Travel Writing

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1. Posted by samsara_ (Travel Guru 5353 posts) 15y Star this if you like it!

Hi everyone

Just interested to find out how many people are into documenting their travels and if there's anyone who does it for a living?

I journalize most of my experiences when I travel but I may not get around to doing it for a few days or even a few weeks after the fact. I'm hoping some day to do something productive with all of these scribblings, but what I'm noticing in re-reading my notebooks is that I'm not recording enough of the specifics of my travels - placenames, people's witnessing accounts, dates, times, historical facts. I've captured my own emotions or reactions pretty well, but that's largely it I think.

I'm thinking I might need to take a more logistical, journalistic approach to documenting my travels - keeping a small notebook with me at all times lest I forget. :) That's the thing that has become evident - I thought I would remember everything - the sights, smells, sounds, stories - and I have for the mostpart, but it's the minutiae that become lost, rattling around somewhere at the back of your memory.

For those of you who are serious about it, what do you do? Do you devote an hour at the end of your day to writing a draft of your day? Do you treat it as you would work or study?

Separately, someone commented to me that they thought travel writing (as in for a travel magazine as opposed to a book) should be kept free of the writer's own emotion, that it should be like a movie review or something. I personally thought that was absurd. For me, travel is an assault on the senses. How do you keep writing about it to just the facts.

Any thoughts on that?

2. Posted by mim (Respected Member 1276 posts) 15y Star this if you like it!

I keep a moleskin (famous kind of artists notebook) in which I draw maps, do sketches and write about anything exciting thats happened, I've got a few now and its so nice delving into them, like a fantastical memory lane trip :)
I try not to force myself saying I'll write in it everyday because I inevitably don't but I like to keep up with it when there's some quiet time I seriously recommend it!

oh and a big old fashioned boll*x to not keeping your emotions in, it's just a clinical description otherwise and who wants to read that?


[ Edit: Edited on Oct 4, 2007, at 3:54 AM by mim ]

3. Posted by samsara_ (Travel Guru 5353 posts) 15y Star this if you like it!

I use those notebooks too. I love them!

4. Posted by AndyB24 (Respected Member 167 posts) 15y Star this if you like it!

I always take a notebook on my travels, but usually only last a month or so before I get too caught up in doing stuff, and start to forget to write in it.

There is a book out on south america by VIVA that has stories in it writen by travellers, can submit on thier website if ya wanna get published!

5. Posted by John999181 (Full Member 41 posts) 15y Star this if you like it!


When I go away travelling, I try to keep a blog, which I do via this site thought the last 2 I've started, I've never managed to finish as it started to take to long. I started them thinking it would be a few notes, though as I got more into it and was enjoying writing, it was taking a couple of hours at a time to document a 30 minute spell. On returning, I have always hoped to finish them as I enjoy reading them though I have never managed to get around to doing it. I think I'll have to start using a note book for my next trip so when I return, I am able to finish it this time.

So the note book idea, I'll keep in mind...



6. Posted by summer910 (Respected Member 1342 posts) 15y Star this if you like it!

The nature of my job means I've done some travel writing - not a lot, because usually all they want is just one article, but it's been a learning experience all the same. I think people want to read a travel piece not only for what the place is about, but also for the personal touch. It's what makes the place great or not so nice for the writer that the reader wants to know. Don't keep your emotions in, but don't flood it with too minute details, I guess. Of course, this is all dependent on space constraints and what is actually needed - if we're talking about publication in newspapers, travel magazines, client commissions etc.

7. Posted by samsara_ (Travel Guru 5353 posts) 15y Star this if you like it!

Yeah, the blog thing is a great idea really. I kept one religiously while I travelled, more for my family back home than for myself so that they could find out what I was doing and seeing without me wasting hours on the phone filling them in. As I got into though I started to really enjoy it. My Mum loved it because she said she was armchair travelling with me, and if a few days went by where I didnt write anything in it, I'd get a gentle nudge via email

A blog differs to a journal in that you are writing for someone else usually, so you'll infuse it with funny anecdotes, ounces of wit, or things of interest to spice it up a bit and make it a good read. A journal is usually more introspective, private, candid. I suppose it's nice to do both if you have the time on your travels. :)

8. Posted by Sam I Am (Admin 5588 posts) 15y Star this if you like it!

Great post! I am not much for travelling with a notebook and the shabby state of affairs that is my blog kind of displays that I haven't even been much good at that either. But I really do wish sometimes I had kept a notebook. You know when you're trying to think of the name of one of those two crazy canadians you met in Costa Rica or some such thing. I was in London a few months ago meeting up with some old classmates and one of the girls was in London for the first time and was writing down literally everything. I know if I need to know what I ate for lunch on one of those days I can just send her an email and she'll dig it up from somewhere :)

On the other hand, I can vividly remember some of the more beautiful moments of my trip and if I close my eyes it seems like I'm right there, perhaps because I was absorbed in the moment enjoying it rather than trying to convey my feelings at that time onto a piece of paper?! I have started trying to document more by way of photography as well which I find to work well for the visualization aspect. Especially seeing as I'm not much the sketch artist it just wouldn't work well if I tried that path ....

If you can write a blog both from a personal and for others point of view it should work really well. Especially now that you can turn them into a nicely formatted PDF with photos and comments included. Makes for a great coffee table eye catcher once you've returned!

9. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru 2635 posts) 15y Star this if you like it!

For documenting details, I usually carry a pocket notebook, something that's just a few inches and can fit easily in my pocket (similar to the little black books that guys used to carry around to record the names and numbers of cute girls, before the advent of the cell phone). That way you can be walking around pretty naturally and not have to lug around a big notebook. I write down the name and contact information of hotels and good restaurants, mostly so I could put it in my trip reports that I used to write, though now I just mainly put that stuff in the Travel Guide.

My blog is a completely different animal. I don't tend to take notes on the stuff I end up writing about in the blog. It's more of my feelings about a place. I may refer to my notes to include some factual details, though I'm just as likely to read the local tourist boards site or Wikipedia to get facts about a place.

As for travel writing (as a living), I think there are two types of travel writing.

There's the factual stuff, like guidebook authors or articles in magazines and newspapers. I think those are less about emotion and more about how to travel in a place. You should still tell a story, though. The best of those I've read manage to weave all the facts about getting to a place, places to eat, places to stay and things to do into a story about the trip, though recently I've noticed this stuff being moved out into a separate box. (Example about Nova Scotia Wine Country).

The other type of travel writing is the stuff that Bill Bryson, Michael Palin or Paul Theroux do, and that isn't really about a place as much as it is about the traveller themselves. I find this stuff much more interesting to read, and as a blogger much more interesting to write. Of course, I think it's probably a lot harder to get work doing this, as most paying outlets are looking for travel articles they could put in their magazine, not a 10,000 word treatise on how sitting on the banks of a river in South America helped you forget the last girl that dumped you.

Anyway, nobody has ever paid me for writing about my travels yet, unless you count the $50 Amazon gift card I got for contributing to the Travel Guide earlier this year. Oh, and once some other website promised to send me a T-shirt for a trip report I contributed to their site, but the T-shirt never arrived. *sigh*. But I do write and contribute trip reports and blog entries to other sites, really just so more people read my stuff.

As I like to say, I am a travel writer. I travel and I write. I just don't get paid for it. :)


P.S. Notice that I included a link to my blog in this forum post. Always got to think about how to generate more traffic!

10. Posted by kombizz (Full Member 1416 posts) 15y Star this if you like it!

I always write my expenses in a travel diary.