We’re always looking for good travel or holiday stories, and plenty of people get in touch asking for some hints and tips on putting them together. So rather than email the same thing to everyone who asks, we thought we’d put it here…
Good photographs are vital to a good travel story. In fact, they’re more important than the words – words can be rewritten but you can’t generally just pop back to the Atacama Desert to re-shoot that sunset that came out wrong.
The best pictures are the ones that capture what’s great about your destination. If the key attraction is the riding and the trails, action shots are good. If you go there for the scenery, landscapes are the obvious choice. And so on. Landscapes are better with bikes being ridden in them, though. This can require a bit of self-timer jiggery-pokery if you’re on your own, but the results are often well worthwhile.
If you’re unsure of your photographic skills, the best thing to do is to take lots and lots of pictures – some of them are bound to be good. This is easy and cheap if you’re using digital, but possibly more important if you’re using film – with digital you know you’ve got it wrong straight away…
There are plenty of examples of great pics in the front page picture gallery if you’re looking for inspiration.
We’re not in a position to deal with dozens of slides or prints, so if that’s what you’ve got you’ll need to scan them. If you don’t have access to a scanner, most high-street labs will do them for you – it’s usually cheapest to get the images put on a CD when you have them processed. We don’t generally run pictures bigger than 800×600 (and usually smaller) so there’s no need to email us multi-megapixel images. A little bit of extra is useful, though, as it gives scope for a bit of creative cropping that can do wonders for a shot.
This can be the tricky bit. Some people are natural writers, some aren’t, but pretty much anyone can turn out a respectable piece with a bit of effort. The first thing to conquer is the Tyranny Of The Blank Page. The trick here is not to feel like you have to start at the beginning. If you’re struggling to get started, just write anything – describe a ride during the trip, or something funny that happened in the bar, or that amusing incident with the crocodile and the spare inner tube. Anything to get some words coming out. Even if what you write ends up somewhere in the middle of the story or doesn’t end up in the story at all, it’ll get the fingers going. And, like a technical descent, it’s a whole lot easier once you’re rolling.
A lot of the time it’s easiest to leave your introductory paragraphs until last. They’re usually the hardest, so save them until you’ve got a bit of a flow going. Often by the time you get to them you’ll know exactly what to say. Don’t be afraid of fiddling around with the chronology of the trip – if something from halfway through would make a great introduction, go for it.
As for what to actually write about, you’re just aiming to deliver a flavour of the trip. If you’re sufficiently inspired to want to write about it then it must have been pretty good, so let the reader know what was so good about it. It doesn’t matter if it was the riding, the company, the scenery, the food – tell us, give examples, make us want to go ourselves.
It’s tempting to go into a blow-by-blow account of each day, and if your trip was a multi-day end-to-end tour then there’s a lot of sense to it. It’s very easy to get bogged down in unnecessary and tedious detail, though, so be careful. You might find it works better to write about a particular day in the main text and stick the itinerary in a separate box.
Read back what you’ve done, and be critical. If something sounds long-winded or clunky to you, it’ll be ten times worse to someone else. Often the secret to a really good story is not what you put in, but what you take out…
If you find yourself with some stuff that doesn’t really feel like it belongs in the main text, feel free to hive it off into another box. Use it to thank anyone who particularly helped, point people towards more pictures of the trip or whatever.