The English composition student interested in more than merely placing out of a “lame” prerequisite with a passing grade (to appease the status quo of the college administration board) can do well to take extensive notes while traveling. In fact, if you read this early enough and you’re still in high school, take heed; this will help you immensely later on.
If you keep a diary during your trips, you will be able to refer to it for details months later, perhaps when your professor assigns a composition. Your recall will amaze your fellow students if the paper is read aloud, and the subject matter will hopefully entertain the person grading your paper – which is always helpful.
Travel Essay Writing Tips
Now that we have established that taking notes while traveling is an important step in writing a good travel essay, what are some other tips?
The next tip for writing a lively travel essay is to actually do something interesting. While essayists of years past have found tremendous success in writing about mundane details, the average college student is not there yet in terms of a writing career. Instead of trying to reach your target page count by describing a rainy day at a seaside resort that you spent watching television (admittedly, in capable hands this could be a fascinating read), your composition might write itself, as the saying goes, if you pick a more adventurous topic.
Take a surfing lesson, for example, or sleep outside the tent on a camping trip. If your family vacations at casinos, skip the slot machines in favor of an activity better suited for writing a story, like casino poker or blackjack. As soon as you’ve finished, rush back to your room and write in your notebook everything you can remember about the experience; you may wish to draw snippets of dialogue or telling descriptions from your journal later on, when such details have faded from your memory.
Essayist David Sedaris (someone who gets paid to write essays) says, “In order to record your life, you sort of need to live it. Not at your desk, but beyond it. Out in the world where it’s so beautiful and complex and painful that sometimes you just need to sit down and write about it.”
An oft-overlooked tip for writing travel essays is to read travel essays – and not just during the week before you have to write your own. Make it a habit to read great writing during your downtime, and you will find that your own writing improves. The thing about reading is that you start to absorb the rhythms of what you read; those patterns become a part of your subconscious experience. As you write your own sentences, paragraphs, and pages, you begin to write along with those rhythms.
Something not to do when writing a travel essay is to pad your page count. Don’t increase your font size and margin width as a shortcut to an essay that fills more pages. Don’t write the same point over and over again with only slight modifications to sentence structure. Writing the same point again and again is not ideal, especially if you are only altering the sentence structure slightly. (Get it?) Don’t travel down winding tangents in your travel essay. Instead, use an outline to help you hit your word count. While it may not seem exciting to plan out what you want to write in your essay before you actually write it, you might find that the whole writing process flows more smoothly with an outline.
And finally, don’t be afraid to take breaks while you’re writing. A common error that beginning writers often make is to assume that an essay that reads well from start to finish was written well from start to finish. The truth is, essays are seldom written with the ease that the reader finds in them.