Why I Travel Writing Process and Tips

My Travel Writing Life

travel writing life
Written by Duke Stewart

Writers often feel paralyzed when trying to write about a familiar subject. – Don George, Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing

This is primarily a story about my travel writing life but also an insight into how you can become a lifelong traveler as well. Thanks to a mixture of people and places, I’m a completely different person and appreciate every single moment. Focus on life’s precious moments over physical things and that’s the first step to setting yourself free. Pay attention to your surroundings and I’ll guarantee that something special will appear from the most unexpected place.

My Travel Writing Life

I’ll never stop writing about my experiences and the places I’ve been, mostly because I’m afraid of forgetting them. Life moves too fast for our minds to keep up these days, and writing is the best way for me to keep tabs on it. Now that I’m older and have witnessed things and places only previously found in books and magazines, I have to write down memories or else they’ll be forever lost. This is why I’m recording everything and keeping track of my travel writing life.

My Passion

Life Through Travel Writing Kampot Cambodia

My passion for travel writing started out of fear but has grown into a never-ending desire – a need to keep moving and remembering. Do you know what it’s like to be afraid to press send on a pitch letter or publish on your latest post? That’s me but I keep on trying every single day, thanks to the inspirational idols I’ve followed throughout life. There are so many lessons I’ve learned but the most important one is to value life’s experiences over one of things.

How did it start?

Life Through Travel Writing Koh Chang Thailand

I grew up with a totally different disposition but don’t really fault anyone for that. My father came from a different generation that was just starting to accumulate wealth after the terrible depression that gripped the United States. Thankfully my wife and I have grown to appreciate experiences over things, and that’s where travel has helped. How did it all start for me? Wait a minute. Actually that’s not 100% true because my parents did their fair share of hauling me around, now that I think back my earliest years.

Everyone has a story

Marble Mountain Danang Vietnam

Everyone’s got a story about a road trip to point B far away from home, but that was my life from day one. We always moved around, long before my parents’ eventual divorce and the instability that resulted. Christmases and Thanksgivings always meant driving between my first home in New Jersey towards grandparents’ houses in West Virginia and a variety of my maternal relatives in North and South Carolina.

Japan

Vietnam Hoi An Fisherman

After finishing college and really not wanting to join the scary job market, I decided to increase those already high student loans and go for a master’s degree. Why not? Who knows or cares about interest rates when there’s money and the excitement that comes with graduate school? Barely a year into it, a friend pretty adamantly said he was going to Japan, and that I should too. I did some thinking about it and knew that would be more debt but this was basically it.

Eye-opening

Kyoto Japan Fushimi Inari

I went for it and experienced a year in Japan filled with memories I’ll look back on as more than a study abroad stint. I learned first-hand about living in a completely different place. It was tough and though I didn’t travel much outside of Tokyo, I always credit that year as that eye-opening I’d always needed. Can you point to a time like this?

Writing as a process, not an event

Life through Travel Writing Boseong Green Tea Fields

Thanks to my continuing graduate coursework, I kept in touch with a teacher who cared about writing and wanted his students to feel the same. Dr. Holbrook taught me to write in a functional way and edit the hell out of everything before calling it complete. I’ll never be able to adequately repay him but will always pass writing as a process, not an event to anyone within earshot. I’ll always owe you one, Dan.

Korea

Pai Thailand Mor Paeng Waterfalls

I spent a few years after returning home without any focus and walking as if life were a daydream. Drugs and alcohol came along as I walked through a series of dead-end situations. Then I ran into a friend who was on vacation from his job teaching English in Korea. He was persistent and told me to get back abroad, which I finally did after convincing Christina to come along. Between a break at home that coincided with our wedding, she and I spent four years in Korea and accumulated tons of experiences and very possessions during that time.

“Travel” anywhere

Life through Travel Writing Christina in Carrboro North Carolina

We returned home for good and this time, there’s no chance for a fall back into our previous habits. She and I are here as lifetime travelers, whether the destination is another country or the next neighborhood over. It took living abroad and exploring other countries to realize that there were so many places in my own homeland worth exploring. These past few years have taught me that travel is not just about living in a different country or some exotic destination. One can explore anywhere and not just faraway places.

Travel is not a race

Life through Travel Writing Bali Rice Terraces

I’m ready to experience the U.S. and the world like a person should. Maps are everywhere on my walls with plenty of spots marked as future destinations. I’m very lucky to find this conviction but honestly, it’s possible for everyone. Even if you’ve never visited or lived in another country, city, or state, I think you can do it. Too many of us look at travel as a race but it’s really just an expression of curiosity for our surroundings.

Thank you

Seoul Korea Changdeokgung Palace

You might not be so lucky and are probably thinking that I’m just the product of fortunate circumstances. That’s partially true but I had to start listening to the people and positive forces out there working for me. If I’d have continued ignoring them like before, none of this would’ve ever happened. Thanks to all the people and places I’ve met and seen, I can have a travel writing life. With the same patience and keen eye, you certainly can too.

Read some of my latest travel stories and let me know what you think along the way. I love responding to comments and connecting with people like you. Also, take a look at the subscription box at the top of your screen. I love connecting with people via email and give away something for free every week! 

My Life through Travel Writing by Duke Stewart

About the author

Duke Stewart

I'm a writer and recovering American expat who shares my family's travels through life. Follow our adventures here and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

18 Comments

  • Hi Duke,
    after you left your friendly comment on my blog today I had to check yours out of course 🙂 Very impressed, looks super good, but I’m sure you here that all the time. Love how you’re working with your wife Christina, seems to me like a perfectly working team! Keep up the good work!
    Kind regards,
    Neelie

  • I’m so glad I found you from your comment on my blog! I love your outlook! I’ll be catching up on your blog that is glamorous enough for me:) Roars to you!

  • I started writing my blog to share the fabulous places we see with my family back home. We are spending a couple of years touring in a caravan and I love the new sights, tastes and experiences. I need to keep a record for me too! Even something as relatively small as an old doorway in a historic town can be fascinating. And, as an avid reader, it’s always fantastic to walk through where a great book was set, or to open a book and realise I know that street because I’ve been there 🙂

    • That’s such a wonderful summation of why you’re doing this, Stephanie! I’m so intrigued to read more about your life on the road. Are there any particular spots historical that have hit you hardest?

  • Great post! After finishing university I didn’t write anything for about 5 years, but always felt like I wanted to be a writer. I thought I’d eventually get around to it so when I started to read travel blogs it gave me the push I needed to start writing myself. I want to move into other kinds of writing at some point but I think travel blogging is a great way to hone your craft.

    • Certainly agree with you, Jon. I too found myself in a writing rut after university and all the papers that came with that experience. I had no desire to write anything down even through my first experience abroad, in Japan. However, coming to Korea has started that fire and now convinced me that properly looking at the U.S. through words is necessary. Were there any blogs in particular that got you excited or was it seeing so many of them?

      Thanks for commenting. Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

  • You’ve so elegantly stated how it takes going far away in order to come back and better appreciate our own country and all there is to see and to. Inspiration will never run out if we don’t let it, whether it for for travel or for writing. You’re cultivating a great mindset for that 🙂

    • Thanks for the compliments, Jeri. You’re totally right that it will run out if we let it. I hope that my mindset doesn’t change upon returning home but for now, I’m ready to do this and see the U.S.!

  • Hey Duke,

    Well life is full of journey’s in some way shape or form right!

    Although my parents were married up until my father’s passing, we did travel to both grandparents homes taking turns about which one we visited during the holidays and over the summer. Eight hours in the car with three kids can be a nightmare for most.

    I’ve never been adventurous like you but I did settle for the corporate world. It really wasn’t that bad and I didn’t complain a lot about my surroundings. Over the years though they did seem to get worse only to the extent that you’re SO underappreciated for the work you do. I applaud anyone who at an earlier age can map out their lives to include something they thoroughly enjoy doing.

    So you’re headed back to the states soon. I hope you’ll be happy being back home and enjoying the surroundings at least for a bit.

    Thanks for sharing your story with us, as you know we recently met so I’m learning this about you for the first time.

    I wish you the best and have a great week.

    ~Adrienne

    • Oh man, 8 hours with 3 kids? I bet you’ve got a story or two from those experiences. My parents must’ve been grateful for just the one during those times, though I did like to ramble on about nonsense for a while. I definitely agree with you about feeling underappreciated and I think that’s what got me most. At the end of the day, we’re all replaceable in that situation so trying to cope with that was the hardest part.

      I’m not too sure about what the future holds but hopefully it will be as fulfilling and lifechanging as the previous 4 years have been! Thank you for stopping by and commenting! I hope to stay in touch, Adrienne!

    • Hiya Christine! Thanks for the compliments. They’re much appreciated:)

      Yeah, I kind of feel like a loser for not traveling enough when in the U.S. so this run is going to be a bit of a redemption tour. My hope has the same goals so at least I’m not alone in it.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Hi Duke,
    I hear you about wanting to put everything down when you travel, so many things slip through your memory if you don’t take some time to write it down! I also can relate to reverse culture-shock after I returned from Japan. Such a different perspective on things I thought were “normal”!
    It does take a long time to get life to work the way you want it to, but it’s worth the wait. Keep writing!

    • I am happy and also sad that someone went through the same issues as me as returning home. It looks like you got life back to normal though, huh? How long were you in Japan? I bet you’ve got some cool stories about your time there. Thanks for stopping by, Heather. I hope to stay in touch!