Why You Should Avoid Writing About a Travel Destination Only from Memory

Great travel experiences create vivid memories. Ask any traveller about a particular trip, and they will recall many strong sensory memories, from the incredible sight of a migrating herd of elephants to the gentle sound of waves lapping at shore; the overpowering smell of a bustling spice market to the sweet taste of a freshly-picked mango.

However, memory is not as reliable as it first appears. Press the same traveller on the exact number of elephants, or the route they took through the spice market, and you may find they struggle to give you an answer. The fact is, no matter how vivid your travel memories seem, there’s always key information missing from your recollection.

As travel writers, we do as much as we possibly can to record everything we see and do during our trips – in fact, making notes on your travels is a very valuable habit for travel writers – but it is not possible to record absolutely everything. So how do you ensure the travel article, guide or web copy you write when you arrive home is 100% correct, providing accurate and valuable information for your readers? Here are four ways to always get it right…

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1. Do your research
You might vaguely recall a few of the important details from your trip; the odd key date, the odd historical figure, the odd foundation myth. But that’s not enough for quality travel content. Take the time to find some reputable sources (more on that later) and research the history and culture of the place you are writing about in detail. This will give you a great frame of reference to begin piecing together your content, whether that’s a travel article, a guide or web copy. Make a note of any major events you come across, especially if they relate directly to the area you are writing about. Pay particular attention to key dates and spellings. Bookmark the best sources so you can refer back to them at a moment’s notice, whether for this project or subsequent ones relating to the destination.

2. Check your sources
It is easy enough to tell you to do your research, but it can be a hard process when there is so much information and mis-information available online. For travel writers, working in the age of the internet can be a blessing and a curse. It can be frustrating to finally find a website dedicated to a little-known locale, only to find it was cobbled together in 1998 by an uninformed amateur. But you must plough on with your search for reliable, knowledgeable sources; pass by Wikipedia and scour through tourist board websites, government archives and even other travel publications. If you cannot find what you need online, call relevant local authorities for their on-the-ground insight.

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3. Use your network
Did you make some friends on your trip, or do you know somebody else heading out the same way? Then make use of them. If you can make a connection to anybody who also has first-hand experience of the destination, you can use them to confirm facts and impressions about the place. Your combined personal experiences, from tips about using the buses to the best places to get a late-night kebab, will add much-needed colour and expertise to your content. However, just like with your facts, you must ensure that everything they tell you is cross-referenced with other sources, to guarantee their facts are accurate and up-to-date and their opinions are shared by others.

4. Take a virtual tour
You can’t beat first-hand experience, and online services such as Google Maps can give you the chance to relive yours. In particular, it’s useful to remind you of the orientation of the destination, confirming precisely how far two attractions are from one another and how to travel between them. Search for transport options and directions to give yourself a more comprehensive picture of a location, but always remember you’re offering practical advice to your readers; you don’t want to recommend cutting through a steep, overgrown alley when you know there’s a brightly-lit boulevard nearby. When you’re writing about indoor attractions like museums, shopping centres and art galleries, you will find many provide floor plans on the website, so you can continue the guided tour indoors.

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Want to be reminded about some of the other places you’ve been – or just wish to travel from your desk? You will find a wealth of expert travel content in the World Words portfolio. And remember to follow us on Twitter.

3 thoughts on “Why You Should Avoid Writing About a Travel Destination Only from Memory

  1. Melissa, profuse compliments on some very sound pieces of excellent advice. Your thoughts were well planned and you were very thorough in covering every possible angle to recall very accurately your travel experience. You treated it as a scientific endeavour and that is what it is. The idea of not only recording as you travel, but also to do some background research is a brilliant idea. Looking forward to more sound writing advice from you.

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