These travel writing tips are for writers who can’t write description – like me! I travel all the time, and indeed am currently on vacation in Waikiki, but I wouldn’t call myself a “travel writer.” These tips are for writers who travel and want to sell articles about their trips, but don’t wish to describe where they’ve been and what they saw.
If you want to make money writing travel articles, read Lonely Planet Travel Writing (How to). You’ll learn the secrets of crafting a great travel story, how to conduct pre-trip and on-the-road research, effective interviewing techniques, how to get your name in print, how to get paid to write, and the quirks of writing for newspapers, magazines, online and books. Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing also gives you an extensive listings of writers’ resources and industry organizations.
Here are a few tips for writers who travel but can’t, won’t, or don’t write description…
Tips for Writing About Travel
“Thanks to the interstate highway system, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything.” ~ Charles Kuralt. Whether or not you want to be a travel writer, you need to get off the interstate highway and explore the road not traveled!
1. Write about the locals or your travel companions
Say I want to sell a feature article to a travel magazine, but don’t want to describe the Hawaiian beaches, hikes, or historical sights (sites?). Instead, I could write about the uber-friendly Hawaiian people or the fact that the majority of people who work in Hawaii are transplants from other parts of the world (this, according to our waitress last night). Or, I could write about traveling as a married couple. This is our fifth trip together; we’ve explored St. Maarten, Israel/Turkey, Italy, Costa Rica, Austria/Czech, and now Hawaii. One vacation for every year we’ve been married! If I wanted to write a feature piece for a magazine, I could pitch a nonfiction article about traveling as a couple.
Read How to Become a Photojournalist if you’re thinking about including photos with your travel article pitches.
2. Write about not being a travel writer
If you’re a blogger on vacation, this is a great opportunity to write a post about why you don’t or can’t write description. Why do you dislike writing descriptively? Who turned you off it — a strict elementary school teacher, or a famous published author who wrote a gazillion pages of long, boring descriptions? Write an article that helps you discover what kind of writer you are…and pitch it to a magazine such as Writer’s Digest or The Writer. Help other writers who travel, but don’t wanna write about the sights.
3. Share travel writing tips that solve problems for tourists
One of our Big Hawaii Decisions was whether or not to buy the Go Oahu Card. We purchased it, and will soon discover if it’s a big rip-off or the smartest decision we ever made. Perhaps I’ll write a “10 Tips for Buying the Go Oahu Card”, or “10 Ways to Save Money on Travel.” This is a solid feature article idea for a budget travel magazine or my own Quips and Tips for Achieving Your Goals blog.
4. Write about things that make you mad, sad, or glad
When we visited Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s house in Salzburg, and I was dismayed to learn that Nannerl, Mozart’s sister, was as talented as Mozart himself. Yet she couldn’t pursue a career in music because her father decided she was “marriageable” when she turned 16. Her job was to be a wife and mother, which meant she couldn’t do anything else with her life. That made me mad, so I wrote about it. It wasn’t a travel writing article per se, but it was spurred by the sights I saw. I didn’t have to write description and I could share what I learned — the best of both worlds!
5. Practice writing description — pretend you’re a travel writer
I’m writing this blog post in my condo in Honolulu, Hawaii (a one bedroom for $99 a night, with a full kitchen!)…and if I really wanted to improve my creative or descriptive writing skills, I’d write about the view of Diamond Head, the people on their lanais in the hotel high rises across the street, the palm trees, and the kayakers and rowers on the canal. This really is the perfect opportunity to improve my descriptive writing skills…but instead, I think I’ll go to the swap meet at the Oahu Stadium and then, the beach.
If you want to make a living writing, read 10 Careers for Writers Who Want to Make Money.
What do you think – would you be a travel writer if you could? Are you a travel writer? Comments and questions welcome below…