Travel. New destinations. Exotic locations. Different cultures. Making memories. Why do we love to travel? Is it the excitement we feel in anticipation of choosing vacation clothing and packing our luggage? Is it the rush we acquire from researching our chosen destinations and reviewing information about available tours, sights, restaurants, activities, and photo ops?
The travel gene gushes through my veins, as I mentioned in an essay that was published in Remembering our Parents, a collection of stories and sayings compiled by Stuart Gustafson. My parents were spontaneous explorers when we lived in Southern California, and I was privileged to visit an extraordinary number of locations during my formative years—sometimes on abbreviated notice. “Mary, pack your suitcase. We’re going to visit Sedona, Arizona, for the weekend,” Mom might say late on a Friday evening.
At the end of March 2011, I was suddenly preparing for a mid-May trip to Italy with three girlfriends. While some folks plan a trip like this for months—perhaps even years—I was given about six weeks’ lead time to organize my life and be ready to venture forth on an amazing journey. Four friends had been plotting this trip for over a year when one of the ladies—Liz—was diagnosed with throat cancer and was to begin immediate treatment. Her dream of seeing Italy was instantly eradicated. Asked if I could go in her place, it only took me about thirty seconds to reply, “Well, Italy is on my bucket list, I have a valid passport and a fairly flexible schedule. Yes, I’d love to go!”
At the same time, I felt somewhat guilty that my exuberance level was soaring while my friend was dealing with a potentially life-threatening situation. I promised Liz that I would document absolutely everything we encountered on the trip and that by the time she finished reading what I would write, she would feel as though she had traveled beside us—an enormous motivator for me to capture every important detail.
It wasn’t my original intention to write a travel blog or publish a travel memoir, but so many friends and relatives were inquiring about how four non-Italian-speaking women had traveled to three regions of Italy without a guide, I decided that the best method of sharing this experience was by a weekly posting in blog form. Therefore, http://www.4womenwholove2travel.blogspot.com was born. When several people said that they loved the blog, but even more beneficial would be a book with that same information, the publication From Italy with Love & Limoncello was launched. As an update, Liz fell in love with the blog and the book and is perfectly healthy today!
From my experience, I believe that three basic tips for effective travel writing are:
1. Your readers do not want to see a recitation of facts and dates. Ten travelers to the same destination could potentially share ten very different opinions about that same location. Express your feelings about your own personal experience at this destination. Move your reader along an emotional journey from their sofa or recliner to a place directly by your side.
2. Take a detour. Don’t limit your excursions to those typically enjoyed by tourists in a particular area. By diligent research, find those off-the-beaten-path attractions, hidden gems, colorful locals-only sites. Tales of those unusual venues and experiences sprinkled in with the common tourist events and destinations will give readers a sense of solid knowledge about the location, as well as the satisfaction of feeling as though they have been exposed to privileged information and secrets that they won’t find in a typical guide book. You have just given your readers a distinctive edge over other visitors.
3. Capture everything. It is impossible to compile too much detail when jotting down travel comments. An isolated, obscure observation may evolve into the hook for your future blog post or article. More is desirable, as your final product will take shape from journal entries that perhaps seemed insignificant in the heat of the travel moment. Some data will eventually land on the cutting-room floor, but sights, sounds, smells, and the people you meet along the journey are all noteworthy. As you begin to formulate your story, it will become glaringly obvious which items to include and those to eliminate.
Relax and enjoy your surroundings. Don’t be so focused on capturing the details that you are unable to soak in the sunshine of the trip. During my Italy visit, I kept a small note pad handy, jotting down brief snippets of information during the excursions. I utilized mealtimes to chat with my fellow travelers to expand on those quick notes and finished each evening by reviewing the entries and elaborating on the events of the day. The passing of even 48 hours begins to blur the specifics, so a day-by-day chronicle is the best resource for developing your story.
Additionally, consider sharing what you might do differently if you were to return to this location. Your words will entice, entertain, and inform readers about a destination, so wow them with golden travel nuggets!
Mary Anne Benedetto is a writer, speaker, blogger, ghostwriter, and Certified Lifewriting Instructor. Author of Eyelash, Never Say Perfect, 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time!, From Italy with Love & Limoncello, and Write Your Pet’s Life Story in 7 Easy Steps!, she enjoys golf, travel, visiting family and friends, walking the spectacular South Carolina beaches, and curling up with a great book. She is founder of Beach Author Network, a marketing and promotions networking group for South Carolina coast authors. See http://www.beachauthornetwork.blogspot.com Contact Mary Anne at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit her at www.awriterspresence.com , www.maryannebenedetto.blogspot.com www.abookfeast4u.blogspot.com, www.4womenwholove2travel.blogspot.com.