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TRAVEL THRILLS (AND CHILLS)
By Roberta Beach Jacobson in Karpathos, Greece

A notice in a recent newsletter of Budget Travel Online grabbed my attention. It was a simple request: “We’re asking readers to scan or snap a digital photo of any evocative, thrill-inducing passport stamps from far-flung countries. E-mail the images to letters@budgettravelonline.com with the subject line ‘passport stamps,’ and we’ll post the best ones online.”

Wow!

Travel writing has forced me to embark on adventures I wouldn’t otherwise be nutty enough to consider. Memories came flooding back as I flipped through the pages of my last two passports.

I’ve crawled around silver mines in the former East Germany after border guards refused to give me an entry visa (they informed me the CIA would be suspicious of the stamp in my passport).

I’ve had my hair pulled by angry flea marketers in Spain, intent on selling fake designer watches to tourists. I’ve had my passport confiscated by officials on a dark street corner in Romania and I’ve been chased by the Mafia in an Eastern European country I refuse to name.

In all my adventures in 11 European countries, I can’t remember a single trip that went as planned. Trains were late. Hotel rooms were cramped. Restaurants were closed for renovation. Concerts got canceled and operas were sold out. Tour guides were rude and tourist shops overpriced. Buses had flat tires or ran out of gas. Planes got fogged in. And those were the more successful journeys.

I admit it: I’ve shared bus seats with chickens and hotel beds with fleas. I’ve slept on railway station floors and in hallways. I’ve been spit on, cursed at, held at knife point, grabbed, pinched, and kicked.

A travel writer’s job is pretty clear cut. We must capture enough sights, sounds, and smells along the way to translate into words that create travel articles.

Here are a few ways to turn those experiences into saleable travel articles:

ARTICLE TIP #1: End your travel article with your personal anecdote followed by a related travel tip such as, “So be sure to secure your credit cards in a zippered money belt instead of your back pocket or purse when you explore the streets of XYZ.”

ARTICLE TIP #2: Let the lighthearted piece stand alone as travel humor. Have fun retelling it. There’s no particular lesson to be learned, it just lets readers laugh about your misfortune.

ARTICLE TIP #3: Include your unusual travel experience as a sidebar to a destination article. Since your article gives the specifics of where to go, what to see, and how to get there, your this-crazy-thing-happened-to-me sidebar breaks up the monotony.

As you travel around and collect those entry and exit stamps in your passport, I hope you’re having as much fun as I am!

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Roberta’s travel articles have been published in Travel Smart, Transitions Abroad, The Educated Traveler, International Living, The Athens News, The International Railway Traveler and JustSayGo.com. She has contributed to travel books by Lonely Planet, Survival Books, and Travelers’ Tales.

Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]

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