The Ambidextrous Travel Writer

The Ambidextrous Travel Writer:

The Ambidextrous Travel Writer is a monthly advice column for travel writers & bloggers, written by author Susan Farewell.

How I Get My Travel Stories

finding ideas for travel stories
6 December 2010 Post Author:
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After recently attending a NYC press event, I noticed three bloggers wrote about the news that had been announced, the very next day.

It was then tweeted, retweeted, posted and shared around on Facebook. I’m assuming at least a portion of the paper magazines that were represented at the lunch will also run the news.

A home run for the PR firm that hosted it!

I chose not to write about the news because, while it was highly tweet-able, it was not specifically something my readers would need to know about.

Being a travel writer is all about scouting out locations.

Also, I was in the middle of wrapping up another story for FarewellTravels.com about a place that doesn’t even have a PR firm in the states: Les Saintes, a very small French archipelago in the Caribbean.

Most of my stories do not come from press events. Sure, I appreciate these functions because I learn about the different properties (or other travel “products”) and many of them do find their way into my pieces down the road. I also love seeing people I know and getting new contacts in the industry.

But when it comes to the stories I really feel really passionate about, I choose finding my own over getting the information from a slideshow in a hip Manhattan restaurant.

This is not always easy. Often the places that have not been “discovered” by other travel writers don’t have PR firms.

So how do I go about getting these ideas for stories? A variety of ways. I ask around. I pick up hints. I overhear conversations. I get into discussions with my hair stylist, with my doctor, my dentist, another mom waiting to pick up her child from practice.

From there, I begin investigating on my own. If a place sounds intriguing and likely to be a destination my readers would be interested in, then I go see for myself.

Being a travel writer is all about scouting out locations. You find some that work and others you have to dismiss. It can be costly, it can be time consuming and outrageously frustrating and exhausting. But every now and then, you happen upon a gem, like Les Saintes.

And then you’ve got your story.

On top of that, you can provide a service to your readers, feeling quite smug that they’ll not read about it elsewhere.

~ Susan

How do you get ideas for travel stories? Share your advice!


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26 Responses to “How I Get My Travel Stories”

  1. Susan,

    Good advice! I, too like to find unexpected and undiscovered places to write about. Usually, you get so much more information and get to know the “locals” because they appreciate the time and effort you make to find, research and write about them.

    Living in the Southwest United States provides me with plenty of places to explore. And since the wine industry is still developing here, it’s so much fun to find those out of the way vineyards that are producing some great wines!

    • I love that there are still some undiscovered places left to find….and what a wonderful niche to write about! Although I love good wines, I don’t know the first thing about how to choose one, so I’ll be sure to spend some time browsing your site – thanks for stopping by!

  2. Julie
    Twitter:
    says:

    Besides using these strategies for stories about places, you can use the same strategies in places that are heavily visited, too. Even when I go on press trips, I’m always looking for the people and experiences and places that everyone else overlooks. While they’re busy looking for the bright, shining, hot, new, hip, whatever, I’m usually looking at the person in the corner who no one’s paying attention to– he’s usually got the very best story.
    .-= Julie´s last blog post: Press trip contracts- Is this a new normal =-.

    • Good advice, Julie – this is what I like to do also….I always figured that it must be my introverted nature – I seek out those that are a bit apart from the crowd, they’re usually the ones I enjoy speaking to (and learning from) the most. :-)

  3. Wendy
    Twitter:
    says:

    Great post.
    If we can, B & B’s are our preferred place to stay. Asking the owner about non-touristy places is another good place to start. Then go and investigate on your own to see if it really is a “find”.

    • I think that’s a great idea, but I have a hard time following that advice…..I tend to be a loner when I travel and I need more privacy to keep my batteries from completely draining, so I prefer the anonymity that a hotel provides……but I must admit that the few B&Bs that I’ve been to I really enjoyed!

  4. Sophie says:

    Nice tips! I should attend blogger’s events like this soon.

  5. Rhys says:

    I think the main item that will come across in your travel writing is honesty. Yes, it will take longer to scout stories and source information, but the final outcome will be well worth it and the results will show in your writing. Real travel writing is about the experience and the journey you have with yourself.

  6. Carla Yocum says:

    I adore travelling to places that I’ve never been to. It makes me feel good when I enjoy it like I did it for the first time. Discovering new places that aren’t too mainstream or too exposed to the public energizes me and inspires me to write and think more. Thumbs up for the post! I like it.

  7. I adore travelling to places that I’ve never been to. It makes me feel good when I enjoy it like I did it for the first time. Discovering new places that aren’t too mainstream or too exposed to the public energizes me and inspires me to write and think more.

  8. Zi Zi Bright
    Twitter:
    says:

    I like to write about events that are happening at locations. Even if am not there during the event I always include info like dates and any cost. Find that some places I go I more known for an event then the actually name of town. I like to show the town has other attractions beside the event.

  9. pelu awofeso
    Twitter:
    says:

    Susan, I like the line: “Being a travel writer is all about scouting out locations.” It shows travel in a new light, one that makes it even easier to tackle. Thank you

  10. Anonymous
    Twitter:
    says:

    an armchair travel writer will not bring the feeling that a travel journalist brings. This is coz of the experience, the immersion effect that the latter passionately describes as s/he writes about the destination

  11. I mainly focus on extreme budget travel so most of my ideas come from talking with youths and homeless from the areas I visit.

    • Hi Matthew – thanks for stopping by! I agree that speaking with other people, whether they are fellow travelers or those who live in the area you’re visiting, is a great way to find ideas. I love the fact that you stay focused on a narrow niche – it’s definitely one that many travelers are interested in. :-)

  12. williams says:

    Hi Susan, Its great feeling to know about the monthly advice column,
    its interesting.I started following that.

    @Dharmendra Kr Rai – New or Unknown places not only energizes to you
    only but to most of the people also, who love to go that places which
    have been never listened before , but yes before going there,they
    always do some googling about that place to know something, So we
    need to be honest about the travel writing.

  13. Hi Susan,
    Its worth reading your blog. I liked your writing as well as opinions as I like adventures so I like to find the unknown and undiscovered places. Keep going with this wonderful writing and tips.

    Thank,
    Emma

  14. Very nice post Susan!

    I often listen to people to get ideas on what place to go for a visit. Sometimes I go to the mountains to relax, and from there I could think of ideas on what to write and where to go next. Living in a rural area makes it hard to get the most information, but it’s fulfilling if you find it yourself.

  15. Alexander says:

    Good Susan,
    Great post, Good advice! I, too like to find unexpected and undiscovered places to write about. Usually, you get so much more information and get to know the “locals” because they appreciate the time and effort you make to find, research and write about them. I like adventures so I like to find the unknown and undiscovered places. Keep going with this wonderful writing and tips. Thanks for sharing such type article with us.

  16. Hailey Hall says:

    Great post. A travel writer needs to have an adept knowledge of a place and well acquaintances with the locals to give good information on a particular place.

  17. Great article. I have read many articles about the places the authors have traveled to and some of them are so good that I can imagine the place they have visited. Even the pictures are very good.

  18. I really loved this article. I myself love travelling, but do not have the talent to write. I visit so many places and the pictures and videos i take there help me to recall those wonderful times. i really appreciate your talent. Keep up the good work.

  19. Michael Ross says:

    I travel a lot exploring different places for getting inspiration to write poems on nature as well as for recreation. I make sure to write in brief about my travel stories for records in future.Your post truly motivated me to figure out new topics to write which are not discussed,read or written in the past and create your own travel stories.That has helped me in getting a good command on the language,vocabulary and the organization of points in my blog and I owe that credit to you.

  20. Taylor Jenna says:

    I love this article. I like travelling a lot. I do get a lot of inspiration from nature. I learn a lot of nature. It is like a first teacher to me. But writing is not my of tea. I really appreciate your talent. Keep up the good work.

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