Travel Journalism: The “How” of the “Where” and “What”

There is a degree of wanderlust that is at the core of every traveler. Travel journalism thrives off of that thirst for new experiences. The goal, however, is to satisfy that thirst in a very specific way depending on  the audience.

Although travel writing is a journalistic endeavor, it is considered a feature piece.  Dinty W. Moore writes that travel writing comes naturally to us because of its storytelling characteristics. Travel writing can have a degree of fantasy; words deemed unnecessary in a hard news story are suddenly critical in allowing the reader to “see” as much as they can. And, unlike hard news, speaking in first-person doesn’t detract from credibility.

As the writer escorts the reader into their setting, they must also establish a structure which is both fluid and static. Like journalism, the writer should address any combination of who, what, when, where, why and how. But, it is the marriage of fantasy and explanation that allows the reader to imagine and make tangible a real place that they have never seen.

To re-create the rich, sensory experience of a place, Brian Klems says that the writer must “travel deeply.” This means that travel journalism is an involved experience from start to finish. What preconceptions does the writer have? What does the writer know about the politics, culture, customs? Once there, what happened? Specific details flavor the piece. So, while ambling down a cobbled street, do you smell coffee and freshly baked bread?   Klems also says that “All good travel writing moves the reader twice: it transports him to a place, and moves him emotionally.” So once those visual details exist, the writer should answer this question: why should they care? Perhaps the smell is wafting from a bakery that withstood a hurricane, or the recession. Perhaps it’s a street vendor that’s there every Friday from 5 a.m. to 6:00 pm to make their living.

The article must, as always, cater to the audience. Perhaps one editor prefers the allure of a town: give them the details, and make them get up and go! Maybe another prefers the enchantment and the experience: who makes this town worth visiting?

Regardless of the structure, travel journalism varies greatly on the author, the place, and the method of publication. Because of this, the freelancing is always an option, especially for an adventurer.



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