Written by Tony Jefferson
I was always a decent writer growing up. I even won a few awards. But it was never something that I saw myself doing for a living. After high school, I went to college for a year, but I was more interested in parties than studying. So I joined the United States Air Force. For my third assignment, I received orders to go to Okinawa, Japan. That’s when things changed.
Curiosity About The World
Living outside of the United States changed my perspective and sparked a curiosity to see the world. I ended up spending 12 years between Japan, Germany, and Korea, on top of visiting close to 30 other countries. Experiencing so many diverse and unique cultures is what inspired me to start writing.
Long before I started writing about travel, I read a lot. Always on the lookout for new places to visit or the hidden gems in a city. City guides and travel reviews were my go-to resources when it came to planning trips. But there was always something lacking. It’s not that the guides or reviews weren’t accurate, but it was always as if something was missing. As if things were not being said.
Starting To Write About Travel
When I started writing about travel, I didn’t want my readers to have that same feeling. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. My writings felt like all of the other travel reviews and guides I read over the years. It took me a while to get to the root of the problem, but I figured it out.
Traveling is such a broad and unique experience. So, why do we write about it so generally?
Everyplace Isn’t For Everyone.
I would often travel places that received nothing but glowing writeups, only to find myself underwhelmed. I couldn’t figure out how the authors had gotten it so wrong. Then I realized that the problem is these authors, weren’t writing to me.
Travel reviews are the most useful to the reader when it comes from someone that travels the way they do. Finding a writer that travels like themselves is already challenging enough for readers. But they also have to hope that the writer has already visited the location they are researching.
Not everyone travels the same. So, it’s impossible to capture all things for all travelers in a single city guide or travel review. However, if writers try to focus specifically on a specific set of travelers, they run the risk of limiting their audience. But if the author is too inclusive in their writing style, then you end up with generalized articles.
Readers vs Writers Travel Experience
I get a lot of questions because I travel so often. The most common questions are something along the lines of “What’s your favorite place you’ve visited?” That’s an easy one. The more difficult question to answer is “Why?” Explaining why usually involves comparing one location to another. But if the person hasn’t been to either place, then the comparison doesn’t do much good.
It’s easy to make comparisons during a conversation because you adjust based on immediate feedback. But that’s not an easy task when you write. Writers can make assumptions on places their readers have most likely traveled, but that may only be useful to some readers. How can writers give their opinions without a baseline to compare?
Everyone Writing About the Same Destinations
I prefer to live in the moment, so my travel can be spontaneous. I will sometimes plan a trip just because I found cheap tickets. Most times, these are places that aren’t on my radar and aren’t high on my list to visit. But often these turn out to be the best trips.
The problem for readers is that there aren’t many people writing about these locations. Since there aren’t many people writing about these places, they don’t make it to the top of your search results. Since they don’t make it to the top of your search results, you never hear about them and miss out.
It doesn’t matter how great of a writer you are if no one ever reads your works. Travel writers want their works to be read just like any other author. To do that, they have to rank high in search results. In the end, travel writers all end up writing about the same places that are popular searches trying to rank higher. This leads to readers missing out on great destinations and other locations having to deal with over-tourism.
The current landscape presents some challenges when it comes to writing about travel. And maybe there is no way to avoid these challenges. But, we must acknowledge that they exist to maintain the integrity of travel writing. I don’t know that I have the answers to these issues, but Traveling Session is my contribution towards a solution.
More From Tony Jefferson:
Tony Jefferson, Founder of TravelingSession.com
Traveling Session LLC is a US-based travel media company dedicated to providing travel reviews for destinations worldwide. Using standardized rating criteria and community-based scoring, our goal is to personalize travel recommendations.
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