Confessions from a Novice Travel Journalist

by Michaela Mulligan

Boo Radley's was one of the many places I got to explore while gathering content for my travel journalism stories.

Boo Radley’s was one of the many places I got to explore while gathering content for my travel journalism stories.

When I signed up for this course, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I saw Travel Journalism as one of the course options and it didn’t really have a description so I figured I would try it out and see. What I didn’t know is that I would be the youngest in the class with the least amount of experience. At first this scared me; I was fully prepared to receive a bad grade in the class and never do travel journalism again. However about half-way through the term I realized that I could do it and hold my own in a class of mainly upperclassmen. I had to challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone and create stories that required more than research online.


The idea of going up and talking to strangers scared me the most while working on my stories and still frightens me to this day. No matter how much preparation I did, I ¬†would still get an anxious feeling in my stomach that lingered even after I finished the interview. To say this was a challenge would be an understatement. I had to let go all of my anxieties about talking to people I don’t know for the sake of getting my story done. What I found, however, is that most people are willing to talk to you if you explain what you’re doing. I would rehearse in my mind what I would say when I would approach someone to make sure I said all the right things. For all of the stories I did, I was able to find people that were willing to talk to me. To ease my anxiety I would focus on how I would get to gain a new perspective by talking to someone I didn’t know before. Talking to strangers still is uncomfortable for me, but at least now I’ve got more experience to rely on.


Not only did I gain more experience with talking to strangers, but also with taking photos and video. In high school, I began my interest in photography while working on the yearbook and have continued to capture snapshots of other people’s lives. Posed photos are boring to me; candid photos, I believe, tell the story better. With my stories for this course I challenged myself to take photos of people when they least expected it. I want people to look at my photos and feel as if they could’ve seen it for themselves. This meant some awkward encounters with strangers glaring at me while I tried to take photos of them. Somehow this didn’t bother me because I knew it would get me a better shot that would compliment my story.


As for video, I still need to work on my cinematography skills. Aside from videos made for projects in high school, I’ve had no formal training in making videos, let alone good ones. I tried to draw from what I’ve seen in professionally made videos and use that style in my productions. While my camera work is really shaky and the sound is not great, I’m satisfied with the story telling aspect of my videos. I know if I had better equipment the quality would be better, but I had to work with what I had. What I liked most about the videos is that they added a visual and audio depiction of the story I was covering. Someone who is reading my story can easily view the video and get a better feel for the place I’m covering, beyond what I can say with words. Without multimedia elements, I feel my stories would not be as effective.


Although I don’t have much experience with travel journalism, I think my short stint with the subject has given me some practical experience I can use in my journalism career. For others interested in travel journalism, I would say you have to be willing to venture out of the confines of your circle of friends and usual stomping grounds. It is called travel journalism; you’re expected to get off your computer and experience new places.


Planning ahead is essential to getting the best story possible. The more planning you do the faster the story will get done and it’s less likely there will be any problems. Plan, but go into the story with the mindset that your focus can change. For one of my stories I went in with one idea and came out with a more focused and better story than I had before. Inspiration can strike anywhere, so be ready to go in a different direction with your story. Don’t get discouraged when a story doesn’t go your way or your first idea isn’t that great. It’s all part of the process of creating good and valuable content for your readers.


Being a travel journalist for a month has allowed me to visit new places within the area as well as try a different style of writing. While I don’t plan on being a travel journalist in the future, I’ll definitely consider writing some more travel journalism stories.


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