One of the most powerful moments of my professional life was when I was a guest writer visiting an elementary school.
I asked a class of 4th graders to describe the color of the Caribbean Sea.
After the “turquoise” word was shouted out by many, we brainstormed and came up with some better ways to convey the color of the sea including “green apples” and “pistachio ice cream.”
One kid really floored me though. He shot up his hand and said, “The color of the Caribbean Sea is the color of the Statue of Liberty.” Actually. He was right. In some places, it is that smoky, aged copper green color.
With the advent of writing online, we’ve all had to learn how to write short. The shorter, the better. Some of us are even being pressured to use certain key words and phrases for search engine optimization.
A scary thought to think our writing might evolve in its ability to grab the attention of a computer robot.
That said, I think all travel writers have to adhere to unwaveringly high standards when it comes to choosing the right words, especially because we’re writing shorter pieces.
But it’s bigger than just the words we write.
Travel, as a category, is a magnet for clichés. Not only do we use the same phrases and words to describe places and experiences, but we choose all the same places and experiences to write about.
I think it’s because on some level, many of us feel we are not saying anything new. It’s not like we’re discovering new continents or anything. We’re not pioneers. We’re going places other people have been.
What we need to do is see all of these places with fresh eyes. To look beyond the clichés.
Our choices on what to write about can directly impact where people go, or not go. This can directly lead to the growth or lack of growth in a particular country, on an island, you name it. As travel writers, we have a bigger role than you may think in responsible tourism.
So not allowing clichés in our copy is just our way of showing readers that we see things differently.