One of the biggest challenges of travel (especially for those of us who travel a lot and/or live abroad) is connecting with friends and family who aren’t experiencing the same things we are. We want to connect and share our lives with them, but bridging that gap can be difficult.
So, here is a list of ten travel writing prompts to help you connect with your loved ones who don’t travel. Whether you use them to write a post card or a blog post, hopefully they bring you a little bit closer to the people who matter in your life.
- Write about what you’re experiencing in terms of your emotions and reactions, rather than focusing on the place. This goes against common thought for travel writing, but your loved ones care about you more than the foreign destination. Write about yourself, because that’s what they want to connect with.
- Describe an interaction you had, rather than focusing on the place. We all have interactions — the concept of connecting with another human is comprehensible, relatable. It’s easy to connect with, and easy to respond to. Write about a conversation with someone you’ve met.
- Write about a gaff, a social faux pas where you’ve messed up. If this is due to a lack of local knowledge, even better. Sometimes, stories about travel can be interpreted as bragging to those who don’t have the privilege of travel — telling a story about how you messed up can help with this. Plus, admitting you weren’t an expert on the region connects you with your non-travelled friends and family (who might be self-conscious about their own ignorances).
- Write a how-to guide about something in your daily routine. It can be hard to picture life abroad, which creates distance. Knock the distance away by telling them how you buy phone credit, how you shower, how you cook breakfast. Share the ordinary, mundane details — it’s not all that different from their lives, anyway.
- Draw a map of the city where you are, with the landmarks that matter for you. Write them a mini-guidebook, not of the tourist attractions, but of the places that matter to you — where you live, where you buy bread, where you like to walk at night. Like a world map at the beginning of the fantasy novel, this is what makes it feel tangible. Describe the little corners that make up your world.
- If you’re living abroad, write a letter about a friend — their name, where they’re from, what they’re like. Give details, enough that when you tell other stories, your friends and family at home know who you’re talking about. Give them the inside scoop. This is one to keep personal — letters or emails, not blogs or published writing.
- Write a recipe for a favourite dish you’ve tried abroad. Write it for a specific person you’re missing, with details that will apply to them. Use the measuring cup with the broken handle, you know, the one from the third shelf. Pour these spices into this foreign grain, but cook it in the pot your brother bought you. Intertwine your lives through food.
- Select a collection of photographs, taking from your point of view, from throughout your day. View from the kitchen window. View from the hotel door. View from the remote desk at work. View from the bathroom. Not the Instagram-ready shots — the honest ones. Write descriptions for each one, of what it’s really like. Focus on your routine, if you can, so that your people at home can imagine — what ceiling are you looking at when you wake up? What is the background noise where you’re working from? Make it less foreign for them.
- Write a short story that hinges on a few words in a foreign language. Teach them a few words that matter to you — I promise, they’ll remember them. Let them into the “insider knowledge,” the local lingo. Like an inside joke, knowing these words brings them into your world, and makes them know you’re a part of it.
- Draw a map of your travels, and write directions to go with it. Surprisingly often, our friends and family just aren’t really sure where we are, and that automatically creates distance. Don’t make them do research just to find you — draw a map, write about how you got there, what the travel was like. Where exactly you are now. What’s across the street? If the internet died right now, how could they get to you? How would you get to them?
If you happen to use any of these prompts and post the results anywhere, please include the link back to this page, and let me know! I’d love to read what comes of this, if anything, and would love to share your writing, as well!
Want more travel writing prompts? Check out my list of 10 Travel Writing Prompts (To Handle Reverse/Return Culture Shock)