Off the plane, pick up a pen for writing

SHARING ADVENTURE—Looking at pictures taken on a trip can jog the memory and provide ideas for what to write about.

SHARING ADVENTURE—Looking at pictures taken on a trip can jog the memory and provide ideas for what to write about.

If you traveled somewhere this summer and if you’ve ever written an essay in school or a report for work, I have a suggestion I want you to consider: Be a travel writer.

You might scoff at this notion (“Me, a travel writer?”), but the truth is there’s never been a better time to share your travel experiences with the world.

Twenty-five years ago this would not have been the case. Before the internet existed, your options to share your travels with the public were limited.

Travel writer Rick Steves famously began his career in the 1970s by typing a “guide” of his own travel tips, which he then photocopied and shared with friends. It took him years before his guide found a publisher.

But if Steves were beginning his career today, he would have a world of choices.

There are many social media platforms on which you could share your writing. Facebook is an obvious one, and many of us already do this when we return from a trip.

You could also blog your travel stories on sites like Tumblr or Medium.



The latter is a perfect platform on which to share your experience. The more unique your point of view, the more personal your story, the better. So, what would you write about, and how would you get started?

One approach to jump-starting the writing process is to begin with a collection of your vacation pictures. Look at all the pictures you took, then narrow it down to the three or four you find most interesting.

Choose one picture to start with. Look at the picture. Try to relive the experience. What transpired before and after the shot? Anything interesting?

Often by looking at pictures, our memories of situations are triggered, and we start to relive the experience. Details come back to us. The thoughts we had in that moment return.

Write down these thoughts. Don’t censor, just write.

Now take a step back from your scribblings. Ask yourself what stands out about this moment? Anything?

It’s possible there won’t be something specific. If so, repeat the brainstorm process with another picture. Do this until you find a picture with memories that intrigue you.

Here’s an example of how this worked in my own travels.

While traveling in Greece several years back, we rented a car. Driving in Corfu, we of course saw road signs written in—yes, you guessed it—Greek. For an entire afternoon, we joked that we had no idea where we were going, because “it’s all Greek to me.”

In looking at a picture I snapped of the road sign written in Greek, I begin to reminisce about the entire experience of that day.

It was an enjoyable trip, but of all the things I recall, it wasn’t the food we ate or the trip to a local beach or driving in another country that stood out.

What I recall most of that day was the gas station we visited before returning our rental car. What intrigued me most was the fact that the gas pump measured out the petrol in liters and we paid in euros. So I had no idea at all how much gas I was putting in the tank.

At home, I would be able to estimate in my head how many miles I’d driven and how many gallons to put in the tank. But here in Greece, I was completely out of my element. Which honestly was fine.

To me, that’s the essence of travel. That moment where you have a familiar experience, yet it’s completely different from that experience back home. And you thrived in that difference.

If I were to write about that day, that gas station moment would be the main focus of my story. Just taking a simple observation of a familiar moment and sharing what I felt at that time. I’d try to bring the reader into my experience so they would feel they were there too.

That’s essentially travel writing. Find an interesting situation. Describe the details of the moment. And tell your reader why you found it interesting.

So if you traveled this summer, and you have some pictures, start writing.

Challgren is a travel writer who lives in Thousand Oaks. For more info, go to Email questions to