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Travel Writing vs Travel Journalism

Like many writers, I had dreams of wafting around the world and spinning tales about my adventures to a rapt audience at home.

And luckily I did have the chance to do that, but not without a few sharp lessons along the way.

The biggest lesson I learned was about the difference between travel journalism and travel writing.

There’s a difference, you ask? Yes there is. And it’s quite simple.

Travel journalism focuses on the practical, the nuts and bolts of travel, while travel writing reflects on the emotional impact of travel. For me, the difference is neatly illustrated by two articles I’ve done in recent years.

One was a roundup of the 10 best bookshops in the world. The other was about a ski trip for visually impaired people I go on every year.

The differences fall into three areas.

  1. Content: A lot of travel journalism now focuses on giving people tips on the best places to go and the best things to do while you’re there. So my “10 Best Bookshops” article was simply a rundown of where the bookshops were, what they specialised in and what you could expect when you arrive there.

    There wasn’t a lot of room for the personal touch, which I was able to deliver in spades in my ski trip article. It was chock-full of humorous anecdotes and emotional insights, but was a little short on concrete details about the area of Germany I was skiing in.

  2. Layout: The most obvious difference between travel writing and travel journalism is the look of the articles. The bookshops article grouped the information into 10 headings, one for each bookshop, with snippets of text allocated to each one.

    For the ski trip article, I was actually asked to make it longer, so the article was quite text heavy, with a few one word headings, and pull quotes (text separated from the article and enlarged) to break it up.

  3. Language: With such a small amount of space allocated to each bookshop, I had to get straight to the point for that article. My language was crisp and clear, so I could give readers the facts they needed without having to wade through flowery descriptions.

    With the ski article, I played with words to convey the fun atmosphere of the trip and used emotive words to describe the impact the trip had on me.

There are some overlaps between travel writing and travel journalism. Both aim to give readers information about places that readers might dream of visiting. It’s just that the approach they take is different.

When you read a piece of travel journalism, you’re equipped with all the information you need to make your trip a success.

With travel writing, you travel to that place without leaving the comfort of your home. That’s why there’s a place for both.

~ Derbhile