How to Travel-Write

Marie Kreft presented a Travel writing workshop in the heart of Shropshire, after the release of her latest book. I mulled over my thoughts from a couple of weeks ago- and now I have conclusive findings I want to share! How do you TRAVEL-WRITE?

How to Travel-Write

Travel writing is a fun way to put pen to paper. It doesn't have to be dreary and boring, or drenched with details. It's not necessary to have a complex thought process behind it, or a fantastic and winding, unbelievable and action-packed plot. With the right balance, it's easier than you may think…

"What makes good travel writing?"
Simply put: Make something familiar… with a different spin.

Good travel writing engages all five senses: sight, smell, sound, touch, and taste. You can take something that is right on your doorstep and give a vivid description, simply by ensuring you use lexis surrounding all senses a reader would want to experience.
In travel programmes, good screenwriting and a simple outline helps to transport audiences to another world; taking them on a journey. It's similar with words, however you can't literally show someone what is happening (this is where photos, pictures and drawings are key!) but you can describe sights, smells and sounds. Touch and tastes are harder, but try looking at it in the point of view of someone who lives there. You can see things from a fresh pair of eyes.

"People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home." Dagobert D Runes

"How long does travel writing have to be?"
In the past, there have been tendencies created that give content a guaranteed tick in the box for fabulous travel writing: giving the reader what they want- and only what they want- usually just with overworked phrases.
Travel writing offers a sense of immediacy. You should be in control, and free to explore your creativity. It can be whatever length you suppose, the brilliant idea being that you mould your thoughts into any possibility, and stay or stray as far away from fact as you wish.

"How do you avoid clichés in travel writing?"
Let's make a list of some clichés that seem impossible to avoid in conventional travel writing:

  • Best-kept secrets
  • Sun-drenched beaches
  • Crystal clear water
  • Palm fringed beaches
  • Breath-taking views
  • Snow-capped mountains
  • Impenetrable jungle
  • Bustling market
  • Powder-soft snow

There are three steps to dodging this typicality. The trick is not to try to "dodge" it, but try to replace words with something unusual, or something not even yourself would predict or expect.
One, see if you can describe another aspect of the same object.
Two, think outside the box.
Three, step away, and come back later.
It's so important not to stress the writing process, or you will "break it".

Workshop task: Describe this photo without using clichés :

otmaRjaQJeiWsVie3OuloYNbyvAuVekA6oy6iPnrrBpC2eAcSLx1y0vqne7jWnXjpe3VBGQhMUr8wjO-01BZrMMUCW646V4XcFa4SbF2HHWZnFy8-JwZsbaZRR8gbdMr94klKvIDnLJiLPvK_Q

Here was my attempt (exempt from clichés, hopefully?):

"A glowing halo of light
Three trees in the scene
Stand tall, touch the sky
In the distance, a shallow sea.
One canopy, dark shadows
Two strings tie the cloth
An outlet of sleep,
To relax, see the Earth."

Post your own responses below- we'd love to see!

"Forget good. I want great travel writing. How?"
At the workshop, Marie listed all the travel writing tips for writing not just an average piece, but something great- something memorable. She suggested that giving context through humour and dialogue is a fantastic way of doing this. You need to offer something unique to the reader.

Check out Marie's book: "Slow Travel: Shropshire" for Bradt Travel Guides.

2 Comments

  • Luke Taylor

    On 28 October 2016, 10:07 Luke Taylor Contributor commented:

    Great tips for any keen writers out there!

  • Sienna James

    On 28 October 2016, 14:58 Sienna James Voice Team commented:

    I love this, travel-writing is so much fun!!

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