Crafting Stories

    Normally, the beginning stages of crafting a story often involve having a brainstorming session, during which you gather information and develop possible scenarios. You’ll add as much info as you can to the whiteboard and then sort through it later.

    Images, ideas, and copy that answer questions like: What does the setting look like? Who are the characters? What do they do? What drives them? What do they see? How do they change and grow? What do they learn?

    Now apply this mindset to travel. Your audience members are your main characters. The setting is where they are going. The supporting characters are the people and the culture they’ll meet. And you need all of these, because not only do they make a story viable, but again these are what interests adventure travelers the most.

    So when brainstorming, if all you have to add to the wall is a picture of a mountain, or a guy on a jet ski, your protagonist’s story, in this case Thomas', just isn’t going to have any substance. Meaning he’ll have little to no emotional excitement or investment. You could easily trade out that mountain for a different peak and a horse and it wouldn’t make much difference.

    Now, let’s look at the opposite. Say you load up on details. You go crazy.

    • You interview the local free diver who had an encounter with manatees earlier in the year rivaling a spiritual experience. And while there you find out why he free dives, how he got started, why he loves this area, and what he’s looking forward to in the future. 
    • You research and detail the local festivals, their meanings and histories, and offer event-goers strategies on how to max out their experience.
    • You sit down with the local elders and record a discussion about the area: the changes, the stories they remember, the growth, the good times. You find a way to document and present each of these gems in a way that grips readers with talons of emotion.
    • You work with the local forest service to develop a Top 10 Dangers list for hikers to know before heading out on their next trek.
    • Not satisfied, you create a fish taco food tour (or whatever food is popular in your area) and post it to your website, including grading sheets, a map of possible locations, and suggestions on judging.

    Can you see how, already, just these small efforts are fleshing out your location?

    Need a real-life example to get you started? Look at National Geographic and Outside magazine as models. A top read for Thomas and other adventure travelers, these basically lay it out for you. If you aren’t familiar with the magazines, definitely take the time to read and study them thoroughly. They give great insight into who ATs are and what we want to read.

    Again, what keeps adventure travelers focused on a place are the other elements that make up that vision. We want to see what our story is going to look like. And the more information, the more real it becomes to us.

    So, put a little effort into the romance. Woo us with backstory. Show us what possible characters we'll might meet along the way. Flesh out the setting.

    Seduce us with story.

    Need Specifics?

    Because we know that adventure travelers' goals are nature, activities, and culture, we need to set the stage, give them action, and introduce the locals.

    Set the Stage 

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    How do you develop the setting, the space in our minds where the adventure takes places?

    With pictures?

    That’s a start.

    As Instagram, National Geographic, and most standard-issue computer backgrounds prove, we love jaw-dropping shots of mountain ranges dominating the frame. 

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    But are ribbons of purple canyons enough to inspire adventurers to traverse the globe, hauling bags, family, and friends?

    Maybe.

    However, our world amazes, with no shortage of breathtaking views vying for attention. You’re up against infinite contenders and can’t just be another pretty face working the crowd, hoping for a break to grace the stage.

    Unless Thomas is for some reason completely captivated, he’s not going to make the effort. It’ll remain on the “To-See” List until additional reasons come along.

    You need to make it happen.

    Case in point: Right now, The Pink Lake in Australia is on Thomas' Must-See list. As is the Cave of the Giant Salt Crystals in Mexico. In fact, he’s made a point to show both of these to friends and family, because of how unusual they are. But in the next two years, neither Australia nor Mexico has claimed a spot on his itinerary.

    Why is that? These two sites are the real deal. Geological anomalies. Shouldn’t they warrant a little more priority?

    Perhaps. But, right now, other places and things to do matter more. His reasoning ranges from researching generational roots to consistent winds. And while the spectrum swings wide and seems nonsensical, if not spontaneous, at times, a constant exists. Each location on Thomas' list lives on as a story in his mind. He can envision his life there. He’s imagined it, at least once.

    But he’s never imagined a life in Mexico. Not even for a day.

    There just hasn’t been enough story material resonating with strong enough frequencies to make it a contender. And Mexico is a neighbor.

    Want your locale to be more than just a screen saver? Images grab the attention, but the challenge is to keep it. You need to build a bridge into that world, one we want to cross. And that involves multiple (story) boards.

    Give Them Action

    Image1 Patron moves like he’s been partying at the bar all night.

    His hooves rise slow, and then fall fast and heavy to the ground, his horseshoes seemingly forged from cement. A slight kick to his ribs results in his slide glance that says, “Who are you kidding?”

    Once or twice more Charlotte tries this, and he gives her a half step of energy like a smart ass and returns to his meandering.

    The origin of his name is no mystery. It’s obvious. Her horse is a drunk, and this is as fast as he’s willing to go.

    But she’s good with this. This near-crawl gives Charlotte time to absorb the Patagonian landscape that has left her silent and in a state of hyperawareness since arriving at the Argentine gaucho ranch. 

    Life here edges out new extremes of intensity. Massive and high contrast. Craggy stretches of rock, in varying shades of tan, resembling gnarled fingers, shoot out of the earth. Mountain peaks force her eyes up, along their ridges into an impossibly blue sky.

    Even the silence finds a new scale of enormity. In the entirety of this vastness, there are only two sounds: the soft cricking of the saddle and the sloppy strides of her horse trudging through the dirt. 

    A veil of white ash dusts the landscape. An ominous reminder of the volcanic eruption just a few years before that blinded and killed thousands of sheep—the main source of income for the area.

    As her guide Jesus explains the extent of the area’s crippling, Patron and Charlotte meander past a joint bone, the only remains of once-thriving way of life.

    ***

    Want to get the attention of ATs? Spellbind us with story, then give us the information how we can step into it ourselves.

    Introduce the Locals

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    The sun starts settling low, and the rum-and-cokes follow suit. Five o’clock at Fisherman’s Hut Beach strikes a quiet hour.

    Kite schools shore up their gear. Mostly, things calm. The water, the vibes.

    All except Allie, always excited and always talking, rapid fire, about classes, about students, about anything and everything that comes to her mind that runs 90 miles an hour.

    She pours another drink and drapes her tan frame on the lounge chair next to Rebeca. The two women watch as Allie’s youngest straps into a harness and launches her kite. Minutes later, Chloe’s a black shadow racing across the water, the sun an orange glow behind her.

    Allie sighs, content.

    This, the Dutch-native explains, is why she wanted to raise her family in Aruba. This open space, this connection with the water and nature, this life.

    She recounts her journey here, the decisions, the love for her husband and daughters, and how the island became a part of her. Impossible to stay away from.

    As Rebeca listens to this mother, this woman from a place that, through similar conversations and other sunsets, she’s grown to love, Rebeca feels blessed. This is why she travels.

    For these moments. These connections.

    ***

    Connecting with people from other cultures is IT. It’s why Rebeca, and most adventure travelers, love traveling. Hanging out with locals (and nonlocals), trying their food, hearing their stories over dinner in their homes, continues to prove itself as the most gratifying of experiences and her favorite part of this nomadic life.

    Rebeca wants to see how people are somewhere else. She wants to see what they eat, what they love, how they live, how they raise their children, what their schools look like, what challenges they face every day.

    And while nothing substitutes for one-on-one interaction, you help can make the introductions.

    Give our friend a baseline from which to work.

    Need ideas on how to put these ideas into play? Check out my free ebook:

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