Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Personal Travel Essay

Me and a friend in Rottweil, Germany

Yesterday's post had some personal travel essay links. Writing for a travel magazine with all the facts about a destination is what some writers thrive on. I prefer to write the personal essay travel stories. This kind of travel story gives the reader a picture of a particular place, lets them know what is there, but also puts the human spin on the information. 

Kissing the Blarney Stone wasn't about how the legend came to be, nor who inhabited the castle through the centuries nor the exact location. Instead, it was about Ken and me and two friends climbing an endless spiral of stone steps many stories above the green of Ireland to see the Blarney Stone, about how I decided to pass on by instead of risking life and limb kissing the stone. 

Grandpa's Town highlighted a small town in Germany where my husband's grandfather grew up. We spent three days there exploring the town and the surrounding area. I didn't want to write about the industries there or what form of city government they had. Instead, I focused on the charming small hotel we found after a lengthy search, about walking the streets wondering if Grandpa had done the same while on an errand for his mother. Had he winked at a pretty girl as he ran down the street? I wanted to write about the human side of this town where some of my husband's roots ran deep. 

When I wrote, Pub Fare in the United Kingdom and Ireland, I wanted to highlight the food we had as we traveled in these areas with close friends. I didn't want to write about the monuments or cathedrals or manor houses on display. Instead, I chose to keep it to something we all relate to--food! British food has been panned for far too long. It's moved into the modern world and I wanted to show other travelers that they could expect to eat well in these countries. 

Many of us travel in our own country and abroad. Take advantage when you do. Find a specific place or activity and highlight it in a personal travel essay. There are a number of newspapers and ezines that publish this type of essay. I always keep a journal when we travel overseas and write faithfully in it every evening. It's a goldmine of ideas to use when I return home. The places you write about don't have to be exotic or famous. A very simple spot that spoke to you in some way could easily be of interest to your readers. 

Use people, family history, experiences in writing about a place. Make it real instead of make believe, something seen only in a fairy tale book. Write it so that others can relate to the experience you had. Add some emotions, sensory details--all those things you'd put in any other kind of writing.

Give it a try.

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