Challenges of Travel Writing: Sharing My Experiences

Living on the road

Writing about places you see, like and fall in love with in this huge wonderful world is a very interesting experience for any writer. Professional or simply passionate about words, with a literary background or just a dedicated and traveller, we often feel the need to share our feelings and impressions with the others – family, friends or anonymous readers. On the basis of our direct experiences we might be tempted to make recommendations about places or to describe with our own words the feelings and pleasures roused by a certain corner we were lucky enough to discover.

The easiest and most affordable way to do it is by taking pictures. They are just one click away and, unless you do not intend to make after an exhibition or to publish in a glossy review, you do not need extraordinary skills. The widespread use of digital cameras offers to anybody, up to the account and interests, the possibility to fix your memory in pictures, easy to download and easy to share – off or online. A picture might talk the language of thousand of words of a potential book. And you do not need too much inspiration for taking them: be in the right place, at the right moment and click. It is all you need – not, as in the case of writing, a special space, silence, a notebook or a computer.

But, if you want to do more than posting or printing some photos on the Internet, and you are longing for turning into an occasional or dedicated travel writer, you open the right drawer. This book is for you: a short non-exhaustive and open to discussion guide about how to better use your words for telling good stories about places you visited.

Maybe you don’t intend now to turn into a professional writer. And, it is possible that your contacts with the writing world are sporadic. But, in the same time, you believe that you have to share somehow to the world of ideas your own version of the reality. It might be available for any kind of writing activities, weather is about journalism, literature, poetry, children books or…the subject of our book: travel writing. If you feel spiritually fulfilled when you write, it is a reason enough to continue to polish and refine your style. It is not your profession and the source of your income. But, more than your daily schedule, we need to rely on our dreams and passions. And, if travel writing is one of them, be sure that you will find enough time in your daily program to work to your dreams.

If your curiosity and interest are bigger enough, we hope to offer you in the following pages first-class directions for a qualitative added value into your writing career. Furthermore, if the title of our booklet is answering some questions and preoccupations you already expressed, we hope to offer a larger as possible support for your intentions. Our intention is offering you the best guidelines for progress of your writing plans. You are free to make further the choices you consider the most right, by identifying the adequate editorial recipes. And, of course, I fully urge you to make your own contributions, by sharing your own writing experiences.

As a passionate writer myself, I discover the pleasure of travel writing relatively later in my writing career. In comparison with other projects I was involved – as diplomatic journalism, such as – the challenge of putting in writing my very own travel experiences not as easy as I expected. In this case, it was more than relating naked facts and figures, it was about sharing a unique feeling inspired by a place, a very personal experience in fact. And, I must confess that at the beginning I was very reluctant to do it, simply because in my perception, the real journalism and the direct, personal understanding were at a great extent incompatible. But, I was omitting a very simple fact: I was facing a very different writing and journalistic category. And it took me a bit of time to enter a different shape and style.

The considerations included in the following pages are nothing but a short essay in sharing my experience of traveller and writer, activities that are for a very long time part of my daily life. There are practical advices – as, for example, how to make your writings known to a wider public using the social media tools – or stylistic considerations – about the most appropriate ways to discuss the subject – or even organisational aspects – concerning planning and documenting your trips.

Our aim is very simple: helping you to enjoy as much as possible both the pleasure of writing and of travelling.

For those interested in sipping the words of highly evaluated professional writers, I prepared an extended list of literature recommendations, going far beyond the classical touristic guides you are buying before going into a trip.

I would like to end this introductory chapter with another couple of personal considerations about both travel and writing. As I wrote, for many years already, travel is part of my daily life. Either I am discovering the places of the town I am living in – not always the same – or I am packing to see another continent and country, I am always feeling the joyousness of learning about new places, new cultures and to meet new people. IT is a valuable part of my school-of-life education. Without this usual roller coaster schedule, I feel less myself. This is the reason I am performing this ritual as often as possible. I had the wonderful chance to live and travel in very interesting places around the Globe and I am convinced that amazing other places are still waiting for me. Shortly: I love to travel.

The Never Ending Task of Polishing the Words

You might be a natural-born-writer, but without exercise and discipline of your daily program your talent would be wasted easily.

Writing could be a pleasant activity, but in the same time, as any intellectual activity, it is not effortless. Of course, you do not need to run or to put your health on trial, but the intellectual attention and effort required could equate in some cases the preparation for a marathon. As in the case of running, you need exercise and experience for successfully reaching your goals.

The usual writing activity looks sometimes as a never-ending story: writing, rewriting, editing, editing again. This is the sweet monotony of all those for whom playing with words is the main job or passion. At the end of the process, it might happen to lose the pleasure to read again – or ever – your words. But, years after, it might be a very pleasant surprise.

A couple of practical considerations will ease your work, available in general for any kind of writings:

– Polishing your words might be a very exhausting and anti-inspirational stage of your writing projects, but never avoid doing this at least twice. Even your ideas are brilliant, a bad grammar or various misspelling will discourage any editor or publishing house to consider your works for publishing

– Before starting your daily writing program, be sure that you have an easy access to a dictionary – of synonyms, of words of the language you are writing in – a grammar guidelines, online or offline Internet resources – for fast checking of the correct spelling of the names of places or for accessing various historical and cultural references necessary in creating context of your works. Your credibility created by different small details and technical elements part of your activity, among which the accuracy of the information sent to your readers or the literary quality of the written text. It is not always easy and you need permanent efforts for improving and upgrading yourself. Attitude available for any other kind of professional activities.

– Take your time and try to focus as much as possible on your subject. When you are starting to write, anything but your works matters. Either you have 20 minutes or 2 days, focusing on your writing must be the most important part of your day, during which put on-hold any other time-consuming activities – as, for example, permanently checking your e-mail or social media accounts.

– Read as much as possible literature relevant to your topics. Be updated with the main trends and concerns in the area, by taking part to various online or real-life seminars and discussions. Be active and raise your problems and questions by taking part to various discussion groups -on Google or Facebook.

Planning your Writing

Thus, before starting a new paragraph be sure that you have a general schedule of your writing program – an approximate planning of the results you intend to make, as of the main ideas you want include in your work. And, of course, prepare of being critical enough with your writings.

Before starting to write, try to ask yourself a couple of questions:

– What I want to write about? You might be tempted to cover big and generous topics as: Paris, travel. But, your originality and creativity consist in finding new angles and perspectives. Consequently, by being more specific – as, for example, the morning from the window of my hotel – you will concentrate new and interesting information.

– How I want to write about? A dialogue, a personal memoire, a short story, a description of a specific touristic service – as, for example a hotel or ways of transportation.

– For whom do I want to write? It might sound mercantile, but you always have to imagine how your audience looks like and thinks. It is a travel magazine, a blog for friends – case in which, for example, mentioning some adventures of people all of you know will add a very familiar note to your writings, a short story for kids etc. If you are writing for a magazine, your task is easier, as you have already the general description of the market.

– How much time I have at my disposal? Again, if you have to deal with magazines’ deadlines, your entire work must be carefully organized to cover all the three stages I mentioned before: documentation, writing, editing. If you are writing for your personal blog, this time pressure is absent and you are more relaxed in meeting your own deadlines.

– How important is writing into your life? It is a very general and philosophical question, but it is important for your next steps for being fully aware of the place occupied by writing. So, try to think about, for example: How many days are you able to live without writing? What prospective plans do you have with your writings – publishing a book or an article.

– How much time could you dedicate exclusively to your writing activities? If your income resources are other than those provided by writing, you have to think about the right balance between hobby and profession. Even if you are planning to switch soon your career to the full, professional writer’s level, be sure that this decision will not affect in a dramatic way your family and your daily life. A progressive transition, mixing the normal job with the free time used for covering your writing projects would be a wise advice for a successful start.

As soon as you have an approximate list of answers to the previous questions – perhaps there are many more, I only wanted to outlined some of the most important – try to make a draft plan of your day.

– When you feel the best prepare to write: early in the mornings, evenings or during the lunch breaks?

– Organise for short-, medium or long-term your activities to be able to respect in the stricter sense of the word this schedule.

– You need to have at your disposal at least two hours dedicated exclusively to writing. Starting must be slow and as for running, the wake-up exercises can not be skipped.

– Make a plan of what of advancing your writing, day by day, week by week: one week dedicated to put on paper your impressions; one day for writing the introduction; another day for putting in order and connecting your paragraphs etc.

– As in the case of a business plan, check carefully at the end of the day and of the week your progress: How time you needed to write the starting sentences, for example; How realistic was your plan given your writing speed? All these considerations are very useful in rescheduling your activities and reconsidering the timelines you will be able to finish your project(s).

– Even the temptation to write on many projects in the same time, mostly if you are at the beginning of your writing activities, try to focus on one project at the time. You will avoid sparing lots of time and energy while jumping from an idea to another.

– Before starting writing, try to cover as much as possible the literature dedicated: travel blogs or books, guides, literature books. In this way you will be able to usethe right language and vocabulary.

– Focus on a mixture between descriptions and practical information. The qualities of a fiction writer – as offering through words a description of a place – are completed by a journalistic, up-to-the point style – as for example, describing the ways in which you must arrive to a hotel.

– Try to be as specific as possible. Maybe not all your readers visited the place you are writing about, so they will need, beyond plastic descriptions, also content information to convince them to go to see the place. There are many wonderful places in this world, but each of them could be described through largest five specific key-words.

– Be careful to details and cultural characteristics. Document each of them cautiously, to avoid stereotypes or ready-made negative ideas. Local media is a helpful support, but the background obtained by a direct discussion with local people or academic/literature documentation might be more helpful.

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