Travel Writing with Emotion

The May 2008 issue of The Writer magazine has some fantastic articles on writing. One of the best is “Step by Step: A Fresh Eye and Busy Feet Make a Travel Writer” by John Smolens.

In this article he offers some out of the box ideas for writing about travel. He suggests making incidents during a trip into an article. The idea is to narrow the focus, avoid the chronological technique, and write about one moment that really strikes you for whatever reason. Emotion and fiction writing techniques should be employed according to Smolens to make the account of your experiences stand out.

I have traveled to Washington, D.C. on a couple of occasions. As a history writer it was one of my favorite and most interesting places to explore. To try out Smolens’s idea I have taken one moment on the trip and attempted to let my emotions and personal thoughts roll onto the page. The result is a short non-conventional travel story. Here it is,

(Above: Incredible photo by Josh Lane, Chicago, used with permission. Check out his Flickr site at:

“End of Innocence

The flame flickered gently in the cool summer breeze. As I watched silently my mind traversed the years.

I was a fourteen-year old high schooler at the time. Even then I was hooked on history and loved reading everything I could. I was lucky to have had a couple of history teachers who could make it come alive.

It was Friday afternoon around 2:00 p.m. and some of us had just come in from a physical education class outside. I remember coming in and being asked to sit on benches in the hall. It seems the principal had an announcement to make.

As those unbelieveable words came over the public address system that President Kennedy had been shot and killed in Dallas, Texas, I was in shock. Not sure how to react some of us kidded around, then looked sheepishly at each other and silence ruled.

Now I was at his gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery standing among a crowd of strangers. Like me they were quietly reflecting. We weren’t strangers in this moment. Even the young children with no idea of the event, sensed the silent reverence of their parents. As my eyes traveled over the words engraved below the flame, “John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 1917 – 1963”, the sense of loss was overwhelming. Here was a man I didn’t know other than through television and newspapers, but I felt like he was a friend. I missed him so much. I reached out and gently placed my hand on the stones imbedded in the site.

My mind replayed the graphic images over and over. Kennedy slumping forward, the gore of the kill shot, and his wife retrieving his brain matter from the trunk of the Lincoln. On that sunny November day a wife lost her husband, a young daughter and son lost their father. It was the end of my innocence.”
#### Steve B. Davis, May 2008

I found this experience eye-opening to say the least. I intend to try it out again. Look back through your souvenirs and photos of trips and have a try at this technique. Many thanks to John Smolens for the article.

6 Responses to Travel Writing with Emotion

  1. stamperdad says:

    I usually buy both Writer’s Digest and The Writer, but I think I will just be picking up The Writer except if there is an exception article in the Digest. I am starting to like it more and more, The Writer that is.

    Appreciate you reading. I am very pleased the way I was able to remember my visit. I used the photos I took as I was writing to get in the mood. That was another tip of his.

    All the best – keep up your great posts too.

  2. That’s a fine piece of writing- easily known that it left an impression on you. It’s so much easier to write when you care about something, versus something that you have no interest in.
    I think you’re right about writing: it’s much more effective when you pick one element of a trip or event and break that down,also concentrating on what the event/place did for you emotionally. Otherwise it dilutes the impact, at least in my experience of reading.
    I love The Writer magazine; I get it from the library from time to time.

  3. stamperdad says:

    Somehow I managed to capture my true emotions of actually visiting the gravesite. Because I knew so much about the event, I thought it would be nothing much, but then the emotions came through and I realized what an impact it had on me. Thanks for reading.


  4. Cindy Davis says:

    wow awesome writing. It sent shivers up my spine. Your best work yet!! Cindy

  5. stamperdad says:

    I am beginning to discover that remembering how I was affected by travel experiences are sometimes more important than the mechanics of the travel. Appreciate the comments.


  6. weirdits says:

    Interesting take, you did very well! I think experiences from youth gain power and meaning over the years.

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