Travel jwriting workshop in Berlin

In this article I’ll be answering the question ‘why join a travel writing programme abroad?’

To do this I’ll give five answers:

1. To enhance your writing ability.

2. A Travel writing programme abroad is a great way to explore a new city

3. You will gain first hand experience working as part of a team

4. There are many creative internationals on work / study abroad programmes

5. You can impress with your writing portfolio, as well as other developed skills and experiences.

1. To enhance your writing ability

Like many talents in life, writing ability comes through practise. Travel writing is one of many forms of literary expression. Reading the work of many prominent writers in this field will definitely improve your understanding of what makes for good copy, but there’s no replacement for actively producing articles of your own.

From my own experience, when I was eighteen I wanted nothing more than to be a food critic. My idea was to try to contact some of the UK’s most recognised critics for advice. My favourite food critic is the unashamedly cynical Jay Rayner who currently writes for the Guardian. Here was his advice:

‘Learn to write. Become a journalist. Train. Take a course. Freelance. All of that. Write about anything and everything and later on you might be able to move sideways into food writing’.

I have since tried to follow this advice and have written on many different topics. I am currently running a travel writing programme in Berlin. In doing this I still incorporate restaurant reviews as part of my journalistic output.

Why join a travel writing programme abroad
Writing inspiration – Jay Rayner of the Guardian

2. A Travel writing programme abroad is a great way to explore a new city

If you join a travel writing programme abroad, you’ll be reviewing, experiencing and researching a new city. Of course you don’t need a journalism programme to be able to travel to somewhere and write about it. However, the creation of a guide to a city with fellow team mates gives you great impetus to go out and truly explore the city. If you’re working as a group, it makes sense that only one of you reviews a certain place of interest, so you don’t have duplicate articles. This means the main sites will quite quickly be taken and so you’ll need to get creative with what you review, and here is where you’ll get some real insight in the city.

An example of this comes to mind:

Back in 2016 I wrote a travel guide to Berlin in a team of ten people. The main attractions, such as the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie and the TV tower were quickly taken by other team members. I decided to head out west to review the Nazi era Olympic stadium. On the way there I learned that this was already assigned to another member of the project. This was no problem, as after a bit of investigation I subsequently discovered that the Olympic swimming pool is open to the public, and I ended up swimming lengths with the haunting backdrop of unchanged Nazi architecture looming over me. This made for a really rich article for the guide.

This is how you can end up really exploring the city – when your’e pushed to get creative and review some truly niche places.

Travel writing programme abroad finding niche spots
The hidden swimming possibility at the Olympic stadium

3. You will gain first hand experience working as part of a team

There are many different facets to making a collaborative travel guide to a new city. Those who join a travel writing programme will gain invaluable team work experience.

You’ll need to establish and agree upon:

  • The theme and audience of the guide
  • The name of the guide
  • Who will review which sites
  • Which team member will edit the guide
  • Who will design the guide
  • Who’s in charge of collecting the photos for the guide
  • What’s the word limit for each review
  • Will there be feature length articles

Assigning all these roles and making sure everybody is on the same page gives all the team members some proper experience in collaborative work.

During my past projects I have seen people with polarising concepts of how the guide should look and read develop their abilities to listen to each other and find compromises. The writing workshops that I run always try to accommodate people’s different ideas and voices and make sure that everyone is heard.

Those on the course were predominantly aspiring writers. They definitely honed their writing ability and style, but also learned that a publishing effort requires editing, content creation, content management, give and take and team spirit.

Travel journalism classes in Berlin
Our July 2019 team members meet at our welcome meal

4. There are many creative internationals on work / study abroad programmes

When you set off on a programme abroad of any kind, you will of course experience the culture and people of the foreign lands that your’e study / working in. On top of this you’ll mingle with people from many different countries who are on the course. When specifically on a travel writing programme abroad, you can meet creative internationals who share your interests, which is great. But of perhaps more value, are the ones who bring something different to the team and can give some otherwise hard to find insights and talents.

On my first collaborative travel writing project in Berlin, I arrived with the assumption that the others on the course would, like me, be aspiring writers and journalists. What I didn’t imagine was that we would end up being a team of internationals who joined the project for many different reasons.

We had:

  • A girl from Scotland who was an authority on the Cold War and wanted to write about and discover Berlin’s modern history
  • A reporter from New Jersey who already had a 3 year career covering major news events
  • A lingustics major from California who specialised in native Indian dialects
  • A graphic design specialist from Jamaica who made our travel magazine look amazing
  • A photo journalist from Italy who took some stunning photos to go along with her reviews

All of this creative talent made the project truly rewarding, and I’m still in touch with many of the people who were on that team and keeping up to date with their latest work.

Our 2016 Travel writing abroad team
Travel writing project members at the 2016 Berlin fan mile

5. You can impress with your writing portfolio, as well as other developed skills and experiences.

Joining a travel writing programme abroad is a great way to kick start your writing portfolio, or add to an existing one. My one month projects culminate in the publication of a travel guide with its own unique ISBN number. For future applications for writing jobs or internships this is an invaluable accompinement to your CV and cover letter.

Anyone assessing your credentials can see that you’ve already actively participated in working projects. Additionally, when asked about the programme you’ll be able to point to first hand experience in project planning, editing articles, content creation Etc. The fact that you completed this project abroad also serves to indicate that you’re adventurous and don’t mind leaving your comfort zone.

When I found the job in Berlin that enabled me to make my dream move here from the UK, the majority of my interview was spent talking about the travel writing project which I undertook during the summer before my last year of university. It was interesting from the employer’s viewpoint as I was able to articulate many of the skills I had developed on the project. However, more importantly, I believe, was that they could see the passion I had for the time spent abroad, the people I’d met and the creative work I took part in.

Our students work together to write a travel guide
Collaboration on the July 2019 Berlin Travel Guide

Where did all of this lead?

Since the beginning of 2019 I have been running my own travel writing programme in Berlin – Treetop Travel Journalism.

We also offer those on our programme interactive German lessons, graffiti workshops and customised tours of the city.

Register for one of our writing projects




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