Get Comfortable and Take Your Hat Off.

My mom’s always told me the one thing we can always be sure of in this world is that everything changes.  It’s like a mantra I’ve lived with over the years but moms are always right.  Think about how much the travel industry has changed because of online competition and how that’s affected your role.  Being a successful travel agent or counselor will always be about providing exceptional service and unforgettable experiences but it’s also about rolling with the tides.  It’s about embracing change.  Ultimately, it’s about changing up how you view your position and the value your travel experiences bring to the community table.  Where you’ve been, what you’ve seen, people you’ve met, hotels you slept in, and the food you’ve tasted.  This is knowledge that your customers and agency needs.  This is knowledge that needs to be shared.   When you capture this information to the written word it creates the opportunity for you to increase your value beyond transactions.  It’ll take you out of the fixed role of a travel agent and position you as a travel asset.

If you want to write and publish your travels, or have been asked to write about them by your agency, but just haven’t gotten around to it, I feel your pain. It’s not far-fetched that you might have nagging thoughts like, “who do I think I am, I’m not a writer,” or maybe something like, “who would ever read my stuff, I’m no expert.”  It’s scary to put yourself out there and go public.  I still cringe a bit when I’m ready to publish and hit the send button.  You’re not the first person to experience those freaky feelings and you certainly won’t be the last.  It’s natural to have those anxieties—I’d actually think it’d be a bit weird if you didn’t.  On the other hand, you are an expert and you walked into your position with something that most people don’t have when they start a job.  You had a passion—a passion for travel—or you developed one pretty quickly.

Inspired By Voices.

If you want to share your stories, the first step in your journey will be to find your voice.  You might have many travels behind you and ahead of you but without a unique writing voice, you might not get too far.  If you’ve been writing then you may already have discovered it, in which case the next step is to be brave, make the leap and share it.  But, on the other hand, if you haven’t spent any time journaling your travels or just haven’t written on a regular basis, then this will be the first port of call.  This will be the beginning of your inner exploration and one you can practice anywhere.  This isn’t business writing, it’s about writing that sings from your soul.  Are you ready to take off your agent hat?

Every writer has a voice and chances are if there’s a travel column you like to read, it’s probably because you connect to the style of the writer’s voice.  It’s how they share an experience or moment around a particular destination that sparks your curiosity.   It’s what keeps you reading and coming back to learn about the next best place to go.

Do you have any favorite travel magazines?  What about travel websites or blogs, do you follow any?  These are good places to help identify the type of writing you admire and to get a sense of how these writers dive into the details.  Identifying the type of writing you admire will help you find your writing voice.  I’m a loyal follower of National Geographic Traveler.  It features topics important to me—from environmental protection, animal conservation, and sustainable travel to supporting a destination’s local food or art scene.  But it’s the voices of the writers who weave the stories behind these travel columns, and the photography, that keeps my yearly subscription coming.  If you’ve never read it, check it out

College Degree Not Necessary.

Maybe you think being able to write is something you needed to study—in which case, you can put your fears aside.  There are loads of writers and bloggers out there who don’t have a writing background.  All they had was a desire to share an idea and let their voice be heard.  Some are popular and some are unknown but they’re still writing and putting their stuff out there.  Some use a notebook, while others you use a laptop to get their motor running.  You don’t have to go out of your way to buy anything special.  Use whatever you’re comfortable with to get your ideas down.  Every bag I own has a notepad of some kind in it, which makes it easy to jot down an idea or observation.  You might be more comfortable with a phone app, maybe Evernote, if you prefer digital note taking.  There’s no right or wrong way to do this, the only point is to write.  Identifying your writing voice isn’t meant to be a chore.  Play around and have fun with it.

Are there some fundamental rules of the road when it comes to travel writing?  There are and the first and most important one to focus on is “show, don’t tell.”  This is the main directive for creative writing and if you think about it, it makes sense.  So let’s keep it simple and just focus on that one for now.   It’s about details and description—it’s about visuals.  It’s the difference between “the sun set in the ocean” and “a tangerine sun dipped into the indigo sea.”  It’s about staying away from words or phrases that don’t provide a description.  Don’t forget, beauty is the eye of the beholder so instead of saying “the Danube Valley is beautiful,” you’ll want to show the reader how it’s beautiful.  If your first impression of a town is “quaint” then show the reader what makes it so.   Chances are how it’s beautiful or quaint will be different for me then it is for you so just go for it and don’t be afraid to unleash your observational skills.  Break the habit of using overused and common words that really aren’t descriptive and focus on visuals, imagery….details.

What are some of the cities, beaches, towns, meals, or cruises you’ve enjoyed?  Get comfortable with your knowledge and share those observations and experiences. The more you write the easier descriptions will flow.  If you specialize in a destination or a type of travel then you might find it easier to capitalize on the details of that knowledge.  Ultimately, your travel writing will open up greater opportunities to engage your customers and create value for yourself.

So for now, concentrate on getting into a daily groove of writing stuff down.   Eventually it’ll become a habit—and a good one.   There doesn’t have to be any rhyme or reason to what you jot down, the point is to just get those recollections and details out of your head and to get you writing.  Take a reading safari and investigate all the great travel writing out there.  Bop around the web and check out some travel blogs or visit your local bookstore to browse or buy some travel mags and see what writers appeal to you.  Focus on how they tell their story.  If you find yourself lost in any of them then it’s because you connect to the writer’s voice and style.

But here’s the bottom line to all this…you don’t have to read anyone’s writing.   All you need to do is write.  You have a voice.  It’s in there.  It just takes one step to make a change and let it out.

I know you can do it.

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