Thursday, April 02, 2009

Guest Post: Travel Writing Tips by Sybil Baker

Write to Travel is the latest stop in Sybil Baker's Blog Tour with WOW (Women on Writing). Sybil Baker, a lifelong traveler, has combined her love of travel and her interest in the allure and alienation of American travelers and expatriates into contemporary Women's Fiction/Chick-Lit novel that asks 'What would you do if your carefully planned life was falling apart?'.

Entitled The Life Plan, it carries the lead character around the world, from the offices of Washington,DC, to the gritty streets of Bangkok and the mountain region of Chiang Mai. You can read the first chapter of The Life Plan here.

During her blog tour to promote her book, Sybil has been stopping off at various writer's blogs and providing interesting guest posts. Earlier in the week she was over at The Urban Muse discussing 'steps to organizing your writing time' and at bleeding expresso analysing 'the Expatriate Writer in the Post Millennium'.

Today, at Write to Travel, Sybil offers some Travel Writing Tips.

I don’t consider myself a travel writer, but I am a person who loves to travel and often writes about the places I’ve traveled to. What’s the difference? For me, a travel writer is someone who writes about a place as information for other tourists, while my writing is not about which restaurant to eat at or hotel to stay in, but rather about the mark a place has left on me. For my essays, I use travel as a way for me to think about my own preconceived notions about myself or other cultures. For my fiction, the places I’ve visited often serve as settings that compete with or intensify the conflicts within the main character.

In that sense, I recommend writing about travel as way to expand your personal and artistic comfort zones. Travel allows you to see the world and your writing in a different way. For writers who would like to try out travel writing, whether as essays, articles, or fiction, I have a few tips to get started.

1. Expand your definition of travel. You don’t have to travel to the other side of the world to use travel in your writing. Find the out-of-the way places in your own town, go to neighborhoods that are in a different economic condition than your own, attend a meeting or gathering that you normally wouldn’t. If you can go somewhere that is new and different to you, you’ll be able to observe the setting, people, and interactions with a fresh perspective.

2. Start small. I did not even have a passport until I was thirty, partly because I was intimidated by going even to Europe, although I dreamed of traveling. My first trip abroad was for a week in Paris and Barcelona, and I remember thinking that even though I didn’t know the languages well, traveling was not as hard as I thought it would be. A year later, I’d moved to South Korea and from there got the courage to go to Japan for a long weekend. After I survived that, I went to Thailand, and from there Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. By the time I’d made it to Indonesia a few years later, I’d learned that traveling to most places, while challenging, is doable with a little planning and patience.

3. Travel cheap. If you stay at the Hyatt, eat at tourist restaurants, and take only packaged tours, you’ll be trapped in a tourist bubble that excludes you from the local culture. By eating at local restaurants, exploring neighborhoods on your own, and staying at hostels, guesthouses, and B&Bs, you’ll not only save money, but you’ll interact more with the locals and learn more about their culture. Decide what amenities you must have, but be willing to give up some comforts of home and embrace the local lifestyle.

4. Don’t try to do everything. Sometimes slowing down your pace and being open to the moment is the best way to enjoy travel and allow the best experiences to happen. You won’t be able to see every museum, church, or ruin, so try to make your travels one of quality rather than quantity.

5. Make sure you take time to write down your thoughts, feelings, impressions, and descriptions of the places you go. It’s easy to think you’ll remember everything, but when you get back home, you’ll be surprised at how many details you’ve forgotten. Don’t worry though about writing your essay or short story while traveling—sometimes you need time to absorb and digest all that you’ve experienced before you can write about.

6. Don’t write about experiences that millions of tourists before you have had and expect readers to care. Even though Venice may have been the most life changing travel experience for you, unless you have a personal story that is the main point of your essay or story and can bring a new perspective about the city, your thoughts on Venice will unfortunately probably not be of interest to most readers. If you have a story to tell that takes us on a journey off the beaten path, then we’ll be eager to read about your insights.

Remember, be adventurous and have fun! If you have other travel writing tips, I’d love to hear them.

Thanks Sybil and good luck with the blog book tour. We will be following your tour thanks to this handy events calender.

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Jodi said...


It's good to hear that it's never to late to start indulging your travel bug. I don't have a passport either and I'm thirty-ish. Maybe it's time for me to start.

Sybil said...

It's definitely never too late--in some ways if you're older you can probably enjoy travel even more!

Beth Partin said...

That was a great post, Sybil. I think slowing down is definitely the right way to travel. I get crabby after too much sightseeing.

Noah said...

Agreed, sometimes I prefer spending a whole day in an outdoor cafe watching the frantic tourists rush between sights covered in sweat.

M. L. Kiner said...

"The Hong Kong Connection" is a legal thriller about a gutsy female attorney who takes on high ranking International officials. It's a taut, rollercoaster of a ride from New York to Palm Beach to Washington D.C. to Hong Kong. The plot is expertly woven, the characters persuasive, and the dialogue snappy and spot on.

Sybil said...

Thanks everyone for your comments! Sybil

Thessaloniki said...

Is true, i have friends traveling for the most exotic places that don't know the amaxing neighborhoods of our town

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