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Silver Spring, MD
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Stories To Tell is a full service book publishing company for independent authors. We provide editing, design, publishing, and marketing of fiction and non-fiction. We specialize in sophisticated, unique illustrated book design.

Stories To Tell Books BLOG

Writing a Travel Memoir

Nan Barnes

More people are traveling abroad than ever before. When they get home a lot of them are deciding that they want to do more with the memories than simply posting the photos on Facebook or Flikr. We talk with a number of people who want to publish a photo book, a journal or their collected letters to document their experiences. In most cases they are guided by the desire to be reportorial and to follow the chronology of the trip.

We usually suggest that more is possible. If a person wants to publish a photo book they can add extended captions to deal with the five Ws (who, what, when, where, why). By including at least the skeleton of the stories on which the pictures are based the person who looks at their book will have a much better understanding of why the images are important to the author.

If you are more ambitious you can reflect upon the experiences chronicled in your journal or letters and try to convey some of the insights and small epiphanies which accompanied the events. For example, one traveler told us of the insight he gained on the importance of Catholicism in Mexico by watching women approach the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City on their knees. Another spoke of visiting the town of Dangriga in Belize which had been founded by shipwrecked slaves and native Caribs. When she booked a small Caribbean beachfront cabin she was told that meals were included. But the insight into the Garifuna culture she got when she found that meals were eaten in the private home of the cabin’s owner with her family was what made the experience fascinating.

Employing some of the techniques common in fiction can enliven your travel writing. A recent workshop participant told us that upon reflection she had decided to change her plan to simply publish the letters she wrote during a sailing trip with stops all over Central and South America. Instead, she would begin with the moment when a gang of Guatemalan bandits boarded her yacht and robbed her and her husband at gunpoint. She then asked, “How did I get here?” as a frame for the story of her travels. It will make for a much more engaging book.

This year’s Solas Awards sponsored by Travelers’ tales for the best travel writing of the year were recently announced. Click here to see the winners in the memoir category.