In the previous four entries of this blog, I focused on activating non-visual senses while writing, on stories instead of places and things, on using writing as a means of committing a trip to memory, and on discussing reliving those memories over and over again, especially when we are quarantined inside during a global pandemic. If you’re not convinced by now, I’m going to add a few more slightly less tangible reasons.
First of all, it’s a great way to practice writing. As I noted earlier, despite struggling for years to write a Master’s thesis in archival studies, I was able to produce hundreds of pages of travel stories with comparatively little effort. I was so enthused about travel, the mere act of writing about it was immensely joyful, certainly more so than writing academia. If you have any trepidation about writing, don’t worry, share your stories with close friends and family and ask them for feedback. This will feed your desire to continue and improve. Start with a few paragraphs in a group email then as your confidence grows seek out stronger story lines and more elaborate descriptions.
My second point about writing is that it’s a vital skill in all aspects of life and the more you practice the easier it gets. Japan is my 10th travel story and, not only has travel writing gotten easier, but it has positively affected all my other writing as well. I have learned valuable lessons about description, visualization, scenes, and characters, and these amalgamations of people, places, and experiences now enliven my fiction.
Another point is that writing stories of any kind helps you focus on the fundamentals of grammar and builds your vocabulary. If you’re anything like me, you hate sending out writing that is not perfect (ghastly typos aside) and I can say, with a good deal of certainty, that every time I read through my old travel stories, I find new mistakes. Perhaps it’s fresh eyes or perhaps it’s just increased knowledge of grammar, but the more I proofread, the more I recognize mistakes. It’s still necessary to find a family member or friend with good credentials to edit your work and BE BRUTAL. It’s far easier to see other people’s mistakes than your own and as I repeatedly told my students, never, EVER, practice poor writing. Whatever you write, from emails to texts, write them the best you can.
Another benefit of travel writing is that your stories can assist others. I have been told that my stories have entertained and inspired others to pursue a similar type of travel. I have been asked for advice about places to visit and the ability to recall this information, or present it in written form, is invaluable. Think of your travel stories as pieces of history and autobiography as well. Many of you probably have stories or letters from distant relatives that you guard closely. This is your gift to future generations and something to reminisce about when you are old and grey and your memories are starting to fade.
The final benefit of travel writing is that you may discover a latent talent that grows from passion to practice to career. Should people want to hire you to write about their town, city, country, or tourist sites then do it with gusto. For those of you looking for just such an individual, see my contact information.
I hope you have enjoyed this five part series about the joys of travel writing. It truly is a rewarding activity for so may reasons, so what are you waiting for? Pick up that pencil, pen, or laptop and start writing. Your trip doesn’t have to be exotic or dangerous because it’s not the place that makes the story. Please feel free to share your travel experiences with me, because I’m always looking for new stories and new places to visit. The time to start planning is now!