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Travel Writing 101 – Here Is What You Should Know!

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    It’s an elevator, too many people have suddenly stepped into. It’s closed, congested and somebody just farted.

    This is what the travel writing industry or, whatever you’d like to call it, has transpired into lately. Travel Writing has been keenly pursued since times immemorial. Journals and memoirs go back to date somewhere around the second century AD. But I guess, the party has just started, thanks to the internet revolution.

    Travel Writing 101 Here Is What You Should Know

    This revolution has created a hustle in the blogosphere and our virtual lives. Resulting in a whirlwind of readers and ever-increasing content creators. On one hand, the market seems ever expanding and on the other hand, times are competitive. At the onset, the idea seems dreamlike, becoming a travel blogger, rubbernecking around the globe and being paid for it. Fancy, eh? Is it that simple? Hell no! It’s definitely not the way they show it in the movies, instead, it takes a lot of hard work. Here are a few pointers to help you on the trail of travel writing:

    1] If you can talk, you can write: Let’s get this straight, nobody wants you to pull magical rabbits or words out of the hat. Nobody expects you to become Hemingway. You needn’t describe the “crimson sunsets, “cascade of mountains,” and the “cow with her lovely dung.”

    If you stick to the facts, for instance, where to go, how to reach, where to stay, what to eat, any pro tips and other forms of practical information, that is useful to the reader — this is a good start. Not all forms of travel writing are about travel stories or travelogue. Some are more like travel guides, sticking exactly to what the reader needs to know before visiting a place. I remember when I started writing, I’d just be able to write simple itineraries. I wrote, wrote, and wrote, and finally, one day started experimenting with writing about experiences. I did and still write as if I am explaining it to a friend.

    It may not be as arresting as a Bill Bryson story but could be as simple as a piece of advice you give to a friend who wants to travel to a place you know the soul of.

    2] Read: This writer friend, always says this, “it’s important to read good, to be able to write good.” This should be your first step towards writing of any form. There’s a reason why all the worthwhile writers are readers as well. This is because writing does not exist in isolation to reading. So you must consume a lot of travel literature and then see the words magically flow out. Don’t freak out if your first draft is disappointing. Writing, is like a muscle, the more you exercise, the stronger it becomes. For instance, every time I read something I wrote years ago, either I want to hide it, bury it or delete it or laugh it out. With time, of course, we grow as readers and better writers.

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    3] Make short Notes: Memory isn’t your best friend when it comes to travel writing. It’s easy to miss on small yet important details. And trust me, you will thank yourself immensely when you finally sit yourself down for writing that blog and you have all the rough notes at a glance. In the twilight of travel writing, I’d call up the host ten times before finally completing a blog to confirm minute details that I missed while on the ground. Obviously, it adds a whole lot of confusion that can be easily avoided by making short notes while on the go.

    4] Don’t let it grow old on you: Another tip here is, don’t let it grow old on you. Let’s say you went to this really amazing place today. You were moved by the wonders of this place. The place and the experience of it are still fresh in your headspace. You really want to write about it. But then, you get lazy and totally forget all about it on returning to the same old rut of life. Days, weeks and months pass away. The memory of this wonderful trip does bring a smile to your face, but you simply can’t squeeze out words to describe this experience any longer. This happens with a lot of people I know. All you’ve got to do is, write it as soon as you can. Make notes so that you can pick up the vibe of the trip even at a later stage.

    5] Know what kicks in creativity: I am writing this article by the window seat of a rickety bus, on a crumpled piece of paper that has now become soft because of humidity and my sweaty hands. Somehow the “uuhhs and the aahhhs” of the bumpy ride kicks in creativity, and I am able to write what I couldn’t write while staring at a blank word document for hours on the laptop screen. On the other hand, this friend gets inspired by a shitpot. Sometimes, creativity also strikes us like a sudden bolt of lightning— when there’s a thunderstorm of thoughts and words start raining. That’s exactly when you need a pen and paper. Basically, it’s different with all of us; you need to figure out what works for you!

    6] Consistency: It’s one of those things, everybody knows but only a handful manage to do.

    We live in hurried times, it’s easy to start a blog and then forget all about it. Or fall into the trap of “ohh—I’ll—do—it—tomorrow.” This is exactly the mistake you don’t want to commit.

    Travel writing isn’t a fancy fling; it is a dedicated long term companionship you have to work towards.

    7] Networking: Great work happens all around the world day in and day out. It also dies in isolation because nobody gets to know about it. So you need to build a strong follower base, both online and offline to develop an interactive audience for your blog or other social media accounts. This is not an overnight wonder. Consistency and good content gradually trickle downs a follower or two in your social media accounts every day. Years of this meditative hard work may test your patience but definitely rewards. Also, there are no shortcuts here my friend.

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    8] Good content goes a long way: It does. Endeavors like travel writing will not pay you at the onset, but you must keep the good content flowing in. At the initial stage you will have to focus more on building your own portfolio and dedicated audience— remember this cannot be done without good content.

    9] The next big step: Once your blog is good to go the next big step should be—

    • To start pitching your ideas to other publications. You could start by writing guest posts/blogs for other online portals/websites. Again, at the onset, it is futile to expect any monetary benefits out of such collaborations. However, it would be a good idea to start writing for someone/ other portals with a better audience reach and ask them to use backlinks of your website/ share or repost your content— basically any collaboration that helps you get more traffic on your website/ social media accounts.
    • At the same time it is important to know what works for you better in terms of getting a more reach— a particular type of website, say TravelTear? A famous bloggers group? Instagram or anything else. Take, for example, Instagram works very well for me. Every time I write a blog, I post a link of the blog in my Instagram story. This helps in circulating content as well as deriving more traffic to the website. This is no rocket science, simply know what works for you better and keep at it.
    • The next threshold is travel publications. It means that you pitch stories to editors and if you get lucky, they’d take it up. But lucky is something that new travel writers usually aren’t. Crafting a pitch, finding a Godfather editor and following up on the same is as difficult as consoling your mother for the loss of an expensive lunch box. Though the selection of the pitch also depends on how unique your idea or pitch is and if it resonates with the interest of the travel publication. For instance, it would be awkward and even futile, if I write to the editor of an adventure tour magazine pitching a blog idea on luxury travel getaways. So, one must choose a unique idea and pitch it to the concerned publications.

    Anyway, the point is that you must start writing for other portals to broaden the horizons of your blog and audience. Again, forget that it will pay right at the onset, but after a few successful pieces, you must start seeking your due. Don’t just keep writing for free.

    So, if all you want to do is travel the world, explore within and beyond, catch sunrises and experience sunsets melt in your mouth, live in a jungle, climb many mountains, meet wonderful strangers, sip coffee on a lonely island, live and share many stories and even be paid for all this— you’ve got to start writing now! Good luck!

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