I was able to attend the Women in Travel Summit this past weekend and it was spectacular! I learned so much my head is bursting. What is WITS? Head here to get the full scoop. It’s exactly what the name suggests, a coming together of women travel writers, all networking, sharing, learning and experiencing new places together. Not only did I make some amazing connections, I also was inspired by the goals and stories of the rockstars who are dominating the travel writing and blogging world.
There was one panel that particularly stuck with me, and that was a conversation between two Canadian travel bloggers who spoke about issues of diversity and the struggles for nonwhite, non-male, non-cisgender travel writers. The panel included Oneika the Traveler, a travel writing sensation and Anubha Momin the creator of the blog Finding True North.
My biggest takeaway from the discussion was how to share someone’s story. The right and wrong ways to go about it. As a freelancer and travel blogger, I conduct a lot of interviews. And I love to listen and share people’s stories. But, at the end of the day, sometimes the article is still about me and my adventures, instead of truly capturing the stories and lives I’m interacting with.
With travel writing, when it comes to story sharing, it’s a matter of “listening instead of leading”.
Interview 101 for freelancers says to have a list of questions prepared before you meet. Your time and your interviewee’s time is precious, so you want to make sure you get the most information you can to help with your article. If you’re writing an article as a freelancer, there’s a good chance you are looking for quotes to back up your statements. You’re not necessarily trying to tell the story of the person you’re talking to. They are a valuable resource and that’s about it.
But for travel writers and profile writers, the story and the person should be the main component. You’re not looking for just quotes, you’re reaching out to tell a story. Hence the listening instead of leading, which is one of the things Oneika discussed.
If you truly want to hear someone’s story, you need to listen. Obviously! But even the most well-intentioned writer may go into an interview and all their questions skew the article in a certain direction, instead of letting the conversation progress naturally. Letting things progress authentically and giving your interviewee full control of your time may lead to some new insights, take your article in a direction you never even imagined, and inspire on whole other levels.
I love sharing stories, but I need to perfect that listening instead of leading the conversation. It’s a matter of being in travel writer mode vs. freelance writer mode. People are, after all, the heartbeat of a place. And everyone has a story worth sharing.