Songwriter Kendrick Lamar said, “If I’m going to tell a real story, I’m going to start with my name.” I think this quote is a perfect guidepost for beginning as a travel writer.
So many new travel writers are intimidated by the quest of writing that first travel story. Am I a writer? What editor will accept my story? How do other travel writers do it? Where do I start?
What better way to begin than to follow Kendrick’s advice? Just type your name at the top of your blank sheet of paper.
Think of a destination, an activity, or a photo in your mind’s eye for jump-starting your first article. What are the key components for relaying what you see, hear, smell, and feel? What are the magic memories that you’ll share with a reading audience or even your best friend? What single sentence captures what you’ve come up with? Now write this sentence at the top of your sheet, just above your name. That’s the title for your article.
Setting the spark for your first article
What did you decide to write about? The beach, the mountains, an eclectic restaurant, an amusement park, a fancy hotel, or a ranch? For many writers, the idea of sharing what they enjoy is their motivation for pursuing travel writing in the first place. Through words and photos, a travel writer stands on the rooftop and proclaims why others should spend their hard-earned dollars reveling in this experience.
What is the sense of place of this destination? Is there something unique that draws people to this setting? What differentiates a place is the first line in your pitch to an editor. This extraordinary something is what gets the editor to notice that your article speaks to their audience.
Each travel writer eventually comes up with niche or a calling card. For me, I love writing about the Caribbean, about destination golf, and about luxury travel. How about you? What niches get you pumped? Adventure travel? Culinary travel? Rail travel? Cruising? Scuba? Wellness spas? Walking tours? Now imagine that you’re considered an expert in one of these travel specialties. Your first article is a quantum leap for getting you there.
The travel-writing fork in the road
Think of yourself positioned at a fork in the road. You have two options: One choice is to not attempt that first travel article and never know where writing may lead. The second is to write about that favorite destination, or even a travel article based right in your hometown. By choosing this second alternative, you’re on the brink of experiencing a chapter in your life that could exceed your wildest dreams.
In 2011, I attended the Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop in Chicago. That was my fork in the road. I had never written a travel article before, and my first few articles were raw. What I didn’t realize is that by writing my first article I chose the travel-writing road. This became a road paved in perks that I never could have imagined.
I’ve traveled to 25 different Caribbean islands, played world-class golf courses, and vacationed in 5-star hotels. These life experiences are all compliments of choosing the right path when I was faced with that fork in the road. I’ll let you in on a secret: The travel-writing journey all starts with your name at the top of that first article.
Now go ahead, tell your story.