Travel Memoir

Do you feel a bit cooped up sometimes – that you want to stretch out a little? Put some kilometres behind you on the highway? As restrictions ease many of us have been itching to go somewhere. Other than the supermarket that is – people watching can only go so far.

How about creating some rich memories to look back on. And even better, to record them! Instead of looking back and thinking, Where the hell did that time go?

Have you ever had the experience of a few days away, maybe a week or two, in a special place? It may have been extraordinary in some way. A time when you think about, brings a smile to your face and a warm glow within your being?

Preparing ahead of time will not go astray. Some basic planning on how you’ll go about it will allow you to capture your adventures without interfering with your enjoyment.

So here we’ve compiled some tips that we hope will help get you started on your first travel memoir.

If you can only take one device with you, it should be a smartphone. Not just great for photos (as we’re all discovering) but the quality of modern mobile phones allow you to take notes quickly and easily. They can track where you have been and you can even geo-tag images with the times and locations the pics were taken. You can also dictate some notes when you’re in a hurry.

A necessary addition to this is a car charger, and maybe a power bank/portable charger as well (make sure it’s a well-known brand and charge it before you go).

A more powerful tool for writing is a laptop. Or you may know your way around a tablet (the electronic type). There are many types of these devices available now that are robust and with long battery life.

Whilst electronics can be a convenient way to take notes and chronicle your travels, you may prefer the old-fashioned method. A small notebook needs NO plugging in, adds virtually no weight and is readily available at the flick of a pen.

So capturing these memories has various options: video, photo, audio and of course, written. Remember that words are powerful. Words last.

So that sums up briefly, the HOW of it. Now, what about the WHAT? What are you going to say? How can we avoid some beginner’s mistakes and what makes a great travel memoir?

Engaging travel writing is not so different from an engaging short story. You should have a clear beginning, middle and end. The beginning needs to capture the reader’s attention. Dive into the action. There’s an old adage that says, ‘Make a scene of it’.

Writing from the first-person is usually good because by its nature, it’s personal. Hopefully the reader will relate to your struggles and dreams.
The middle of the story is more pedestrian and provides the details and chronology of your journey.

It should explore the emotions of the writer, and detail the experience using the senses. Take the reader with you. Describe locations vividly, bring out the excitement of a new discovery, the smells and sounds, the people you meet, the ups and downs of the journey.

The end of the memoir should wrap things up and give the reader a sense of closure. If you can find a surprising gem, keep it for the end. You can discuss what was learned or reflect on the journey as a whole.

Focus on some of the bigger questions of your trip. Did the journey meet your expectations or change your outlook in any way? Did you achieve anything or learn something new? A good ending often ties back into the beginning of the story, but with a larger sense of the whole.

If you want to learn more about memoir writing, take a look at Life is a Story: How to write your memoir by Mark Koehler, founder of Life Story Writing.

Also check out Travel Writing by Don George with Charlotte Hindle in their excellent Lonely Planet book.

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