To all of you who feel like imposters
I like to think of myself as a travel writer.
But sometimes I feel like an imposter. A useless one, polluting the Internet with yet another story nobody asked for.
When you start writing online, you quickly realize that your work should add value to your readers’ lives. This feels more achievable in articles that make lists of productivity hacks or life-changing books. But how can a travel writer honor her readers’ time and give them something that will make reading worth it?
Can we, travel writers, add more to the world than self-absorbed stories of our last backpacking trip? How, exactly, do we do that?
After pondering for a while, I found two ways.
1. Make them travel, make them dream
It took me a while to come to terms with this.
I get to tell the story of my trip to Bosnia and that still classifies as adding value to people’s lives? I would tell that story anyway, maybe at a dinner party, or on a date… So, how exactly am I adding value?
It was only when I did the exercise of switching roles that I realized the importance of this: as a reader, I love to know about other people’s travels. I want to know about their experience in the mountains of Afghanistan, in the Namibian desert, or in the remote Pacific islands with the indigenous people.
I have never been to any of those places, so I live through them. I read, I watch, and I get excited, discovering new places, cultures, and people. It’s the next best thing to traveling there myself.
Plus, it has the incredible power of making me dream.
And, sometimes, dreams become reality. In early 2018, I spent every free minute of my time watch travel videos online. A few months later, I grabbed my camera, put my stuff in a backpack, and started my own travel vlog.
If I hadn’t watched all those videos, I would have never had one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
As a travel writer, you have the power to change lives. You can bridge thousands of miles with your words. You can take Asia to South America and Africa to Europe. You can shed people’s fears, and you can teach them to be kinder, more open, and tolerant. If that is not adding value, then I don’t know what is.
2. Give information when you’re a master
I struggled with this too.
Why would a reader come to me to get travel recommendations? There is already a gazillion of pages online with all the information anyone needs on any place on Earth.
Why would I add to the chaos?
But I think there are two occasions when this would be useful.
#1: You are a master of the place
I grew up in a town 40 km north of Lisbon. A couple of months ago, I wrote an article called “4 Beautiful Day Trips From Lisbon, Portugal”.
I visited these 4 places countless times over the years. I also visited many other towns around Lisbon, which are not as nice, interesting, or charming as the ones that made the list. I knew what I was talking about when I sat down to write.
Of course, you don’t need to live all your life in a place to be a trustworthy source of information. But if you do know a place well, you are certainly doing a service to people by sharing. There are always new travelers looking for tips in a certain destination.
#2: Your readers trust you
I follow World Nate on social media. A few years ago, he and his partner spent a month in Kotor, Montenegro. Some months later, you can guess where I was…
I went to Kotor because I felt I could trust Nate. It was as if I knew him, and I believed we had similar travel styles. I was not wrong: Kotor is, to this day, my favorite place on Earth.
Studies show that 83% of people are more likely to follow a recommendation if it came from someone they know. When you create content regularly, especially if you add a personal touch to it, this is exactly the kind of feeling you will create in your readers, the feeling that they know you.
So when the time comes for them to pick their next trip’s destination, they will hear what you have to say. They will even hear you more attentively than established publishers, with whom they don’t have a “personal” connection.
And they will also refer you to their friends, just as I am going to do now, pointing you in the direction of some of the best travel content creators I know:
In today’s world, it is easy to mistakenly identify value with productivity, success, or money. And travel articles are far from providing any of that to readers.
But, in turn, they provide something much more precious: the possibility to learn, to dive into different cultures, to discover the wonders of the world, and to connect to the essence of being human on this vast, beautiful planet.
Travel writer, you certainly are contributing to a better world with your words. Don’t ever question that again.