5 Tips for Thoughtful Travel Writing

5 Tips for Thoughtful Travel Writing

Over the past decade, my work as an adventure guide and travel photographer has taken me around the world to some thrilling locales. I’ve had the pleasure of camping in remote villages, eating food I never would have tried on my own, talking to fascinating people with the help of a translator, and standing in front of some stunning views.

A large part of what I do today involves sharing my adventures on social media. Effectively communicating what I’ve seen and learned on my travels is a vital part of my work. If I’m doing my job well, I hope that my images and social media posts (including captions!) make my audience think a little deeper or feel something new.

The subjects, stories, and places I photograph vary greatly, and I try to communicate the nuances of each new adventure to my audience. Here are 5 of my tips for thoughtfully sharing your travel experiences.

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1 Do your homework

The process of writing and sharing your trip begins before you leave. Research where you’re going so that you have a foundation for what you’ll see, feel, and experience. Planning ahead sets you up for success so you can maximize your time and energy. Your research can also help you to be more sensitive to cultural differences or sensitive local issues. Acknowledging the first stewards of the area with a land acknowledgment is a great place to start. When traveling in the USA, I use the app Native Land to look up what Native American territory I am traveling on. I then add that information to my caption, recognizing history and the unique relationship that a tribal community has with their traditional territories.

2 Talk to the locals

One of the best ways to get a feel for a new place is to talk to the people who live there. Ask them what the best thing on the menu is, or if they have any recommendations for a nearby hike. One question I like to ask is, “What do you wish most people knew about (place)?” Write down your takeaways from your conversations with people so you can refer to them later. Learning to center someone else’s experiences instead of your own in your writing can help to tell a richer, deeper story.

3 Challenge your own perspective

Acknowledge that we will all come into any trip with our own personal experiences and biases. Pay attention to what your initial responses and reactions are to what you see and experience. Dig a little deeper into why you might feel the way you do. Thoughtfully unpacking the things that surprised you on your trip can help readers relate and bring them along with you.

4 Describe what you felt 

Emotion is one of the biggest things I aim to communicate through my images and writing. For images, I play with composition, color, and contrast to better communicate feeling. When I’m writing, I try to describe the moment by tuning in to how I felt, focusing on each of my senses. What stood out to you and why? Close your eyes, remember the unique details, and describe them.

5 Share your favorites & recommendations 

It can be tremendously helpful for potential travelers and locals alike if you to shine the spotlight on the local businesses, people, and unique parts of culture that made your experience so special—even if you’re just going on a two-hour road trip. I find it helpful to write down my highlights in the notes app on my phone so that I don’t forget the places I loved. Tell your friends, family, and the internet about why you found a particular restaurant or sunset so special.

Travel and adventure are incredibly formative life experiences. It’s pretty amazing that we have the opportunity to share them so openly, and how we choose to do that is essential! Whether you’re an aspiring blogger or just looking to share with friends and family, putting more thought into the words you use and how you share the stories from your adventures can make a big difference. There is so much power in storytelling––how you use that opportunity is up to you!

Erin Sullivan is a travel photographer and blogger who shares images and stories from around the world with the hope of bringing the world a little closer together. You can check out her work on Instagram @erinoutdoors, or on her blog at ErinOutdoors.com.

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