Travel Writing: Finding My Voice

What’s the key to travel writing? How do you break into an industry that so many people want to be a part of? More importantly, how do you separate yourself from the hoard?

Travel Writing

Having written for the Fashion Tech industry, had a story about life as a raft guide published, and traveled around the world, it can’t be that difficult… Right?

It’s here, at this awkward intersection that I find myself and my writing. Blogging fell out of my routine when we moved away from New York; outside of the UNDO story, writing in general has been almost nonexistent since I started guiding. So what then is my angle? Where is my voice as I approach my third year on the water, just returned from Iceland and finding myself deeply motivated to share my experiences with others beyond my closest friends and family?

The key, so I’ve read, is in separating yourself from the common traveler, that there is an emotional difference in travelers able to share their experiences with the world. I can do that. So why haven’t I?

As I watch the Intagram and Twitter feeds of my favorite travel magazines, the inundation of photos, reviews and mediocre concepts, I realize that the key to travel writing is to separate yourself from those standards. To write in the same vain as a travel publication is one thing, but you can see for yourself among the poorly-lit hotel rooms and over-edited selfies that even getting recognized by these brands is about who you know. And that’s not me. Would it be cool to say you know someone at the top travel mags? Absolutely! But at what cost? In a 30 under 30 story about outdoor photographers, I cringed as children were featured, not because of their prodigal ability to find beautiful light and inspiring dimension, but because their parent(s) were well-known, published, photographers. To me, it isn’t cute.

Photo via Paige Hogan | @PaigeWilhog
Photo via Paige Hogan | @PaigeWilhog

I learned quickly in New York that getting ahead in certain industries was all based on who you knew, and it’s part of the reason why I didn’t pursue a career in PR. Of all the lessons though, New York also taught me if you’re true to yourself and you believe in what you’re doing, it will be hard to stop you.

So that’s what I’m doing.

Between this blog and The Eddy Folk, my goal is to share stories with you that aren’t like all the other travel blogs. Yes, there will be reviews, I’ll tell what gear Paige and I like, and there will be a ton of photos, but the voice will be different. These stories won’t be series-upon-series of listicles made famous in the Buzzfeed generation, and they won’t be full of drone footage shot in some remote corner of the country. These blogs, these stories, they’ll be told from the ground-level. Looking you right in the eye and reaching for your heart, the purpose of the Freelance Rider and The Eddy Folk isn’t to soar above you as you sit behind your screen, rather to invite you on our journey, to encourage you, and share all the Earth has to offer as we explore it together.

If you want to be a travel writer, go write. Don’t set your sights on writing the same garbage everyone else is, just be you. If the magazines like it, they’ll find you… Because you’re that good.

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For more adventures in tapping the travel industry, follow The Eddy Folk on Bloglovin’ and don’t forget to find me on Twitter!

The Veiled Woman

I don’t know her name, I don’t know who created her or what she was made of.

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Walking through the famous Louvre, on a hurried three hour tour to see the greats of the museum, one sculpture caught my eye; a veiled woman, standing isolated at the end of a display, solemnly gazing at the crowds inevitably passing her without a second of consideration.

To say art speaks to people is a cliché to be avoided, yet, regardless of reasoning her hollow gaze pierced me, calling me from the crowd to pause a moment at her feet. I took pictures, I lost myself in question and simply stood in her presence, thanking this seemingly avoided woman for reaching out to share this brief moment together.

Paris was beautiful, and the Louvre was more than I could have ever imagined, but in the midst of the Mona Lisa’s fame, and the classic romance of the French capital, she stopped me in my tracks.

Among the Michelangelos, the veiled woman looked into me, and asked me what I saw.

Want to know more about our trip to Paris? Destination: Paris over on The Eddy Folk has a look at how we maximized our short time in the City of Love

The Eddy Folk

What happened to the Freelance Rider?

Life..?

For those of you that have wondered, or been wondering, what happened to the daily posts, why it’s been an eternity since my last post, here it is:

The Eddy Folk

Photo via Paige Hogan | @paigewilhog
Photo via Paige Hogan | @paigewilhog

Together, Paige and I have been chasing dreams of backcountry adventure, mixed with the art of slow living and garnished with a few of the finer things in life. Which doesn’t sound much like raft guide life, but guiding is actually what has launched the pursuit.

So what does that mean for this site?

Two things:

  1. I have a ton of opportunity to draw inspiration from everything that happens in this new outlook on life, AND,

  2.  There are two places to find out what life has in store for us as we make our way through this adventure writing, rafting and photographing every step along the way.

As a part of my resolutions for 2017, I told myself I would turn attention back to my writing, discover the voice that’s been developing in this time off, and bring more to each of you.

If you’ve been with me from the beginning, I thank you. If you’re just discovering the Freelance Rider as we enter this new chapter, welcome, and don’t forget that the adventure continues together over on The Eddy Folk!

Want to see the adventure as it happens? Instagram has everything from recaps real-time Stories available!

The Never Ending Honeymoon

There is no way that Paige and I are unique to this notion, but we want to know why the honeymoon should end just because it’s time to get back to work and, as everyone else is putting it, the real world?

Now just over two weeks married and fresh off our trip to Japan, I’m reflecting on the way we worked our way through Japan, how the honeymoon was so perfect and how that translates into the future. No gimmicks or self-help books, just maintaining the level of adventure that has come with our marriage and what will ultimately make us happier.

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The first level, or lesson learned if you want to look at it that way, that I’ll start with is the language barrier.

We hadn’t been in Japan for 20 minutes before we made a friend that turned out to be a baseball trainer from Japan that had lived and worked in the US and was moving back home to join his wife. He helped us navigate the airport so that we could exchange vouchers for rail passes and get on our way to Karuizawa. He joined us on our first train, and along the way asked if we knew any Japanese.

Beyond konichiwa and “Domo arigato Mr. Roboto” we had nothing.

He laughed and was astonished that we would make our honeymoon in a place that we didn’t speak any of the language, but that’s what works for us.

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Why would you want to go somewhere that you already know? That principle is why I believe that Paige and I are capable of continuing the “honeymoon phase” that everybody claims will disappear. We like adventure, and we like to overcome the uncomfortable moments in life, like being immersed in a culture that it turned out we didn’t know as much about as we thought we did.

Granted, the Japanese were very accommodating and English though broken is a pretty solid second language, especially in the heavier tourist areas.

There will be more to come from the trip, but I would leave you with this: Japan provided a great deal of time to reflect on what matters, as well as provided a chance to step way outside the comfort zone; I would encourage you to take every opportunity to do the same.

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I hated to leave the land of the rising sun, but it’s great to be back. I’ll have some great stuff coming your way soon as I roll back into the swing of things.

Image collaboration with Paige

Honeymoon Hiatus

As many of you know, I got married!

And since we’re honeymooning in Japan, it’s been difficult to blog without convenient wifi. It probably wouldn’t be too fair to Paige either if I spent all my time writing.

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Luckily, tomorrow is a travel day, leaving picturesque Karuizawa for Kyoto and hopefully some time to get a post queued up for you guys back in the states.

I’ll have a ton to share when we get back, so if nothing else get excited for that! You can also follow our trip on our Instagrams @PaigeWilhog and @JGWilb!

Finally, a word to the wise: a smile and a little bit of respect can take you a long way, even with a ridiculous language barrier.

United Glitch is Huge Win

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You may or may not have heard, but United Airlines has stepped up in one of the classiest moves I’ve seen in response to a website glitch.

The glitch? Last Thursday, United’s website offered flights for $0. For the price of a security fee, you could travel the country for little more than pocket change. That’s right, $5 flights.

The best part of the story though, came with the company’s announcement that it would actually honor the tickets sold during the glitch. You may think that it’s a no brainer, but when there are potentially thousands of dollars being lost, the decision to honor the tickets is huge.

So why would United agree to lose all that money? Not only because the glitch was their fault, but now United has elevated themselves in the role of the good guy as traveling seems to get more expensive. What could be a better way to boost your brand’s customer service than by acknowledging a mistake and allowing effected customers to reap the benefits?

Ultimately, the United ticketing glitch is a win for everyone. Those lucky customers that frantically bought cheap tickets will get travel experiences they otherwise wouldn’t have had, and United got press from every news outlet in the country while soaring to the top in customer experience.

Glitches like this obviously don’t happen everyday, but if you aren’t traveling then you’ll never see an opportunity like it. If nothing else, use this as the sign that your life needs a little more travel in it, and go on an adventure.