Cliche, trope, and stereotype will bog down a travel narrative making your writing predictable and kill a reader’s interest. To avoid the trap of the obvious, try this exercise:
1. Before you leave, write a list of things one would expect to see on a trip to your destination. For example, when I went to New Orleans, my list of “predictables” included the following: Mardi Gras, the tomb of Marie Laveau, drunkards on Bourbon Street, street musicians, café au lait and beignets at Café du Monde.
2. You will probably seek out those iconic experiences but avoid writing too much about them. It is safe to assume that any readers will already be familiar with these things. Instead, write about what didn’t fit with your anticipated experience. For example, I wrote about discovering the gates of Congo Square locked against me and having to peer through the bars. I wrote about having a perfume created and blended just for me at a french perfumery. I wrote about seeing former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak and his wife strolling through the French Quarter while I waited for that perfume to be laced into lotions, powders and soaps. (See! That got your attention didn’t it?)
3. Now that you have the original and unexpected experiences recorded, you can turn your attention back to those predictables. Go ahead and write about them if you like but try to find an unusual angle or detail. For example, I did write about Mardi Gras – but I described the broken glass bottles and shards of vases imbedded in the masonry of walls surrounding the homes along the parade route discouraging climbing revelers. I did write about walking down Bourbon Street – but in the fresh early morning while the street was receiving a much-needed cleaning. I didn’t write about visiting the tomb of Marie Laveau. Instead I wrote about visiting the home of Priestess Miriam. See again! I bet you are curious about what she said to me and how much Voodoo I experienced.
Try it right now. In the comments, tell us your next destination and list the anticipated standard sites and experiences associated with it. You will be amazed at how it helps you focus on what is truly unique about your travel experience.
(The pictures were taken by Angie Hilbert except the picture of Angie with Priestess Miriam. That picture was taken by Angie’s husband Wayne Hilbert aka “Dearest.”)