Capture a Moment in Time with a Travel Essay
Looking to get more mileage out of your travel writing?
You’re probably aware of the concept of taking your travel experience and writing about it in different formats.
You can describe the scenery, the sites, the language and the people.
You can write about the best hotels and restaurants.
You can explore the how-to’s, the what-to-do’s and what-to-bring’s. You can give advice on where to go and what to avoid; how to save money and where to spend it.
It’s all good, factual stuff that’s useful for travelers, and there are numerous ways you can present the facts to your readers.
And then, you can forget about all that and write a travel essay.
That’s not to say that a travel essay doesn’t include facts. It does, but in very different format than a typical descriptive or how-to article.
An essay, written in the first-person, sees things through your eyes – up close and personal. It is not a comprehensive view of your entire trip, but a deeper focus on minute details, often from a specific activity or experience during a short portion of your trip. It’s not written to be helpful; it’s written to entertain.
Like a vacation, an essay takes the reader on a journey – to some observed truth or message. This journey may span only a microcosm of your entire trip, but it is a journey nonetheless. It takes your reader from point A to point B and keeps him or her interested along the way.
A travel essay ranges from humorous to poignant. It evokes emotion. It tells a story.
You can find essay material hidden in the most unexpected vacation venues. I wrote an essay about the time my family almost missed a connecting flight in Dallas because the drug-sniffing dog honed in on our backpack. Time spent in your stocking feet the back room of an airport is not the subject of your typical travel piece, but it does make for great essay material.
When looking for your own stories, step back from the grandeur of the mountains and look at the details of the landscape. Opt for the small moments that are worth retelling, such as:
- Did your family have an adventure while getting photos taken for passports? Mine did.
- The first time we took a trip with our new GPS device brought about great story material. The device took on a life of her own and we ended up giving “her” a name.
- I took a ride in a jet ski once (and only once) during a vacation. Because I am a self-described thrill-seeking wimp, for me it was a life-altering experience, and worth writing about.
I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences. Maybe you had an especially humorous encounter with a forgetful waiter in a restaurant. Maybe your luggage got lost and you had to spend the week wearing the same T-shirt for days on end. Did you mistake a large tree for a bear? Did the beauty of nature cause you to contemplate the meaning of life? Did the children in a foreign country teach you something about yourself?
Tell the real-life stories that you’ve lived up close and personal. Chances are, readers will identify with your everyday travel experiences, because they’ve been there themselves.
Do you prefer travel essays or service pieces? Share your opinion!