Travel Story How writing about travel can enhance your holiday

Photo of Brad Kruger

We filter our travel experiences as we share them, whether it's through writing, photography or the odd social-media post.

Like many people, I love to travel. I didn’t set foot on an aeroplane until I was 20, but since then I’ve seized as many opportunities as possible to explore parts of the world.

When I first travelled, the only way to capture holiday memories was through carefully chosen photographs (you could only fit so many photos on a roll of film back then), ephemera (tickets, brochures etc) and the occasional diary, as well as, of course, fading memories of particular moments or places.

As time went on, digital cameras came in and negated the need to be wary of how many photos or how much video you could shoot. But the trade-off here was that you could end up with hundreds or even thousands of holiday snaps which would sit in folders on your computer (which, I might add, I’m still to sort from my last few trips!). 

So, following a flippant comment to our travel editor prior to my recent trip to the US, I found myself with a promise to write a few stories for him. Despite some initial trepidation, I came up with some simple strategies to get me through.

And herein was the catalyst for my big epiphany on this holiday. I started to experience everything in a different way. I started to see things through different eyes. And I started to notice the sorts of things I may have once glossed over.

I was just that much more conscious of everything.

With iPhone in hand, I started to make notes of the little details, the special moments, the things I wanted to remember, and a record of the big things I did each day. Because I knew I’d be writing for an audience (beyond myself), I started to make notes that started to sound really quite ‘travel writer-y’. Many of these were moments I’d not usually give a second thought, and some are quite amusing to reflect on now ...

I captured moments with my camera or phone, making an effort to get the best image possible, with the realisation that they had to be worthy of being in the The West Australian’s Travel section. 

I’d sometimes be so caught up in the moment that I would have to double back to take a “generic” shot or two that would illustrate a location such as the Vegas Strip; this was also evident when I’d been somewhere previously and already taken those cliche touristy shots. (Side note: because of publication deadlines, I was also forced to quickly sort and find my best photos from the 3000 or so that I took. Job done.)

Without realising it at the time, my many posts on social media became a useful reference for remembering aspects of my journey.

They proved to be a useful litmus test as to what sort of things my friends were “liking” the most, and by extension what an audience of Travel readers might be most interested in.

My second big epiphany — the reality is that we filter our travel experiences when we share them.

While in New Orleans, I was struggling to find the fabulous city that everyone had told me about or shown me pictures of. When I did find them, my camera suddenly became well used and the tone of my written notes much brighter.

You tend only to share the things you really like, because you become aware that people aren’t interested in the things that you found underwhelming. They don’t want to see 3000 photos, just 20 or so of your best. They don’t want to hear every detail, just the highlights.

These are the memories that will endure, the moments that I became more conscious of, and the things that I share with others, and will remember best because of my digital record. 

Yet I have few records of the experiences I haven’t filtered: 

Perhaps that can be the challenge for my next adventure ... to keep a record of the “ordinary” as well.

Or at least to ask what a place is really like before going there.

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