In the third article in our travel writing tips series, avid traveler and blogger Lisa Watson offers advice on making connections, taking notes, and seeking out local interactions whenever possible.
You don’t have to travel far from home to write a travel narrative. Travel writing is, in the end, all about sharing discoveries that you make of things you’ve seen and people you’ve met, whether they’re just outside your front door or on the other side of the world. I’ve found through experience that a great way to practice travel writing is to spend time observing a place or local event that is familiar to you and trying to see it from the eyes of a person who has never experienced it before. What details make it interesting or different? Take note of anything you think may set this place or experience apart from everywhere else. Maybe it’s something small — a unique flavor of ice-cream that is served in that town — or maybe it’s something big — a group of priests stopping to have a game of football in the town square with the local kids, for example. I find that it’s often the small details that give fascinating colour to the story.
Another way to approach travel writing is to think about how you would tell of your experiences to a friend. Use your own words and your way of speaking to tell your story — find your voice. While you are writing, keep this friend in the forefront of your mind and pretend you are sitting with them, telling the story. This voice will give your narrative credulity and set it apart from all the other hum-drum travel articles out there.
My final tip is to interact with locals as much as possible when you travel. These meetings give your story a deeper meaning. Visiting the main tourist spots and immersing yourself in your guidebook will lend itself to a run-of-the-mill travel story. Whether you understand the local language or not is not an obstacle. In fact, not understanding exactly what’s going on can make for some pretty entertaining anecdotes for your writing! Carry a small notebook with you to write down sentences, situations, or even single words or hand signals you have shared with people while you are traveling so that you can use them in your writing later. They may just be integral to your next great travel story.