Travel writing, surprisingly, is a genre that’s been around since at least the 2nd century AD when Pausanias wrote the Description of Greece. Narrative travel stories and travel diaries gained wide popularity during the Song Dynasty in medieval China, and of course, the English classic by Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, has been continuously in print since its publication in 1726.
So, it should come as no surprise that over 10 million writers today blog about travelling! Of those, only a few thousand take travel writing to the professional level—and you can be one.
Sub-genres of Travel Writing
There are, of course, many different markets for travel articles in both the traditional print world and on the Internet. Book form travel guides are popular as well.
The sub-genres of travel writing are as diverse as the destinations they describe. However, they fall into the same basic styles as other types of nonfiction (Swift’s fantasy aside!): factual, and creative, which includes many of the same writing elements and options as fiction.
Factual Travel Writing
Let’s start with the sub-genres of factual travel writing:
• Service articles
• Dining or “Foodie” writing
• Subject or themes
All of these sub-genres focus on delivering information up-front, more in the style of newspaper reporting. The purpose of the piece differentiates them.
Service articles are the type of articles often found in traditional publishing—they include the “if you go” kinds of information you look for to plan a holiday. These articles require a lot of research to ensure accuracy and full coverage of a destination, since they generally include current prices and seasonal information on opening and closing dates, along with hours open. Much of the information is included in sidebars and point form, so readers can skim through it quickly. In print, service articles quickly become outdated. This problem can be avoided on the Web by including links to the destination instead, since businesses update annually.
Event information can often be included in service articles, or events can stand alone. I research this type of article a year ahead, so I can participate and get an idea of what happens at the event, plus take my own photos. Some writers, however, write on events without attending, especially if they’re familiar with the area. Pitching event articles is also very time-sensitive, so you’ll need to know the lead time for publications you feel are a match.
Destination articles are the mainstay of many publications with travel departments. These pieces take an overview of a place—it can be as focused as a single resort or as broad as a whole province, like what to do in Saskatchewan in July (my next article!). This type of writing is strictly factual, and rarely includes any of the writer’s opinions or recommendations. Like service articles, destination pieces require a lot of research to ensure accuracy. While visiting the destination is good, both destination pieces and travel guides can be written through research alone.
Most travel guide books fall into the destination category, plus include a lot of service information, so if you’d like to write books on travel, this is a good market to explore. A number of publishing companies also look for authors to research and write periodic updates to new releases of existing travel guides.
Reporting articles, as you might imagine by the name, also require a lot of research. In fact, you might not identify this type of article as travel at all, since it can focus on any topic to do with a destination, such as the effects of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans. My favorite type of reporting usually revolves around an historical aspect of a destination, such as Helen, Georgia—this town reinvented itself three times in a century and is now a “fairytale” small town that you might expect to see in the German state, Bavaria.
Unlike these first types of articles, food guides or “foodie” articles, are a must to include firsthand information. If you haven’t eaten at the restaurant, then you can’t provide the types of details readers look for, such as the atmosphere of the dining room or the unique tastes of the entres. While food articles always include restaurant addresses, reservation information (or links), and comments on the décor, some publications also want pricing information.
I often do food articles as part of a subject or theme round-up article. I pull together restaurants in a specific location (cities are good), or offering specific types of food (seafood or desserts—my favorite!). The advantage to doing round-ups with subjects or themes is that I can include destinations or stops I don’t feel merit a full article, even for a blog post, but are worthy of a mention. Or, with my blog, I add a few new items to round-ups along with short summaries of destinations I already have articles on that I can link to and give new life.
Creative Travel Writing
While I do write a lot of factual travel writing articles, I prefer the creative sub-genre as it not only has a more interesting writing style, but lets me focus on my experiences and provide insights to my readers—and, looking at the traffic on my website, it’s what my thousands of registered users and followers prefer too.
Creative travel writing is broken down into:
• Personal Experience
Blog travel sites are often called travelogues, as they may follow a journal or diary approach to organizing and writing the articles. Many writers, especially hobbyists, write the posts while they’re on the road, so travelogues can be in short installments daily, or even a couple of times a day, to make readers feel like they’re part of the trip. Today’s microblogs (like Facebook and Twitter) lend themselves well to the travelogue format—and Twitter posts can even be pulled together (curated) at a later date to publish together through online curation services (like Paper.li) to make them accessible longer.
Adventure articles can share similarities with travelogues, as they may read like single entries pulled out of a diary. This is my favorite type of travel article, mainly because I love the research! I’ve covered both hard and soft adventure experiences from whitewater rafting right through kayaking, rappelling, ziplining, sleeping at the ice hotel, and more, all written in a very close first person style that lets the reader experience the destination vicariously.
Another great thing about adventure articles is that they’re timeless, as the focus is on the writer’s unique experience as much as on the destination. That makes them a great choice for all types of Internet publications.
Inspirational articles, also popular on the Internet, are timeless too. They share many characteristics of travelogue and adventure articles, but shift the theme of the article from a rush of adrenalin or a breathtaking view, to an epiphany. This type of article brings closure to a writer’s experience by showing how travel has changed the author in some way.
And that brings us to the last type of travel article, also one of the oldest, the travel essay. Like the traditional essay, it must start with a thesis, work through supporting information or arguments, and arrive at a conclusion supported by the evidence. Since it’s more formal in style, this type of travel article appears in more travel journals, as opposed to trade magazines, whether they’re found in print or on the Web.
Getting Started as a Travel Writer
Getting established as a travel writer can be as easy as being community-minded and participating in local events, dining at nearby restaurants, and keeping on top of local trends. In fact, the advice from many writing instructors to “write what you know” applies equally in this genre.
I fell into travel writing by accident, when I decided to try to sell some articles after a trip to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, so I could write off some of the expenses at tax time! I’d never even heard of travel writing before, so was shocked to learn that it was really my dream job.
New travel writers today have lots of options. The proliferation of travel websites means there are many markets, although you may have to search to find paying markets among them. Many revenue-sharing websites, such as HubPages and Squidoo, have travel sections you can contribute to and have the potential to earn income through affiliate programs like Google AdSense.
Far more than income though, the biggest advantage to writing travel articles, at least for me, is that I can go anywhere and do anything I want, and still call it work, because I’m writing about it.
Visit Linda’s travel website at: http://guide2travel.ca