Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Advice for adventurers - travel writers beware!

You’re the world-weary travel writer. Your fingers have traversed mountain ranges, strolled over sandy beaches, peered over the edge of sulphurous volcanoes and pressed the flesh with people from every corner of the planet.

It’s easy to slip into a mellow, offend nobody, say nothing with substance and ‘go with the flow’ mode but that’s not what you’re being paid for and sooner or later you’ll be travelling out of a virtual door on the end of a virtual boot.

So, if you’re going to be a successful travel writer, you need to give people hard facts and none come harder than when you're dealing with …

… backpackers.

They’re not all hippy, hitch-hiking yogis looking to check in at their next mountain-top ashram. Most are out to see the world on a budget, following beaten tracks as well as the unbeaten ones. Some travel with partners or college friends; others go solo.

Whoever they are, they need to plan their trip, live out their dream (or nightmare) and return home safe, but never sorry.

As a travel guru, your job is to provide comprehensive advice on just that. Here are some pointers to help you out.

The initial stages of a backpacker’s expedition involve a great deal of planning, so much so that even booking the flight out can seem a mere triviality. Decisions must be made on itineraries, main sites of interest, food, shelter and transport costs, and whether to go it alone or not. You’ll need to guide your readers in the most effective ways to make these decisions, encouraging them to think hard about the kinds of activities they intend to take part in and the time-frames in which they should consider doing them. An introductory ‘food for thought’ or FAQ section would be a helpful tool for anyone pondering these issues. You may also want to draw up a table of best dates for in and out-of-season travel to cover a wide range of global destinations and help reduce the climate shock factor for the location’s first-timers.

Travel pursuits determined, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty.... Packing!

An all-inclusive list of essentials is imperative but you may want to add an ‘optional extras’ inventory as well to include things like books, games and musical instruments. Basic first aid should never be left out and counsel should be given on what and how much to carry for different kinds of trip (e.g. camping, volunteering in a school, etc.).

Next up? Getting there.

This section should cover recommendations on how to deal with a range of aspects from the emotional to the practical and on to the health and safety-related. The latter will differ for men, women and seniors so a note on each would be beneficial. It’s also here that you might choose to offer country-specific advice on transport systems, where to get information, how to travel cheaply and safely, and financial info such as regular costs and conversion rates.

Testimonials and photographs can spice up your pages and remind readers of adventures to come so be sure to squeeze them in! Coming full circle, you could write about coping strategies for post-travel depression and the less expected shock of returning home with a fresh perspective on the things you took for granted before you left. You could enter a guide on how to recount your experiences to family and friends or how to stay in contact with fellow travellers after the journey, wherever they may be in the world.

Lastly, in case your readers are interested in further researching their preferred destination, why not assemble a list of additional sources of information to encompass areas like hotels, transport links, maps, events, insightful reading material... maybe even ashrams.

Do your job as a travel writer and you’ll never be told to ‘get lost’.

About the author

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