How to present a place?
You know the feeling. You’ve just arrived in what must be the most amazing place on Earth. A place that grabs hold of all your senses and challenge them to the limit. Now you want to share not only the place, but also the feeling with your readers. How do you do this?
Everybody who’s ever been to – let’s say Marrakech – will have noticed the accelerated speed of the place. The mad traffic, the intense haggling, the loud shop keepers and the insane movement of goods in the medina. It is the stuff that hits you hard in the face, and what many refer to as a solid culture shock. Many of the travel articles from Marrakech don’t go beyond this frantic buzz.
I am not saying this kind of article can’t sell. But I am saying that as a travel journalist, you should aim to remove the first few layers of a place before you sit down and write.
Imagine you’re writing about a friend of yours. You might find her to be stressful, revved up and high-strung. But surely there are other sides to her. Maybe she has an endearing smile when she talks about her kids. She may always fall asleep on the couch in the evenings. And maybe she’s a passionate horse rider. These are the little particularities that make her into the person she is. However – you’ll need to see beyond her appearance to unveil them.
I compare places to people quite a lot actually. The English language allows you to call a city ‘She’. Once you apply such an identity to a place, it tends to become easier to find words to describe your destination of choice more accurately. An example of taking this to an extreme can be seen in this text by Kate Copstick.
She describes her passion for Venice in this delicate way:
I grew to goosepimple at the sexy slurpy little noises that rise from under her skirts as you walk down a canalside. I loved how tightly she would hold me as I pushed into her tiny, shadowy passages. I loved the visceral scent of her fishiest places – like the Rialto market. I would run to Venice and she would wrap herself around me and make me happy.
Now, my advice is not necessarily to go to the extreme that Kate has in attributing human characteristics to a place. But it is certainly a process that may help you kick start your creative flow!
If you’re thinking of revving up from travel blogging to travel journalism, check out number 2 in our serious on DIY Travel Journalism.
Even more travel journalism DIY tips can be found in part one of our series which focuses on how to make money as a freelance travel journalist.