What makes a good travel writer? Meeting readers’ needs for humanity

Oct 4, 2016   //   by Andy Ciofalo   //   Advice From the Pros, Craft of Writing, Travel Writing, Uncategorized  //  No Comments
Andy Ciofalo (ieiMedia Founder and President) is professor emeritus of communication/ journalism at Loyola College Maryland, where he arrived in 1983 to found what is now The Communication Department.

Note: This article is by Nancy Lohman. Nancy, a freelancer from Ormand Beach, Florida, was a student in his online graduate travel-writing course at Gonzaga University.

By Nancy Lohman

To be an effective travel writer, one must bring to the work a keen sensitivity to the needs of the audience, along the lines of Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of human needs.”

It begins with the most basic motivational need, the human desire to explore. Travel writing lets readers go to far-away destinations that they might never see. Renowned travel writer Pico Iyer shared advice he was once given by his editor: “The reader wants to travel beside you.” Travel writing on a very basic level takes the reader with you. It can also serve to prepare the reader. It can inform and educate the reader about how to travel, when to travel and where to travel.

As in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, once the most basic level is fulfilled, we continue to reach for the next level up his pyramid. Travel writing inspires the reader. It uses insightful observations to lure readers to escape their own world and lose themselves in the intriguing unknown.

Travel writing’s next level of purpose enlightens the reader about different cultures and helps the reader gain an appreciation for the differences in customs around the world. It broadens awareness and introduces the reader to the diversity in people. It can transform the reader into a more empathetic and more compassionate human being. It can help remove biases, prejudices and stereotypes developed through the narrow lenses of limited experiences. It can improve the reader’s awareness, tolerance and acceptance.

Travel writing can make a reader less fearful by enabling him or her to become more engaged with the world. It can make the reader wiser. You may not read travel stories with the intent to understand others better, but you will. Travel stories broaden a reader’s perspective. Travel writing brings the reader and the world together. “The flip side of fear is understanding,” travel adviser Rick Steves writes. “Your worldviews change when you meet others who feel their worldview is different than yours. Travel changes your ethnocentrisms.”

And most important, travel writing is an adventure in self-discovery, for appreciating nature and the beauty of the world. Travel writing can also help the reader evaluate priorities in life. Finally, travel writing can create a connection to each other. Readers can vicariously feel connected to a person, a place and an experience that enriches and expands them. Ultimately, at the top of the hierarchy of human needs, travel writing creates an influence and effect on the reader, who can become a better human being for having read a travel story.

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My experience in Urbino can be adequately be summed up by one very key Italian phrase: “Mamma mia!” The hills, the history, the pasta and the overall experience were such enjoyable eye-openers. Studying abroad is truly a priceless opportunity, and I know my time in Urbino will send me back to the states with a new worldview that will forever be with me.
by Milana Katic, Indiana University, Urbino Project 2012