Use these travel writing prompts, initially created as part of the Wanderlust Writing Challenge, to help inspire your writing, dream up new story ideas, or simply get your creative juices flowing...
Welcome! You've landed on Wanderlust's travel writing prompts. Hopefully, you're sat at your laptop (or have your pen in hand) and are ready to write.
Originally created for the Wanderlust Writing Challenge, these prompts are designed to help you flex your writing muscles. All of them will help you to explore past travels as something to write about, and hopefully spark a few ideas for future stories, articles and journal entries.
Don't forget to let us know if you've used one of our writing prompts. Tell us @wanderlustmag on Twitter, or on Facebook. To find about the Writing Challenge, and when the winners will be announced, head here.
For your first prompt, let’s open up the senses. Write no more than three sentences about one of your favourite destinations. Include all five senses in your description.
What can you see, hear and smell? Was the sun shining, and did you smell crisp, clear fresh air? Were cars whizzing past in a bustling city centre, or were you struck by the wild roar of a lion on safari? What did you eat while you were there – how delicious (or not-so-delicious) did it taste? Did you touch anything – how did it feel?
Save your sentences in a safe place, like a Notes folder or a Word Doc, so you can refer back to them.
Often, our travels involve meeting kind strangers or quirky characters. Before you write about them, it might be easier to describe someone you know. Pick someone you’re close to – be it a travel companion, a friend at home, a family member, etc – and write out 10 words you’d use to describe them.
Think about their personality, the way they walk and talk, their laugh, not just their physical appearance. Now take two or three of those descriptors, and use them in a line or two about the person.
Reflect: Looking back, do you think you chose the best adjectives? Have any others popped into your head today, maybe that would be suited to describing the people you met on the road? Write them down and keep them somewhere you can look back on.
Whether print or digital, pull out your last (pre-lockdown) travel photo. Take a good long look at it – what’s happening in the shot?
Write a short account of that experience, just before and just after you snapped the photo. As much as you like, but a few lines is more than enough. What was it like? What were you doing? How do you feel about that experience looking back now?
Don’t worry about trying to make it sound ‘fancy’ – instead, imagine you’re recounting the experience to a friend or fellow traveller.
Reflect: Did you find it easier to write when you imagined telling the story to someone? Or harder? It’s great to journal and record travel experiences for yourself, but your entry at the end of the challenge is about writing a story for other people – friends, and fellow travellers – read and enjoy.
As we've learned, an engaging first line and paragraph is important for hooking the reader's attention. Especially when it comes to travel writing. So, here's a sentence starter to get you going.
Try starting a piece of writing with the sentence: Of all the things that could have gone wrong, this could only happen to me. You'll need to revisit a trip that didn't quite go to plan to make it work.
When we're travelling for ourselves, we don't often think to make a note of the conversations we have, though professional travel journalists and authors will often take a notebook and note conversations, times, dates and places.
For the latest prompt, try to write up what you remember of an interaction with a local, or a fellow traveller, from any past adventure you've been on. Where were you: haggling in a market? Meeting at a restaurant? What do you remember them saying, exactly? Can you only remember the outline of what they said? If so, jot it down.
What was it about? How did they describe things? Did you learn something from the conversation, and if so, how would get that across subtly in your writing, without saying it outright? Imagine how you'd recall the conversation to a friend or colleague, and try to write it that way.
Write as much or as little as you like. Keep your writing somewhere safe, so you can refer back to it.
On any trip, no matter how spectacular, there'll be high points and low points. You may be ticking off a bucket list adventure, or enjoying one of the world's great wonders, but nobody is immune to the annoyance of a delayed flight or missing suitcase.
Ups and downs are still part of our travel experience, whether we like it or not. So, decide which trip you'd like to write about (surely, when you think of a 'low point', one springs to mind?) and try to take your reader on a short journey, starting with the lowest point.
The purpose? To help you write a knockout ending - with the 'pay off' being the absolute highlight of the trip. What went wrong, and how did you get past it? Was it all worth it in the end?
Picture the worst weather you’ve experienced on your travels: biting cold, stifling heat or endless flurries of rain. How did it feel? Did you get drenched? Maybe it was so severe you had to seek shelter, or find a water supply?
Write as much or as little you like for this prompt, but you must start with a straight-into-the-action description of the weather around you. See where that takes you.
If describing the weather doesn't come naturally, make an attempt to one instance of pathetic fallacy. It's a writing technique where you attribute a human emotion or feeling to something in nature, like an animal or, indeed, the weather. Here's an example: The sandstorm raged on. Often, it mirrors the narrator's own feelings.
No pressure to remember conversations or practice literary techniques for today’s prompt! Phew. Today, we just want to focus on the kindness of strangers, which was also our theme for the Wanderlust Writing Challenge.
Simply begin a short (or long - up to you) piece of writing about your life, leading on from: The kindest thing anyone has ever done for me is…
Wherever you travel, however you travel, and no matter how long you travel for - packing for your trip is essential. Today's prompt is all about turning that unavoidable constant into something a bit more creative. It's simple: write as much or as little as you like about a packing for a recent trip.
Ever packed for a long weekend the night before, and argued with your travel companion about a misplaced passport? Felt overwhelmed by a to-do list for a trek or three-month expedition, and forgotten most everything on it?
How do you feel when you pack: are you calm and excited for the adventure ahead, or do you feel wistful as you come across old plane tickets and paper maps, as you re-pack your trusty travel case? Perhaps you simply hate this part of travel, and want to (comedically) vent your frustration. Put it all down on paper, and see where that takes you.
Keeping it simple with another sentence starter. Write as much or as little as you like about a travel experience, following on from: As soon as I landed in...
Foodie travellers, rejoice! This prompt is for you. Your challenge is to write a few lines, a short paragraph, about a particularly enjoyable foodie experience you've had.
A region or country's cuisine is part of its culture, and for lots of us, a big part of our travel experience. So, aim for lots of vivid detail: what were your surroundings? Was it made by a local chef? What did you eat? What ingredients could you taste?
Was when you ate it important (say, after a challenging hike), and how did it make you feel? And important, did you dare to try the national tipple after your meal?
Describe the most breathtaking, awe-inspiring landscape you've ever witnessed, putting our travel writing tips into practice.
Don't fall into the trap of over-fluffing your descriptions, with fancy words you'd never use in daily life. At the same time, make a real effort to avoid these all-too-common travel writing phrases. Time to stretch your vocabulary. Write as much or as little as you like, but aim for at least a few lines.
Your writing prompt today isn't about writing. It's about reading, which is incredibly important if you want to be a travel writer. Not just the work of others, but your own work, too.
Firstly, give yourself a pat on the back if you're here and you've used some of these prompts – challenging yourself to write when you're just starting out or are starved for inspiration isn’t easy!
Secondly, read through what you've written based on these prompts. Choose your favourite piece of writing and continue it - write the full story, flesh it out and see where it takes you. Enjoy.
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