Experiencing the event can be more fulfilling than focusing on photographing it. While I do love food and travel photography, the final piece that I wrote ended up being about an experience during which I took zero photos. A writer is able to pay more attention, take better notes, and just generally get more out of the experience when not having to focus on both. It helps to appreciate how important it is to have both a writer and photographer on the scene for major stories, so each can focus on one task and perfect it. That being said, it’s important to focus on learning how to integrate the two so you are able to do both if the situation or story calls for it.
Travel writing can be whatever you want it to be. Turns out, there is no one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter story in travel writing. There are so many angles to explore when you’re out there in the world, don’t limit yourself to just one type. It’s all about your audience. Ask yourself: who are you writing for? Why would they want to read this story? Why are you the one who should be telling this story? These questions were my main focus during my final piece and will be my focus while I pitch it to publications.
Sometimes an assignment will drive your interest in the subject, sometimes the subject will drive your interest in an assignment. You won’t always be assigned a story that you are immediately passionate about. My passion is food and how it intermingles with the culture of the area, but that wasn’t the subject of every assignment. Some were as simple as differences that struck you upon arrival and some as complicated as writing a vignette on a vendor at the largest flea market in the world. Learning someone’s story made the entire subject more interesting, even when the angle wasn’t the subject I am most passionate about. It’s important to broaden your horizons and be passionate about the entire experience over limiting yourself to what you assume the experience’s focus will be.
Taking chances and opening yourself up to new experiences is the most essential aspect of travel writing. One night in Paris I went out of my comfort zone and took a chance. With the encouragement of Kathleen, our guide, I agreed that our server could bring us whatever food he thought was best from the menu and a bottle of wine to go along with it. During this meal, for the first time in my life, I genuinely enjoyed seafood. (Apparently I only like seafood prepared the French way. haha) Stepping out of your comfort zone will allow you to have experiences you never thought possible and lead to you having better stories to tell in your writing. Your audience doesn’t want to read about the same safe, touristy experience everyone has written about. Opening your world to new things allows your audience to do the same.
Food and Travel Writing is my passion now more than ever. I’ve always lived vicariously through food and travel journalists, storytellers that bring the whole world to your fingertips. Storytellers like Anthony Bourdain taught us bring to the forefront cultures and people that are unlike us and to focus on what’s similar rather than driving us apart. This understanding is what I want to bring to the world- the gatekeepers of media can no longer prevent us marginalized people, writers and creators of color, from telling the stories of the world because we can take on the digital frontier. It’s time to continue having these conversations about food and culture, and not allow western society, or society at large, to oppress the voices of the rest of the world anymore.