How Do You Become a Travel Writer?

1. Have an Adventure

No one wants to read how about how you checked Facebook from your hotel room all day. If you want to become a travel writer, you have to have stories to tell.

One great way to find adventures worth writing about is to ask your friends and family what sites they would want to see, food they would want to try, and experiences they would want to have. Once you arrive, ask the same questions to locals and expats. By inviting other people into your planning process, you help get a feel for what will interest people in your writing.

As you go on your adventure, make sure to bring your notebook, and when you encounter other people on your journey, write down their names and where they’re from. These little details make your story more memorable.

2. Journal

Before you start writing your actual articles, it’s important capture as much of your experience as you can in a journal. Every day in Paris, I hole up in a café and write as much about my experiences as I remember. This isn’t usually great writing. The point isn’t to write something publishable, but to capture your experience for later.

As you journal, make a special effort to remember the things people say, and other specific details like the color of the sky and the smell of the food. Dialogue always makes for a much better story, but it’s the easiest to forget.

3. Choose One Moment

As important as capturing all of your memories in your journal is, most of them won’t make very good stories. Instead, read through your journal, and then choose just one moment to build your article around.

For example, I recently wrote about our terrible eighteen hour travel day to Paris. When I first journaled about the experience, I wrote nearly 2,500 words, far too long for an article. And so I decided to focus on just one piece of the trip, how we almost missed our flight, a moment that had enough excitement and drama to carry the whole article.

What’s nice about this is that your journals while your journals don’t directly become published articles, they’re instead turned into a fertile field of stories. I could write five or six articles from one day’s worth of journals.

4. Expand the Story

Next, take your single moment and expand it, illustrating the story with the following:

  • Dialogue
  • Description and Setting
  • Research (like the name of the street you were on and historic and contextual information)
  • Small details (such as what people were wearing)
  • Your own emotions

This is where your article goes from being just a sketch and turns into a real story.

Here, I also try to insert my own voice into the story, adding tone, humor, and dramatic shifts. Do you want this to be a funny story about your travel misadventures or do you want this to be a serious, reflective look at culture and identity? Whichever you choose, try to add it to your story.

5. Revise With Your Subjects in Mind

One of the tricky parts of writing about your travels is that you’re writing about real people. In many ways fiction is easier because you don’t have to worry about offending other people. However, when writing about real people you have to consider their feelings.

If you’re able, it’s always a good idea to send your story, or at the very least, the quotes, to your subjects for permission. If you can’t contact the people in your stories, read and revise with them in mind. How would you feel if this was printed about you? You may also want to change the names of your subjects to protect their identity.