Your Blogging Challenge this week is to take a high adventure. To fill up water bottles, and pack your backpack full of film, digital cards, batteries, note pads, pens and pencils, snacks, digital recorders, and your camera, and head off into the wilds of your back yard.
That’s right. You are off on a travel adventure blog writing challenge, the cheap way.
As a travel and nature photographer, we travel a lot, and a lot of people envy our lives, seeing strange, wonderful, and wild places all over the world.
The odd thing I discovered as I traveled is that people live all over the world in these strange, wonderful places, and yet they don’t think that where they live is strange and wonderful. In fact, few think where they live is worth exploring, tending to take vacations and trips elsewhere for their strange and wonderful adventures.
When we lived in the Middle East, people thought we were living in a far off land full of history and religious icons and wonders. Sure, they were there, but we spent more time going to work, shopping, eating, sleeping, and doing normal things that people do normally, not standing wide-eyed in front of some man-made monument to honor some dusty historical moment. People dream their whole lives of visiting the Middle East, the land of the bible, stone cities, pyramids, wars, and the earliest recorded history of the “known” world. For us, it was another day at the office in a hot and angry land.
When we moved to the Gulf Coast near New Orleans, the excitement and dazzling envy of “New Orleans” swept over our friends. Jazz, blackened catfish, Cajun cooking, Bourbon Street, Mardi Gras, and The French Quarter swelled up in their minds. For us, it was a life of going to work, shopping, eating, sleeping, and doing normal things like avoiding hurricanes on a regular basis in the summer and fall, and not standing wide-eyed outside of some French Quarter night club listening to “Basin Street Blues”.
Where you live is exotic to other people. You might not think so, but it is. So I want you to go out into your “back yard”, the community you live in, and find something exotic about it and write about it.
Before I get into the details of your new blogging challenge and adventure, let’s talk about how travel writers and bloggers write, and how photographs are used to tell the story of their photo adventures.
Writing a Travel Article
Many travel articles either incorporate or highlight information the reader may need when considering a similar trip in a “side bar” or “pull quote”, a highlighted section within the post. The information usually features names, businesses, contact information, website addresses, and specific detail to help the potential visitor, increasing the value of the article to the traveler.
There are several styles associated with travel writing. One is fairly factual, with the “what to see” and “what to avoid” spelled out concisely. This is the style generally found in most travel guides.
Another style is a travelogue, where the reader is taken, step-by-step, moment-by-moment through the course of the writer’s travels.
There is the travel essay, a story of a place or event experienced during a trip. These can be very personal or more clinical, focusing in on one specific subject and the writer’s experience. Then there is the “personal story” where the location and events of the trip are not as important as the emotional experience for the writer, sharing their thoughts and feelings about the experience against the background of the trip.
Travel writing includes photographs, but it also includes words that help the reader experience a location or event. For example:
“We stood with the crowd and watched the Mardi Gras parade pass by.”
That isn’t very helpful compared to:
“In the intense sunlight, we pushed back against the press of the crowd along the fenced curb, reaching out with grasping hands, shouting ‘throw me something, mister’ at the top of our lungs to the masked and costumed members of the Mardi Gras secret societies aboard their gaudy floats, waving the lures of long strands of sparkling beads in their hands.”
As you write your travel blog post, think of the words you can use to describe your adventure. Use colorful, descriptive terms as well as keywords which help identify a place. For example, Israel is called the “Holy Land” so it’s hard to write anything about Israel for a travel article without also identifying it accordingly, since people tend to search for trips to Israel with keyword combinations such as “holy land adventures” and “travel to the holy land”. Think of the keywords used in association with your destination and use them.
Photographs in travel articles are critical to helping a person “visualize” a place as well as attract attention. There are many ways photographs can be used with travel writing. The images tend to fall in four categories:
- Showcasing a landscape or scenic of the overall area.
- Focusing in on a specific sign, monument, or element representative of the area.
- A detail shot, where enough of the image hints at the overall subject but only captures a small area or detail.
- Complementary images to add to the “tone” of the story such as people laughing while dining in a restaurant, beach lovers on a beach, or airline tags on luggage. The photograph emphasizes a detail in the story.
A travel article may feature one to ten images, depending upon its length. More photographs than words and you have a photo essay rather than a travel article. For this particular challenge, focus on the words and include the photographs to help you tell the story.
For this challenge, you may use any writing style to tell the story of your adventure, but I want you to focus on helping the reader experience your adventure and learn more about your back yard. Please include other resources and information to help the reader learn even more, so they might be encouraged to take their own trip to your back yard.
Your Backyard Itinerary
Get out your digital camera and take a trip out your back door into your back yard. By back yard, I don’t specifically mean the yard on your property, especially since not everyone even has a yard let alone a back yard. I want you to take a tour of your city or community and write a blog post about what you found, how to find it, and how to enjoy exploring it.
Go to the library and learn about the history of the area, and what drew people to the area in the first place, and then what made them stay. Find old timers who know about its past. What is the magic that keeps people there, and what invites people to visit? Are there museums, art galleries, tourist attractions that make people sit up when they see “fillintheblankwithyourtownname” mentioned in a travel magazine?
If your back yard community is a well known tourist destination, is there a special place or event in the area that few tourists would know about that they might enjoy? For example, a lot of Americans have been be Yosemite National Park in California, but how many have been there in winter? If the area is popular and well traveled, find a new way of telling the story of the area from a new perspective.
How do people get around in your area? Do they depend upon the bus, metro, trains, or subways? Is it easy to find a place to stay and car to rent? Are there things for children to do as well as families and adults? Are there smoke free restaurants and facilities to accommodate families? Are there things they need to know before they arrive like bringing sun lotion and bug spray or security issues? Are there parts of the area to avoid and others to explore thoroughly?
Look at travel magazines and websites and see how they write about your area. What do they have to say about your area that you didn’t know or took for granted that might be of interest to others?
Check with your local chamber of commerce, tourist bureau, or city hall and find out what brochures and material they use to promote the area. What photographs do they use to tell the story of what visiting your area is like? What visual images do they use to entice someone to visit?
Write your travel post with informative and experiential information about the location. Include logistical information inside and “outside” of the story in a way that is highlighted, such as in a box or under a special heading so the information is separated from the story.
Everywhere is unique in some way. Find that special and write about it. Make us want to visit and explore. Make us feel like we know more about the place and the appetizer will make us want to start packing and checking for flights.
As always, make a trackback to this post or post a link to your post in the comments below so we can visit your blog and take a little trip without leaving the comfort of our computers.
The following are articles and resources to help you learn more about travel writing.
- Women’s Travel Writing, 1830-1930 (online books and essays)
- The Written Road
- Write 101 – Travel Writing Guide
- Wikipedia – Travel Literature
- Journey Woman – 10 Terrific Travel Writing Tips
- Transitions Abroad – Interview with Rick Steves of “Europe through the Back Door”
- Transitions Abroad – Interview with Joe Cummings of Travel Guidebook Writing Fame
- Transitions Abroad – How to Write the Perfect Travel Article
- Writing the Journey – Travel Journal
- Society of American Travel Writers
- International Society for Travel Writing
- Literary Traveler
- Rick Steves – Europe Through the Back Door and More
- Fodors Travel Guides
- Lonely Planet Travel Guides
- Photography and Writing: It’s about what you don’t see
- Taking Your Camera on the Road: Basic Nature Photography Online Book and Workshop
- The Writer-Photographer – Enhance Your Story with Photos
- Pen on the Road: Travel Writing and Photography
Previous Blogging Challenges
These blogging challenges are published weekly and are an attempt to kick your blogging ass. They serve to challenge your thinking and efforts in blogging and blog writing. To participate, start challenging yourself now. Today. Go for it. Previous challenges have been:
- Tell Us a Story
- Top 10 Keywords for Your Blog
- Blog About What You Know
- Who Is Linking To You?
- Who is Writing Your Blog
- Blogging Challenge: Describe Your Blogging Audience
- Testing Your Blog Clicking Experience
- Write WordPress Tips
- Comment on 10 Blogs
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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network