel in your head, into yourself, in the people you meet. Even just a walk in your neighborhood or a stroll at the local farmer's market can inspire you to you to write a compelling story.

Why We Fall For Travelers8

2. Fall in love. 

“As Thoreau famously sead, it doesn't matter where or how far you go - the farther commonly the worse - the important thing is how alive you are. Writing of every kind is a way to wake oneself up and keep as alive as when one has just fallen in love.”
— Pico Iyer

Admit it, falling for someone on a trip, whether it ends well or not, always makes for a good story. Looking for a human interest angle? Throw in an affair or two and things start to get interesting. But more than than, allowing yourself to fall in love allows you to feel more. And the more you feel, the more it flows into your writing, the more people can relate to you. Remember the best travel writing you've read and you'll probably realize that they all have one thing in common: the ability to move you.

You don't necessarily have to fall for someone. Go ahead and fall deeply and madly in love with yourself. Embrace your eccentricity and quirks. Indulge in a deep appreciation for who you are and what you're drawn to. Knowing, loving and being comfortable with yourself is one important step in finding your voice.


3. Get emotional.

To write well about travel requires an emotional attachment to the idea that life is composed of a series of shifts. Being an immigrant , or someone with roots in more than one culture, helps. But all it really takes is being an emotional immigrant. The next place you land should seem as real to you, if not more real, that the place you left behind.
— Gary Shteyngart

I find that my best travel writing flows when I travel alone. Why? Because that's the only time I can let go and just be myself. I become more reflective and observant. And most of all, I can throw myself into a roller coaster ride of emotions. In a moment, I can be elated at the sight of a town I've never set eyes on, lonely upon seeing lovers sharing a meal at a restaurant and nostalgic after sipping a glass of wine. And what are you supposed to do with this assault of emotions coursing through your brain? Be more conscious of your thoughts, explore those sentiments, and start scribbling!


4. Collect inspiration.

My memories are inside me - they're not things or a place - I can take them anywhere.
— Olivia Newton-John

I may not have been born a writer. But as a child, I liked to collect things. It had started with stamps, then pretty, scented stationary and eventually an assortment of notebooks. So eventually I had to fill them, right? But since I didn't have any original thoughts to write, I started collecting poems, anecdotes and memories. This habit continued into adulthood. Now I have journals filled with train tickets, boarding passes, photographs, receipts, stickers, and knick-knacks from my travels.

As an aspiring writer, it's your role to collect experiences, words, stories, smiles, jokes- anything and everything that inspires you. Put them all in a suitcase in your mind. Hoard them like a child. Read good books, watch captivating films, and meet interesting people.

Passion Play: The Retreat

5. Share your work. 

“The impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”
—Annie Dillard

Something in all of us wants to open up and give a piece of ourselves to the universe. Remember that this is your journey. Make it stand out. It is your own distinct imprint on the world. No one else will have the same thoughts, experiences and realizations. It is your task to share this unique journey and allow others to travel with you.

“Great travel writing consists of equal parts curiosity, vulnerability and vocabulary. It is not a terrain for know-it-alls or the indecisive. The best of the genre can simply be an elegant natural history essay, a nicely writ sports piece, or a well-turned profile of a bar band and its music. A well-grounded sense of place is the challenge for the writer. We observe, we calculate, we inquire, we look for a link between what we already know and what we're about to learn. The finest travel writing describes what's going on when nobody's looking.”
― Tom Miller

Travel writing may not be the purpose that I want to spend the rest of my life doing. But it has allowed me to launch myself into the freedom lifestyle that I continue to live today. It has empowered me to put my best self out there and reach out to like-minded individuals who have the same longing and the same desires. It has taken me on the most amazing journeys, in the world, inside my head and into others' lives.

I hope that you too, find the courage to embark on inspiring adventures worth writing about.

Have you considered getting into travel writing? What would like to write about? Share in the comments below!

Travel inspired,
Sole Sister Lois

Lois is the Editor-in-Chief of the female travel blog When she's not having adventures around the globe, she can be found surfing, surfing someone's couch or giving motivational workshops and retreats.

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1 sole trails

  1. Hello! I was very interested to read about your experience, because I love to write, but I have no friends to share tips on writing. I have a slightly different lifestyle, because I prefer to work on travels, especially when working as essay writer allows me to mix travel and work. But despite the fact that unlike you I love to work in travels, I prefer to do it alone, just like you. Then I can concentrate better, and I get all the necessary support from my colleagues, because they are great professionals and I love everything they do!


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