Don’t we all.
Aspiring travel writers have a similar story: “I fell in love with travel at a young age when…”
You’re not delving into your real reasons for traveling, and your readers know it.
We’re all dying for a little authenticity. It’s why we giggle at buzzword’s use of “Fuck” in every other headline. And I’ll be damned if you actually “fell in love” with travel at a young age. You travel because of reasons you may only vaguely understand and might not want to dig into.
For me, travel was an escape from my crazy-ass family and disappointment in college. I was wandering listlessly from class to class and sinking into a nice comfortable slump when I up and decided to take on $10,000 in debt and jet off to France for a summer to study oil painting– a choice that had nothing to do with my major or furthering any obtainable career.
It was a stupid, regrettable choice, that I don’t in the least regret.
I thrived on the challenge of navigating something so new–something that I wasn’t expected to know. I could stumble through foreign phrases, get lost, hopelessly, for hours, commit a few faux pas and even draw horrendous versions of the nude who sat for us (the art teachers, to their credit, were incredibly kind and patient.)
I watched myself grow and in the span of a few months, knew enough French to get by, could find my way around town and could sketch a passable nude. I made good friends and bawled like a baby the night it all ended.
I did not want to go back home.
At that time, home was more than a little poisonous. I dropped out of college without telling anyone and clambered into a depression that only lifted when I traveled again. This time, an hour-and-a-half away to a new college.
I knew, in the back of my mind, that travel for me was a coping mechanism, a nice “fight or flight” response to stress that could wipe my slate clean for at least a little while. But that knowledge didn’t (and doesn’t) matter because seared in my mind is the bright memory of France. Not France the food, not France the culture, not even France the people. But France, the place I was so happy.
Travel stayed a bright happy spot in my mind after college when I traveled to Dallas, TX and stumbled into a job writing for a travel publication.
And I started writing about travel.
It’s amazing how little travel topics interest travel audiences. Story after story I wrote got meager play, slow returns.
I slowly stepped away from journalistic objectivity, sprinkling more of my thoughts into each piece with still lukewarm results. Finally, I did the writer’s version of throwing my hands up: I dropped the F bomb in a headline.
The post had 4x the engagement of anything else I had written. I wrote another piece after that one calling everyone “uncultured swine” in the headline and that worked too. I was happy for the engagement and bereaved that only curse words and insults worked.
My boyfriend looked up from his computer one day, horrified, and said, “Oh no, it’s clickbait.”
Chagrinned, I sputtered some response and then defeatedly said, “I know.”
Audiences don’t want to hear about a location. They don’t want to hear your travel experience. They don’t want to take the time to read about food or culture.
Audiences want to connect to something.
And sorry to say, your words won’t speak for themselves. You’re a shitty writer. I’m a shitty writer. You can learn a few tricks and smack together passible grammar, but you’re not suddenly going to draw in hordes of readers with your prose.
The only thing, aspiring travel writer, that I can tell you is that audiences want an authenticity that makes them feel something– whether that’s humor, sadness, outrage, superiority or some other strong emotion.
Authentic means you can’t just say “the food was delicious!!!” or “this place is gorgeous!!!” Authentic means you’re going to feel laid bare and wonder and worry about what you wrote.
If you’re willing to do that, you might just make it.