Travel Writer: Seven Secrets of His Successful Career

The travel writer seeks the world we have lost – the lost valleys of the imagination. Alexander Cockburn.

Profile of a Travel Writer: He carves a tapestry of flora and fauna with mere twenty-six letters of an alphabet, and you go in a trance. He is endowed with a visual imagination and memory of a tall order. His nib spells words to paint a picture of a place that emit a musical tone of tuning forks. Besides travel and adventure he provides information and shares a lived experience. He lives both in the present and the past. He does not possess a coffer of tools. With just seven secrets nicely packed in his suitcase of visual imagination and memory tools – he is a travel writer that I present before you.

1. Approach : It is only rarely that he gets hold of a map, randomly selects a spot, and visits it. Mostly, he chooses to go to a particular place because he has read or heard something about it. He has to be alert to record some useful and interesting details, facts, and observations. It helps him not only to form an overall idea of the natural and historical landscape of a place, but also to locate spots of interest. His mind is open, free of prejudice, and well-informed.

2. Observation: Travelling is an experience that involves the traveler at many levels. So, the quality of what he writes, inevitably depends not just on his immediate experience but upon the entire range of imagery that his mind has captured – all the travelling he has ever done, his exposure to various fields of knowledge, art, history, and science – coupled with his visual perceptions and sensitivity. His writing will then reflect all the components that go into making him the individual that he is. He has powers of observation and learns how best to communicate what he has seen: About places, people, customs and festivals. His individual informed judgment and advice is of greater use to the reader.

3. Clarity: Here, he has to be very clear in his mind who he is writing for. He tries to represent as much accurate information as he can, backing this up with his personal experience and the authentic, verified details that only he can provide because he has been there. Reading represents a great escape for many people. They derive vicarious pleasure by reading about faraway places, adventure, and the joys of travelling, all in the comfort of their homes. Much travel writing gives us a unique view of a place through the eyes and personal perceptions of the writer. So, not only do we learn about the place, but also about the person.

Andre Gide quotes, “To read a writer is for me not merely to get an idea of what he says, but to go off with him and travel in his company.” Travel writing often tells a story – that of the writer, and his discovery of a place. For the writers themselves, their writings are often a way of somehow preserving a present for themselves. And, everything he writes is consigned to posterity, because as the seasons plough, adding years to their lives, their every account would come back to them as a beautiful poem that once was shared as a story! This would be their time, for quiet reflection, and a time to relive those beautiful moments penned by him.

4. Informed views: H e needs to enliven the text with relevant personal observations to hold the attention of readers. Introducing an element of personal experience carries a universal appeal. A personal anecdote here and there, can add considerably to the interest of a piece of writing. To write this sort of article effectively, he has not only to remember details, but to put himself in his reader’s place. It offers the reader the feel of a place. Especially in this age of rapid modernization and change, travel writing is one way of preserving not only the physical landscape of a place, but also the feel, and atmosphere.

If you were interested in going to, say, Goa, what sort of details would you like to have? Your response to the monuments you saw may not be of much interest to the reader as much as a poetic description of the sunset over the sea. The reader would rather like to know what it feels like being on the beach at sunset. Where did he feel tempted to linger, and why? Was there anything that was especially worth buying? Equally important would be his considered opinion of what the best eating places are, or whether the guides are worth hiring. This is where his experience can be of great use to the reader.

5. Style: This element, in fact, is particularly important in travel writing. As a travel writer, he has to use a blend of fact and creativity to make a place come alive to his readers. A very simple, straight and preferable short sentences and adjectives that fit should be the language craft. The writer, therefore, chooses a style that arouses and sustains the readers’ interest. For instance: The ‘awe-inspiring bungalow’ is easier to read than ‘I was awe-struck by the grandeur of the bungalow’, in terms of style. Both say the same thing but there is a difference in how it is conveyed. It is therefore, his factual style that will make the article worth reading, and not a recitation of facts or adjective-ridden descriptions.

6. Technique: One might think that since a travel writer needs to combine many skills, he does not need to develop any particular technique. On the contrary, it is precisely because of such diverse requirements, that travel writing requires him to exercise tight control over what he writes. If the truth is beautiful, then it is his job to express this beauty. And, if it is unpleasant, he needs to be honest about that, too. The technique has to lively in order to capture the interest and curiosity of the reader. No one would care for a dull record of facts that sound bald and dry.

7. Responsibility: Like any other writing, he needs to embroider the truth with the thread of honesty. Many people will take his accounts of places, customs and people to be the real story. Once he has decided what kind of travel story he is going to write, and who his readers are likely to be (travel professionals, armchair travelers, magazine readers, foreign visitors to this country or business travelers and so on), he has to get down to the work of collecting information, consulting a map, tourist literature, and guidebooks to eventually settle down to write.

This is true of all writers but it is especially true of a travel writer, because he always brings to life the multiplicity of all that he has seen, within the limit of a few words. Beyond that there is no secret formula of a travel writer!

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7 Tips When Writing a User-Friendly Travel Information Guide

The obvious purpose of a travel information guide is to aid the traveller as they journey throughout their destination and to help them do that as effortlessly as possible. The ultimate purpose for a writer of a travel information guide is for that guide to become the traveller’s best friend. Their pocket companion, without which they are convinced they cannot properly traverse their destination. So it pays to create a formula that you, as the writer can adhere to when compiling travel guides for areas that you have been commissioned to write about or, having travelled yourself, feel that a destination is lacking the right guide for the traveller.

The following seven tips are basic fundamentals to take into consideration when developing your template for a formula for incredibly user-friendly information guides.

Tip 1. Something of Interest.

In every travel piece, there should be “something of interest” to the reader. Local knowledge cannot be beaten in this area, but well-researched useful tidbits will cover that if you are writing of places that you are yet to experience. First things first. Don’t start on what to avoid or the dangers of the place, give them the direct route to finding out how to travel around the city or area. Where they buy their public transport tickets, what is the best use of their time etc.

Tip 2. Be generally specific.

Cities do not stay still because a travel writer has written about them. Lonely Planet are the first to recognise this and they do an amazing job of keeping their sources up-to-date. However the average travel writer does not have the massive team of travellers sending back hot tips, new information etc. The best thing is to keep your references general, such as: “some tour operators will include” and not try to list which tour offers what. So be specific in what tours can be sourced but general in what they offer.

Tip 3. Use lots of sub-headings.

Your travel information guide is a mini-directory, and sub-headings work as your dividing page. When there is time, all of your guide may be read from the first word to the last but mostly the traveller wants to zero in on what they are looking for as soon as possible. So think like a traveller when you are putting your sub-headings together. Some suggestions are: What is there to do?; What will I need? How do I get there? Shopping Hot Spots. Leisure activities etc.

Tip 4. Reference the experts.

Reference a lot of your more detailed information. Encourage participation of as many tourist facilities in that area as you can. By connecting tourism services together in your guide, you become the “Go To” person for the traveller but your references do all the booking, planning and meeting the traveller’s ongoing needs. If you can’t find a reference for something, make a note. That could be another travel guide for your writing skills. A great idea is to create a Quick Reference Guide at the end, in the form of a list that includes websites and contact details.

Tip 5. So What?

Read through your first draft of the guide and see if everything you have written answers the questions “So What?”. Is every sentence valuable or relevant? Is there an underlying contagious excitement that will spur the traveller on to do great exploits? Does it make you want to go straight out and visit the area you are writing about?

Tip 6. Watch your language.

It is true that most travel guides across the world are translated into English as so many tourist are either English-speaking or have English as their second language. But, when writing your guide, bear in mind that simple sentences will be the best way to go. Also if your information guide is to be translated into a second language, simple statements will make that translation easier.

Tip 7. Use local icons.

Your information guide will be passed on to others if you create a technique of referencing your information with the use of local landmarks. Locating landmarks such as skytowers, museums, cathedrals, ferry terminals, internationally known restaurant chains will quickly orientate a traveller so that they can get their bearings and then be able to keep track of their location. This is especially valuable when travelling in countries where most of the signage in not in their own language.

The ideal outcome would be that by reading your information guide, a traveller now feels their holiday has begun.

Safe Travel In Thailand

Thailand is known as ‘The Land of Smiles’ for good reason – the Thai people are among the friendliest & most helpful you will ever encounter on your travels.

As such, travelling in Thailand is not only easy but a lot of fun too. There are, however, some aspects of travelling in Thailand that you should consider in order to make your holiday not only memorable, but a safe and happy experience too.

General Precautions for your safety

Thailand is not a dangerous country to travel in, however, there are some minor annoyances which are quite common in certain places, especially Bangkok.

Tuk tuks: The drivers of these motorised, three wheel taxis are notorious for their tourist scams in Bangkok. Offering to take travellers on a 20 baht tour of Thailand, they will instead take you from one commissioned location to another – none of which will provide you with much in the way of either sightseeing or enjoyment. If you travel by tuk tuk, ensure you negotiate a price and a direct route to your destination before embarking on your journey.

Taxis: Use only metered, official taxis which are commonplace throughout Bangkok and some regional centres. In locations where metered taxis are not available, songtheows (covered pick up vehicles with two bench seats in the back) are the norm. If travelling by songtheow, negotiate the fare before embarking on your journey.

Money & valuables: Always ensure you keep your valuables in a safe place, either on your person or in the hotel safety deposit. Never leave valuables in your room while not present, or leave your luggage unattended.

Gems: Unless you know about gems, do not be tempted to purchase them in Thailand. The gem scam industry is well established and ready to prey on travellers who are looking for a good deal. If you really wish to purchase gems in Thailand, make sure you go to a reputable dealer.

Emergencies & Tourist Assistance

For English speaking assistance, during business hours phone the TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) in the area you are staying in (check with your hotel or guidebook for contact numbers). After hours, check with your hotel staff or contact the Tourist Police or local police station. Most hospitals throughout Thailand have 24 hour emergency departments.

Insurance

Before travelling to Thailand, please ensure you have taken out appropriate travel & medical insurance, including additional cover for any expensive or luxury items.

Medical information

Please note: The following information is intended as a guide only. You should consult your medical practitioner before leaving home. If you feel ill while travelling in Thailand, please seek the assistance of a qualified medical practitioner immediately.

Immunization: There are no prerequisite immunizations required before travelling in Thailand, however many people choose to immunize against certain diseases. Check with your medical practitioner before leaving home.

Medical Supplies & First Aid: It is wise to travel with your own basic first aid kit, including any personal medication, pain killers, antiseptic, insect repellent, plasters and a thermometer.

Medical Treatment: Pharmacies throughout Thailand sell many medical drugs and treatments without the need for a prescription. It is recommended, however, that you seek advice from a medical practitioner at either a clinic or hospital if you require medical treatment. Hospitals will treat even minor ailments and consultations are usually inexpensive.

Heat: It can take a while to acclimatize to the heat and humidity in Thailand. In the first few days, try not to over exert yourself and drink plenty of bottled drinking water. Wear loose, light clothing, preferably made from cotton and avoid being outside in the hottest parts of the day.

Insect-borne Diseases: Some species of mosquitos in Thailand carry the malaria and dengue fever diseases. Symptoms include: fever, chills, aches and pains and nausea. To avoid being bitten by mosquitos, wear long sleeved, light coloured clothing, especially at dusk and dawn, spray liberally with insect repellent and use mosquito coils and mosquito nets when available. Anti-malarial medication is a personal choice. Some travellers take it, some don’t. If unsure, consult your medical practitioner before departing on your holiday.

Cuts & bites: Due to the high humidity in Thailand, small cuts and bites can take longer to heal and can easily become infected. Treat cuts and bites with antiseptic cream and ensure you keep them free of dirt. If you fear infection, seek medical treatment.

Stomach upsets: Diarrhoea is a common complaint for travellers. To prevent diarrhoea and more serious stomach complaints, drink only bottled water, avoid re-heated food and exercise caution when eating food from street vendors. To treat diarrhoea, drink plenty of fluids supplemented with rehydration salts. Anti-diarhoea drugs are readily available throughout Thailand. If you suspect a more serious stomach condition, seek medical treatment.

Drinking water: Avoid drinking tap water in Thailand. Bottled water is readily available throughout the country. Bring your own drinking bottle if possible, or alternatively, seek out water refill stations in both Bangkok and at many resorts. If you don’t know if a water refill service is available, ask! You’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain by showing your support for recycling.

Political and Social Situation in Thailand

Please take a look at your government’s website or contact them directly for current and up to date information on their recommendations for travel in Thailand.

Drugs

Thai law prohibits the sale, purchase or possession of marijuana, heroin, opium and other ‘hard’ drugs. Although widely in use in Thailand, penalties are harsh, including life imprisonment and execution.

Women travellers

Female travellers are not likely to be harassed in Thailand, however, if travelling alone, it is a good idea to let somebody know your itinerary before you leave. In addition, use only metered taxis and beware when travelling alone at night.

Travelling with children

Travelling with children in Thailand can be a lot of fun. The Thai people love children and will shower attention on foreign children travelling in their country. This can initially be intimidating for some children (and their parents). The best way to handle this situation, if you find it all a bit much, is to smile and politely decline offers to hold, play with or feed your child. Of course, if you and your child like the attention, you will find instant playmates to keep your children entertained and give you a bit of free time.

Top 6 Best Travel Gifts

It is never easy to choose a perfect and dashing travel gift for your friends and family. At times, you simply get blank as to what type of gift you must choose for your brother, sister, cousin, father, mother, classmate, girlfriend or boyfriend. When it comes to travel gifts, one does not have much choices. Especially when you do not know anything about traveling. So what type of travel gift is right for your friend? Here is a list of top 6 travel gifts to make things easy for you.

1- Card Cover
A traveler card cover is especially made for travelers. Most of the travelers do not keep their wallet with them when they travel. And even if they do, they put their cards elsewhere for various reasons. Travel style card cover is made from PVC. Your friend can put all his/her cards in it. It is very easy to use card cover and these come in different colors. Choose one for your loved one today.

2- Earphones
Earphone is something that every traveler needs. They used to listen to their favorite music when they travel from one place to another. So why not you give them a perfect earphone for their next tour? Earphone is a cheap but very attractive gift.

3- Earphone Pouch
Earphone pouch is also a must when we talk about travel earphones. I mean, it is not easy to take care of a small earphone especially when you are on the move. So every traveler needs an earphone pouch to keep his/her earphone safe. You can either give away earphone pouch or you can give both the earphones as well as its pouch to your loved ones.

4- Travel Bag
A travel bag is the most important thing that every traveler needs. It is one of the basic necessities of traveling. Whether it be a small folding bag or a giant size travel bag, every traveler needs one. And this could be a great gift for your traveler mate. Buy a folding bag for him and surprise him with your smart choice.

5- Scratch Map
Not all the travelers use scratch maps but all of them do use a map. A scratch map is a modified form of traditional maps. However, most of the travelers now use Google maps, GPS and other more effective tools while traveling, but most of them still use traditional maps. You can send a scratch map to your buddy and I am sure he will love it. You can choose to buy a world map or a map of a specific country for your family and friends.

6- Passport Cover
Made from pure PVC, these passport covers come in different bright colors. Since travelers have to move with their passports and identity cards, so why not give a passport cover to your friend so that he can keep his passport safe all the times. Passport cover will keep it safe for years.