Connecting with people at a destination and using their quotes or insider information is a powerful story-writing tool.
Here are approaches I use to develop strong travel stories editors and readers will love.
Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunity
When you visit a destination, don’t get boxed in to set-in-stone ideas concerning a story. Remain flexible as additional story angles can strike at any moment.
When we visited Todos Santos, Baja, Mexico, a gentleman expat seated at an adjacent restaurant table overheard my husband and I saying how much we loved the charming town designated one of Mexico’s “pueblo magicos” (magic towns).
He told the story of visiting here years ago, falling in love, and then deciding to move here permanently. Noting our interest, he shared the location of a stunning secret beach only the locals know about.
Both the beach and his quotes were major elements in my story about this magic town.
Engage vs. observe
On a whale-watching trip off the California coast, I got chatting with a professional photographer working for the whale-watching company. I discovered he was also an expert maritime naturalist.
Intrigued that I was a travel writer on assignment who had lots of questions, he virtually gave me a personal narrative on native sea life. Then he invited me to join him on a fascinating follow-on eco-tour yielding another story opportunity.
All this happened because I engaged in the experience.
Look for invitations to interact
On a ghost tour in Washington, D.C., I approached a few friendly security guards to see if any of them had witnessed strange occurrences while on duty. Being a travel writer made me naturally curious. And they were more than willing to share.
How fascinating to discover incidents of eerie nighttime whispers and echoing footsteps in the supposedly empty buildings. After falling asleep, one security guard emphatically claimed to be suddenly awakened by books flying off the shelves in the Library of Congress.
These are fantastic “inside scoop” stories. I’ve had juicy information come my way by chatting with insider hotel staff, bellmen, and housekeepers at various destinations.
Look for the personal connection
While covering a spectacular restaurant overlooking the stunning Sea of Cortez in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, our headwaiter mentioned the chef would be coming over to greet us.
After discovering the chef was from Naples, Italy, I mentioned that we’d lived in Naples for three years and loved it. An instant bond of shared experiences changed what would have been a memorable sunset dinner to an incredibly unforgettable culinary feast. The chef not only prepared more specialties—some not even on the menu—but later joined us to share an exclusive vintage reserve port wine aperitif.
Nothing makes for a better conduit of information and experiences than making a personal connection with someone.