5 Tips & Tricks for Travel Writing Research
Travel writers use simple techniques to turn their adventures into articles they can sell over and over. Here’s how they do it.
If you like to travel and you like to write, then travel writing could be a fabulous way for you to combine the best of both worlds. It's like getting paid to go on holiday. You have to sell the articles you write and the photos you take - or you could write Hubs about it which will also earn you money - but once you start getting published the world really is your oyster.
Travel writers use simple techniques that transform their trips and adventures into articles they can sell. Here are some tips that will show you how they do it.
1. Experience Everything
If you know your trip or holiday might become the fodder for a series of articles, make sure you don't miss anything. Use all your senses to explore the world around you. Ask yourself what a visitor might want to see, to taste, to touch, or to hear.
- What's the public transport system like? Is it clean? Is it busy? Is it cheap?
- Does the sea air calm the senses? Are there unusual odours in the atmosphere? Are the streets noisy, quiet, dirty or pristine?
- What sounds do you hear first thing in the morning or last thing at night? Drums? Frogs? Fireworks? Airplanes?
As a travel writer your job is to paint a picture in words of everything you encounter. One of the easiest ways to do that is to describe your surroundings as a sensory experience in terms of what you see, what you hear, what you taste, what you touch, what you smell, and what you feel.
2. Know your Facts and Figures
Knowing there are 99 winding steps to the top of a watch tower might seem trivial if you’re young and healthy. But how would a 73-year-old with emphysema cope with that situation? Or someone who suffers from vertigo?
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What do you think is most likely to make readers want to visit a place?
The devil, as they say, is in the detail. Details are useful to highlight the best and worst a place has to offer, but they're also more than that. They help you get under the skin of a town, city or village and put it into perspective. Knowing you can walk down the street and visit a lemon grove - where you can also pick up a small bottle of Limoncello - is far more interesting and compelling than grabbing one in a souvenir shop. You get the chance to take lots of engaging photos, too.
Trying to remember details can be a challenge, especially if your holiday is a lengthy one. Don't bother. Write things down, take lots of pictures and videos, and talk to the people you meet. Be curious and ask questions. Local people will be proud of their culture and heritage and will be happy to share their knowledge and insights with you.
One Thing Often Leads to AnotherClick thumbnail to view full-size
3. Exploit Free Materials
Wherever you go on holiday you'll find a FREE source of materials that can be used to add credibility and substance to your articles. These are the papers, pamphlets and leaflets you find almost everywhere you go. Brochures, magazines, newspapers, business cards -- they litter the restaurants, museums, hotel lobbies and tourist information centers. They're a simple way to get your hands on local maps and lists of popular places to visit.
You can find similar information by visiting the local library or skimming through the headlines in daily newspapers. Remember to save stubs, tickets, and any paper souvenirs: they don't take up much space in your luggage but can help jog your memory about days out when you get back home.
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4. Get In On the Action
No matter how inquisitive you are or how many bits of paper you manage to accumulate, you can't find out everything unless you're willing to go the extra mile. That means getting out of your hotel room or B&B and maybe even spending a few dollars.
On a visit to Fredericia in the heart of Denmark’s industrial triangle, for instance, someone suggested going to the Pakhus music venue on a Friday night. I'd seen the poster advertised in a shop somewhere and, as a musician myself, thought it might be worth seeing. It was a tremendous surprise to find out the gig featured the legendary Magic Slim and his band The Teardrops.
The then 70-year-old blues guitarist was a giant of a man, making a standard size guitar look like a toy in his massive hands. His blues music went down a treat with the locals and it was obvious he'd played here before. It was truly an unforgettable experience as much for the atmosphere as for the quality of Slim and his backing group, who the whole audience wanted to keep playing forever.
It was one of the highlights of the trip, yet without some local knowledge of the venue - tucked away out of sight on Kirkestræde - it could easily have been missed completely.
5. Embrace New Adventures
A holiday is just that; a break from the 9 to 5. But if you're a travel writing, it's also a lot more.
You can't entice people to follow in your footsteps if they only lead from your hotel room to the bar or restaurant in the lobby. Your hotel complex might be amazing, but it's not going to help people get to know the area.
To transport your readers to your destination, give them a real taste of what it’s like. Go out and see it for yourself. Get up early to describe the sunrise, the sounds you hear, or the weather. Take a frightening trip up the narrow winding road to get to the top of the Isle of Capri. Ride the cable car from Castellammare di Stabia just outside Sorrento to the top of Monte Faito. Take a bus or train from point A to point B to find out how efficient or otherwise their transportation system is and how the local people deal with it.
Learn some of the things that make a place tick just by exploring a little, keeping your eyes open, and paying attention. Savor the experience with the curiosity of both a child and a scientist at the same time, revelling in your discoveries while simultaneously keeping track of them to ultimately pass them on.