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What is a Travel Narrative?

A traveling woman with a backpack and straw hat facing a river.

Ah travel narratives. Some of the best content out there for travel-bugs and those who like to explore the world both locally and abroad. If you’re unfamiliar with this form of writing, it essentially refers to any non-fiction story taken from personal experience of the traveller who wrote it.

To give you more insight into travel narratives and travel literature as a whole, we’ve put together this guide:

Qualities a Travel Writer Needs to Have

The Right POV

When writing a travel narrative it is important that you use the first person (I, me, us). This will help it feel more personal to the reader.

You will also want to use the past tense unless you feel that the present tense is warranted by the action taking place. Be sure to include your own observations along with vivid descriptions and facts to support the overall writing.

Start With a Strong Intro

Your introduction is your chance to capture your reader’s attention and entice them to keep reading. Find a captivating hook and use it early in your piece. You might be able to incorporate a new trend or begin building the suspense of a new discovery you made.

Use your introduction to convey the overall tone of the story as well as the point of your trip. Think about the purpose of your trip and include important details such as where you were and what you were doing there (backpacking, camping, visiting friends/family, etc.).

Later on, you can connect back to how your journey began but the introduction should focus on getting your reader interested and engaged.

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A man reading on his tablet while seating at a hut with a sweeping view of the valley.

Creating The Narrative Thread

As you are writing you aren’t necessarily chronicling your trip as it happened. It should be organized and well thought out but think of a thread that will tie it together from beginning to end and then use interesting pieces to help tell the story along the way. These could be stories, events, or people you met.

Include Quotes

Including words from real people involved in your trip will help bring your story to life. Readers will feel that they are going along the journey with you and become more invested if they hear from the locals and anyone you met along the way.

When quoting be sure to do so accurately and identify them clearly. Give any context that might add to understanding the conversation.

Avoid Cliches & Formal Words

In a travel narrative, you want to bring the reader into the story with you so they feel as if they are sitting right next to you. Use language that you would use in real life by avoiding overly formal language and overused travel cliches.

Check Your Facts!

Include interesting facts as they are relevant but be sure you are using reliable information from authoritative sources. If you aren’t sure of something double-check it with sources you know and trust.

A man looking out at the view of several small islands just beyond.

Write Economically

Make sure every word has a purpose. Look for phrases and sentences that can be shortened and do so. Avoid redundant language and cut out anything that doesn’t add to the story. Instead of “I soon became aware of” – use “there was”.

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Avoid Irrelevant Personal Moments

When including personal anecdotes think about the relevancy to the reader. Maybe you missed a flight or your hotel reservation was canceled, but unless it directly impacts the story it doesn’t need to be included.

You want to connect with the reader but also keep it relevant to the point of your writing. Ask yourself how the incident adds to the overall story.

Why do People Read Travel Writing?

Travel writing allows the reader to visit places they may not otherwise get to visit and experience new things from the comforts of their home. Travel writing began during Elizabethan times and many say that Shakespeare used the writings of others as background to his plays.

A traveling man with a backpack facing a view of the snowy mountain.

What are the Different Types of Travel Writing?

1. Weekend Warrior

This type of travel writing is great for a shorter experience that can be retold in short-form content like a magazine article or blog post.

Think about where the piece will be published and if this type of writing would be appropriate. For example, a family-oriented blog may be looking for a short day trip a family could take with activities along the way.

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A more adventurous audience might be interested in reading about mountain biking trails in the area and your experience riding them or perhaps even survivalist stories.

2. Content And Social Media Marketing

This type of writing can be very short form including tweets and Instagram captions. Travel companies and those that sell outdoor gear often look for people who are using their products to show this to their customers.

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You must be able to write quickly and with a mind for highlighting the company itself. Think about the audience as you write and use a voice that will engage them.

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Companies that hire these writers will appreciate your ability to bring the audience with you and tell a captivating story. For this type of travel narrative videos and photos are essential and you should be able to use them in a way that adds to the overall story.

3. Roundups And “Best Of” Lists

List posts have been and always be incredibly popular on the internet. They are easy to read and great for our short attention spans. Use the introduction to show the common thread between each of your bullet points.

Be sure your information is accurate and well researched. A list post could include “50 Things to Do In Woodland Park, CO” and each bullet would include a short description of the activity and your personal opinion on why it made the list.

Since these posts typically get a lot of traffic you could reach out to companies or locations and see if they will give you a free day pass in exchange for listing their location in your post. Doing this can help you explore new attractions and locations you (and your audience) might miss out on.

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4. Holidays And Special Events

If you are planning to write about and cover a holiday or special event be sure to pitch it well in advance and plan well. These types of events can provide enough content for several pieces all of which can be repurposed and used for different platforms.

You could begin weeks before by talking about the announcement of the event. As the event gets closer think of things your audience might be interested in. Could you interview someone organizing the event or do an in-depth review of the city it is being held in?

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5. Side Trips

Most magazines actually include space for “side-trips” when planning a long featured article. Think of ideas for these well in advance to make planning easier on you and the publisher.

Side-trips are valuable to the audience because it provides even more insight into a trip or location. It also invites the reader to explore more fully if they visit that location. These smaller pieces of content are valuable because they can be repurposed as shorter forms of content like a social media post.

6. Destinations Pieces

Destination pieces can be difficult because you often have to find a new angle to describe a location that others have already described. Brainstorm interesting ways to bring new light to the location such as “hidden gems†or something other travel writers may have missed in their pieces.

This type of feature is usually a long in-depth piece assigned to an experienced and knowledgeable writer. These need to have an interesting introduction and describe the journey by incorporating your own anecdotes, facts, and quotes from locals. Think of ways to make the location seem new and different to an audience that is probably already familiar with it.