While writing an essay or story, many travel writers save the beginning for last. As the outline builds into prose, they’ll pay careful attention to the climax—or at least to one of the more entertaining parts of the story—and find a way to build an introduction from there.
Writing in medias res is a form of nonlinear storytelling that begins the text in the middle rather than starting from the top. You’ll describe your scene or event to pull your readers in, then circle back to it at another point in your narrative.
My favorite example is from the film The Prestige. The first scene shows us dozens of black top hats cast away in a forest. The narrator asks, “Are you watching closely?” and as we progress through the film, the purpose of the top hats is explained.
Examples from Travel Writing
Below is an example from our blog:
Five of us made our way through the jungle single-file, led by a teenage guide. It was just past midnight, and whether the sky was clear or cloudy, none of us could tell—the thick rainforest canopy blocked all light. Insects chirped, buzzed, and hissed as our small group clumsily pushed past overgrown brush and vines, holding one another’s t-shirts and elbows to stay on track.
This story chronicles my adventure in preparing for a volunteer trip abroad, and how all of my research and studying had little bearing on what I actually encountered. This opening drops you alongside me and my fellow volunteers midway through the essay.
Think about the best vacation you’ve ever taken. Write five things about that vacation that immediately pop into your mind. These can be smells, sights, a delicious food, a new activity, a wonderful person you met—anything that pops into your mind.
Now take one of those elements and write a 200- to 400-word description of it. Try to convey the atmosphere for your reader so he’ll feel he’s standing right next to you: what did you see? Hear? Smell? Taste? Feel?
This alone may work for an introduction to your story. If you don’t think you’ve quite hit the mark, outline the rest of your essay and determine whether another event naturally pops out a little more to you.
You may find you have no need for an outline or for five points of interest—oftentimes the first memory that pops into your head when thinking back to your best trip will make for the perfect introduction.
Try out a few and see what happens!
About the Author
As the editor-in-chief of Frayed Passport, my goal is to help you build a lifestyle that lets you travel the world whenever you want and however long you want, and not worry about where your next paycheck will come from. I've been to 20+ countries and five continents, lived for years as a full-time digital nomad, and have worked completely remotely since 2015. If you would like to share your story with our community, or partner with Frayed Passport, get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Featured image via Unsplash.