You can’t. You either are or you’re not.
Now before all you aspiring travel writers out there argue with me, hear me out…
I’m not calling myself a travel writer either. Never took to the craft. I even went to a travel writers conference to try to become a travel writer. I even joined a travel writers group. None of it took.
Travel writers remember the names of trees and streets in order to describe a scene. They write down the details. I forget the names and locations of every restaurant and monument. And I don’t bother learning much of the local history to put in context what I’m seeing as I traipse around the globe.
Basically, travel writing ain’t my thing unless I mostly talk about me being in a place, like I did in Italy. (See Days 146 to 163 of this blog.)
While I’m not really much of a travel writer, I sure like travel writers. Yes. I. Do.
Stories happen to travel writers when they travel. Then they write them down. That seems to be how it goes. If a story doesn’t happen to you, you’re not meant to be a travel writer. Done. Move on. Write a screenplay or a poem or something.
When I have traveled with travel writers, we’ve been witness to accidents on the freeway and children getting so stuck in the mud in the park that the firetrucks show up.
We’ve been interviewed on a local TV show about how we feel about Dr. Seuss (I know… random… they just showed up with cameras) and witnessed forest fires just starting to blossom (Wasn’t us, I swear).
Free concert tickets have appear suddenly in our hands, whales have jumped clear out the water just as we cruise by and seals have taken naps on our beach blankets (“Is that your pet, miss?” “No, we are just friends.”).
The guy leading us down the hiking trail has a hook for a hand (and a bumper sticker on his truck that reads Chicks dig scars. No joke.) and the snow plops down so fast that a quick visit with friends turns into a slumber party.
We’ve been walking down a street minding our own business when suddenly, we’re swept up in a peace rally, which isn’t very peaceful at all, by the way. Scared the bageezus out of me. Peaceful people are scary.
We’ve been picking out flowers at a garden shop when men storm by with bloody heads, flags and fire extinguishers in their hands, demanding retribution from invisible perpetrators.
Basically, stories happen when I’m traveling with a travel writer.
And when I’m not traveling with a travel writer? It’s good, too. Calm. Touristy. The weather is usually nice. I get a few snapshots. It’s a fine time. But with a travel writer it’s an astonishing time.
Traveling with travel writers is where the juice is. That’s where it all goes down so your travel companion can write it down and share it with the world.
I don’t know how it works. I don’t know what angels are working on the other side to make all this happen, but I’ve come to believe that it is one of those laws of the universe that says if you’re meant to be a travel writer, such amazing stories happen to you that you are compelled to write them down.
If this describes you, then please, for the love of God and for the sake of your future fans write them down.