Is Travel Writing Journalism?

Where's the hook that keeps the reader guessing, the suspense, the logical wind-up? No one wants to hear about how you ordered chicken or paid the taxi driver.
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What's the question I get most when people hear I'm a travel writer?

Right away they want to know which country I like best. Or what's my favorite hotel. Or which culture's cuisine is the most original.

What that says is most people don't really know what travel writing is all about. We who practice this dark and comical art are observers, chroniclers who've strayed into the amorphous world of experiential stories.

Journalists by nature or by training, we try not to indulge in judgments about the best and the worst, the beautiful and the ugly. We paint the landscape as on a palette in all its colors, shapes and variety.

Yes, my editors want to know the "what, where, when and who" of the story, but they also expect to hear just how I felt about what I did and saw.

It's not "just the facts, ma'am," any more. It's about bringing my voice to the experience, in the way only I would see it. Or that only you would see it. And that can be harder than it sounds.

Go on, give it a shot

I'll bet you want to try it, don't you? It's the life. New adventures, lazy afternoons on a tropical isle, airfares for tax write-offs.

You need to know a compelling and entertaining travel story, one that keeps your reader going (and one that sells), demands not just your unique vision, but all the wordsmithing skills you can glean from a creative writing class.

You must not bore your readers to death with a "Me and Joe" story, one of those deadly
chronicles starting on day one and ending when when the writer gets home to a happy house.

Where's the hook that keeps the reader guessing, the suspense, the logical wind-up? No one wants to hear about how you ordered chicken or paid the taxi driver.

Now if the chicken jumped up off the plate and flapped its wings, or the taxi driver stole your luggage, that would be a story.

You must also avoid the hateful rant that says more about you than your subject.

And the sugar-sweet collection of clichés.

And the profusion of impressive but empty adjectives. Beautiful, magnificent and stately, to mention three.

If I said I'd toured a magnificent and stately home with a beautiful facade, what image would pop into mind? A three-story Queen Anne Victorian, perhaps? A Georgian mansion with a brass door knocker? A Spanish colonial hacienda with a wrought iron gate?

Ah, so many stories, so many obstacles blocking the truth-teller.

So, are you ready to give it a shot?

Bring it on, my friend.

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