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12 Types of Travel Writing Every Writer Should Know
So, you want to be a travel writer?
There are plenty of reality doses out there already, so we’re going to focus on the positives, and what you can do to maximize your chances of travel writing professionally. One of the first steps: you should absolutely know your markets, and what types of travel writing are popular in them. In today’s competitive market, this knowledge can both help you structure your article and target the right audience.
In this post, we break down modern travel writing into three distinct categories: freelance journalism, blogging, and book-writing. Then we identify the prevalent types of travel writing each category is known for, to give you an initial sort of compass in the industry.
These are the 4 main types of travel writing:
Section 1: Freelance Travel Journalism
Credit: jpeter2 @ Pixabay
The truth is this: the travel sections in major publications (New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal) are slimmer now, so competition will be tall. But there are other outlets. Local newspapers are sometimes open to travel pitches from freelancers. Certain websites pay for travel articles, while magazines can be great for targeting niche audiences.
So what are the common types of freelance travel journalism?
Here, the game’s in the name: destination articles tell readers about a place to which they might want to travel one day. One of the most standard type of travel stories, these pieces act as the armchair reader’s bird-eye view of a place. Useful or interesting facts pepper the writing. History, points of interest, natural scenery, trendy spots: a destination article can touch upon them all within the framework of a broad narrative.
Where the average article gives readers a sense of the destination, the best of the best convinces readers that this is a destination they want, nay, need to visit. As such, though some destination articles are written in first person, the focus is rarely on the writer. Instead, the destination is the star of the show.
For examples of destination articles, check out:
Credit: judithscharnowski @ Pixabay
Special-interest articles are offshoots of destination articles. Instead of taking the reader on a tour of an entire country or city, these pieces cover one particular aspect of the destination. This kind of writing can cover anything from art in Colombia, ghost towns in the U.S., trekking in Patagonia, alpaca farms in Australia, motorbiking in Brazil, railroads in France, volunteering in Tanzania — you get the gist.
Since special-interest articles are narrower in topic, many writers tailor them for niche magazines or websites. Before you start pitching, we recommend flipping through the Writer’s Handbook, one of the most useful guides to the freelance publishing market, to see which publications fit your target audience.
For a taste of some special-interest articles, see:
Holiday and special events
Holiday and special events travel articles ask writers to write about a destination before the event takes place. The biggest global events are magnets for this type of travel writing, such as the World Cup, the Olympics, the World Expo, fashion weeks, and film festivals. Depending on the publication, regional events work just as well.
Want to see what special events pieces look like? Have a read through these:
You’ll recognize a round-up article when you see one, as it’ll go, “40 best beaches in West Europe,” or, perhaps, “20 of the greatest walks in the world!” It’s a classic tool in any magazine or newspaper writer’s toolbox, taking a bunch of destinations and grouping them all under one common thread.
Ultimately, a clear motif makes this type of article a breeze to read, as they’re a play on the ubiquitous List Format. But, OK, before you jump at this excuse to sacrifice your belly at 99 food trucks in New York City, remember that your premise should be original, not to mention practical. What’s tough is coming up with X ways to do Y in the first place, as that demands you put in the travel and research to produce a thorough write-up.
Credit: cowins @ Pixabay
Want even more examples of round-up articles? Here you go:
Publishers are experiencing something of a personal essay fatigue, so the market for more might be scarce these days. However, quality trumps all, and a good personal travel essay is just plain good writing in disguise: something that possesses a strong voice while showing insight, growth, and backstory.
Just don’t make it a diary entry. In an interview with The Atlantic, travel writer Paul Theroux said: “The main shortcut is to leave out boring things. People write about getting sick, they write about tummy trouble. They write about waiting. They write three pages about how long it took them to get a visa. I’m not interested in the boring parts. Everyone has tummy trouble. Everyone waits in line. I don’t want to hear about it.”
Here’s a jumping-off point for personal travel essays:
Have a burning opinion to share? Sometimes publications end up giving op-eds to staff, but there are always open calls for opinion pieces.
Travel op-eds are much rarer than political opinion pieces, but there’s a pattern to the ones that make the cut: good persuasive writing. If you can come at a topic from a unique angle (and argue your case clearly) then you may be able to publish your opinion.
If you’re in the mood for travel op-ed articles, see:
Section 2: Travel Blogging
Credit: KuyaAndy @ Pixabay
When typing “travel blog” into Google returns 295 million results, we can guess it’s a fairly competitive market.
Here’s the plus side: bloggers get to write what they want and go where they please. When it comes to blog posts, there are no editors, no gatekeepers. Only you and the “PUBLISH” button.
We won’t go revisit the types of travel writing we covered earlier (such as the roundup format). Instead, we’ll explore some of the other formats bloggers use to tell their travel stories. Since the rules of travel blogging are next to non-existent, our tally below is by no means definitive. And, again, our best advice is to note what your favorite bloggers do on their blogs.
How-To articles are already fairly popular in magazines, but they’re positively omnipresent in the travel blogging world. Blogs provide a direct communication platform, allowing trust to build up quicker with the readers. As a result, for the search query, “How to travel Europe on a budget,” six out of the top ten results are posts from trusted independent blogs.
A How-To article is the most standard form of advice column a travel blogger can produce. It’s intrinsically useful, promising that it’ll teach something by article’s end. A blogger’s challenge is delivering fully on that promise.
How to read more How-To articles? We got you covered:
Itineraries reveal the schedule that the writer took at a given destination, city-by-city or sight-by-sight. They’re meant for the traveler who’s embarking on a similar trip and needs a template. Typically, you’ll find that an itinerary post is an easy place for you to slip in recommendations, anything from the accommodation you used or the restaurants you tried.
You can use itinerary posts to reinforce your blog’s brand. For instance, an itinerary posted on a blog focused around budget travel will probably maximize cost-saving chances.
For more itineraries, see:
Longform travel blogging tells a travel story through extended narrative content, as it takes a week’s worth of adventure and shapes it into a story. Longform blog posts about travel often end up being creative nonfiction: a way to present nonﬁction — factually accurate prose about real people and events — in a compelling, vivid, dramatic manner.
Photography can add another dimension to the form, as Emmanuel Nataf (our co-founder!) shows on his travel blog. And Reedsy's very own Arielle provides a glimpse into why she prefers longform travel writing on her blog, Steps, a Travel Journal:
My favourite kinds of stories are the ones that give you a real sense of place. That’s why I enjoy longform travel blogging: I get to describe the character of a place through the experiences I encountered there.
If you want to dip your toe into the sea of longform posts, you can also read:
Section 3: Books
Credit: skeeze @ Pixabay
When it comes to writing a book, you can take all the challenges about travel writing from above and magnify it times 2,000. If you’re asking readers to commit to you for more than 100 pages, you’d best make sure that your book is worth their while.
As far as examples go, travel writing’s boomed in the mainstream book market recently. But there’s much more to it than Eat, Pray, Love and its descendants.
In travelogues, authors record their adventures in a way that illustrates or sheds insight upon the place itself. Travelogues possess a storied past, from Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s Turkish Embassy Letters in 1763 to Mark Twain’s 1867 The Innocents Abroad, which paved the way for the sort of comic travelogues that Bill Bryson’s perfected today.
Up for some travelogues? Check out:
Nowadays, travel memoirs are practically synonymous with Elizabeth Gilbert’s wildly popular Eat, Pray, Love and Cheryl Strayed’s bestselling Wild, which were both recently adapted into Hollywood blockbusters.
That said, be aware that you’ll need a pretty exceptional personal story for your memoir to compete in today’s market. If you’re still set on writing or self-publishing a travel memoir, it’s tricky to balance personal backstory and travel for 400 pages, so think about taking on a professional for a second pair of eyes.
Did you know? You can find Nicki Richesin, a top Bloomsbury editor who’s edited for Cheryl Strayed, on our marketplace.
In addition to Eat, Pray, Love and Wild, you can read:
As Oscar Wilde said, “I never travel without my diary. One should always keep something sensational to read in the train.” But these days, people are replacing diaries with travel guides — the ubiquitous Lonely Planet becoming one of the more common sights on transit.
Travel writing in guidebooks is straightforward, informative, and fact-filled. In addition, there’s a certain amount of responsibility that comes with the job. Lonely Planet alone is read by millions of travelers worldwide.
Section 4: General Tips and Guidelines
Credit: myeviajes @ Pixabay
As we mentioned before, the trick to producing great travel writing is ultimately simply writing well. To that extent, you should make sure to follow all the guidelines of good writing — not least, spell-checking your article before submitting or publishing it anywhere. You don’t want an editor or reader to see it while it stilll reads lik edis.
Also, keep in mind the tone, style, and vibe of the publication and platform (and by extension, your audience). A story about a moon-rock could go into a kid's magazine or it could go into Scientific America.
Finally, some category-specific tips:
- If you’re freelance writing, always check submission guidelines. Publications may accept only pitches or they may welcome articles “on spec” (pre-written articles). Some sources only take travel articles that were written within 6 months of the trip.
- If you’re blogging, brand your website (same advice if you’re an author who’s building an author website).
- If you’re writing a book, get a professional editor! An unedited book is an unwieldy thing, and professional eyes provide direction, continuity, and assonance. (Layout designers can be important if you’re publishing a travel photography book, in the meanwhile.)
Travel writing isn't a cinch. In fact, it's a long and often hard grind. But by figuring out what type of travel writing you want to try your hand at, you're taking the crucial first step.
Have you tried travel writing before? Want to show us the cool travel blog that you're keeping? We're always in the mood for great travel writing + pretty pictures. Leave us a note in the comments and we'll be sure to check it out!
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As the government begins its crackdown on essay mill websites, it’s easy to see just how much pressure students are under to get top grades for their coursework these days. But writing a high-scoring paper doesn’t need to be complicated. We spoke to experts to get some simple techniques that will raise your writing game.
Tim Squirrell is a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, and is teaching for the first time this year. When he was asked to deliver sessions on the art of essay-writing, he decided to publish a comprehensive (and brilliant) blog on the topic, offering wisdom gleaned from turning out two or three essays a week for his own undergraduate degree.
“There is a knack to it,” he says. “It took me until my second or third year at Cambridge to work it out. No one tells you how to put together an argument and push yourself from a 60 to a 70, but once you to get grips with how you’re meant to construct them, it’s simple.”
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The goal of writing any essay is to show that you can think critically about the material at hand (whatever it may be). This means going beyond regurgitating what you’ve read; if you’re just repeating other people’s arguments, you’re never going to trouble the upper end of the marking scale.
“You need to be using your higher cognitive abilities,” says Bryan Greetham, author of the bestselling How to Write Better Essays. “You’re not just showing understanding and recall, but analysing and synthesising ideas from different sources, then critically evaluating them. That’s where the marks lie.”
But what does critical evaluation actually look like? According to Squirrell, it’s simple: you need to “poke holes” in the texts you’re exploring and work out the ways in which “the authors aren’t perfect”.
“That can be an intimidating idea,” he says. “You’re reading something that someone has probably spent their career studying, so how can you, as an undergraduate, critique it?
“The answer is that you’re not going to discover some gaping flaw in Foucault’s History of Sexuality Volume 3, but you are going to be able to say: ‘There are issues with these certain accounts, here is how you might resolve those’. That’s the difference between a 60-something essay and a 70-something essay.”
Critique your own arguments
Once you’ve cast a critical eye over the texts, you should turn it back on your own arguments. This may feel like going against the grain of what you’ve learned about writing academic essays, but it’s the key to drawing out developed points.
“We’re taught at an early age to present both sides of the argument,” Squirrell continues. “Then you get to university and you’re told to present one side of the argument and sustain it throughout the piece. But that’s not quite it: you need to figure out what the strongest objections to your own argument would be. Write them and try to respond to them, so you become aware of flaws in your reasoning. Every argument has its limits and if you can try and explore those, the markers will often reward that.”
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Fine, use Wikipedia then
The use of Wikipedia for research is a controversial topic among academics, with many advising their students to stay away from the site altogether.
“I genuinely disagree,” says Squirrell. “Those on the other side say that you can’t know who has written it, what they had in mind, what their biases are. But if you’re just trying to get a handle on a subject, or you want to find a scattering of secondary sources, it can be quite useful. I would only recommend it as either a primer or a last resort, but it does have its place.”
Focus your reading
Reading lists can be a hindrance as well as a help. They should be your first port of call for guidance, but they aren’t to-do lists. A book may be listed, but that doesn’t mean you need to absorb the whole thing.
Squirrell advises reading the introduction and conclusion and a relevant chapter but no more. “Otherwise you won’t actually get anything out of it because you’re trying to plough your way through a 300-page monograph,” he says.
You also need to store the information you’re gathering in a helpful, systematic way. Bryan Greetham recommends a digital update of his old-school “project box” approach.
“I have a box to catch all of those small things – a figure, a quotation, something interesting someone says – I’ll write them down and put them in the box so I don’t lose them. Then when I come to write, I have all of my material.”
There are a plenty of online offerings to help with this, such as the project management app Scrivener and referencing tool Zotero, and, for the procrastinators, there are productivity programmes like Self Control, which allow users to block certain websites from their computers for a set period.
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Look beyond the reading list
“This is comparatively easy to do,” says Squirrell. “Look at the citations used in the text, put them in Google Scholar, read the abstracts and decide whether they’re worth reading. Then you can look on Google Scholar at other papers that have cited the work you’re writing about – some of those will be useful. But quality matters more than quantity.”
And finally, the introduction
The old trick of dealing with your introduction last is common knowledge, but it seems few have really mastered the art of writing an effective opener.
“Introductions are the easiest things in the world to get right and nobody does it properly,” Squirrel says. “It should be ‘Here is the argument I am going to make, I am going to substantiate this with three or four strands of argumentation, drawing upon these theorists, who say these things, and I will conclude with some thoughts on this area and how it might clarify our understanding of this phenomenon.’ You should be able to encapsulate it in 100 words or so. That’s literally it.”
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