With summer travel options on the horizon, seniors are looking to expand their travel experiences, often on an inflexible budget. One way to do that is to travel like a travel writer, experiencing wherever and however you travel with fresh eyes and fresh insight.
Veteran Seattle-based travel writer Nancy Mueller does just that. Whether she is consulting with a corporate client or researching a post for her travel blog at wanderboomer.com, Mueller is taking notes.
Now in her 60s, Mueller's travels have taken her to various points on the globe, from Egypt to the Galapagos Islands, from Key West to British Columbia. She is also a member of the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association.
LifeTimes asked Mueller for some tips about how a traveler over 50 can start to broaden their travel experiences by thinking like a travel writer.
What are the skills someone needs to become a good travel writer?
One of the top qualities of any writer ... is curiosity. You have to be interested in whatever experiences you're having and the people and the location.
How is that curiosity helpful?
That curiosity often leads to asking questions (from which you) gain a deeper understanding of your travel experience and not just skimming the surface.
What sorts of questions do you ask?
Approach it like a sensory detective. What are your impressions viscerally? What are the sounds — one of my favorites. Listen to the sounds of the environment. Could be people talking. Could be nature. Could be cars.
How should someone capture those sounds and feelings to use later in something they write?
We're all different. Sometimes, I type text messages on my phone. But I still have to go back and see what I've written when I get home.
Do you just use your smartphone for note-taking?
I love journals. They're very aesthetic. The right journal and the right pen and it just adds to the experience. You're more inclined if you want to take notes if you have a journal that is aesthetically pleasing to you. I find it does to me. I keep it (because) I might go back and jog my memory.
If you're taking notes, you'll make connections between one experience and another.
If you haven't done it before, sometimes getting started with a journal is a challenge.
You have to want to keep a journal. It involves going out, finding the right book, size, color. Sometimes, I'll have a very thin one that I can put in a small purse. Once people know you want journals for your travel writing, you'll get them as gifts.
Do you just take notes while you are out and about, exploring?
I might write some notes briefly at night to make sure things are covered.
When I get home, I go back and clarify things for myself. If you don't write down anything, you'll forget.
What about taking photographs for your travel writing?
I take photos with my smartphone. I always try to travel light. Phones are getting better and better. I've even had phone photos published.
Is it worth the time to always be taking photos when you're trying to have fresh experiences?
A photo helps you to have a record of the experience. It brings back the feelings of the experience. Plus, you can have a photo journal. It's a great way to extend your vacation when you get home. You get to relive.
Where do you find your best material for a potential travel article?
Get off the tried-and-true path — in a safe way, of course, if you're traveling alone. Be willing to act on that curiosity, not only by asking questions, but leave the map behind. Be willing to get a little lost so you can have new discoveries.
Do you do that, even after all these years as a travel writer?
I always step outside my comfort zone. My very first trip abroad was to Cairo, Egypt. I went as a teacher for a summer. The whole experience was definitely out of my comfort zone. The students invited me into their homes at the end of each day during Ramadan (Islamic holy month) as they broke the fast each evening.
How do you decide which comfort zone to step out of?
I look for a safe environment. Look for friendly faces. Look for people you feel comfortable approaching. Look for the place where you'll feel less intimidated. The payoff is so great. A smile goes a long way.
What if you're traveling to a place where you don't speak the language?
You will want to learn some words, but you don't have to be fluent. The more you learn, the better you will understand the culture. My experience is that people are more than happy to help if you're willing to make the effort.
How often do you travel for your travel writing?
Including local trips, once a month to once every two months. I took seven trips in 2016. Big ones. I take 10 to 12 other years.
Can someone sell their travel writing and make a living as a travel writer?
Making a living? I'm making my lifestyle. I know very few people who say they make their career out of travel writing.
But some people do. How? Any suggestions?
You have to have some kind of website — it doesn't have to be fancy — so people can go and see samples of your writing. Troll the internet. Do some research. Look up "press trips." Use Facebook, LinkedIn.
Any other tips?
Enjoy the heck out of your experience. Be the kind of person you want to travel with. You want to be a good ambassador.
Contact Fred W. Wright Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.