Travel Writing: 11 Research Tools - article

In today’s world, when you talk about research, you’re generally talking about the Internet. Some folks think that anything and everything they could possibly want to know is just a mouse click away. For some purposes, that may be true, but for travel research, there are other tools you can and should use. Let’s look at a few of these other resources:

  • Videos and Audio Tapes. Some of the destination-specific materials in these more traditional formats are excellent.
  • Maps, guide books and specialty guide books. The old-fashioned map is still a great way to research an area to which you are traveling, and resources like guide books and specialty guide books (eg. “Europe by Eurorail”) can help make your image of a destination country or area more “three dimensional.”
  • Lecture series, films, books. Very traditional, but useful nonetheless. If you live near a major university, keep abreast of what types of lectures, concerts (native music from your travel destination), presentations and such are occurring on campus.
  • Music CDs. When writing about an international destination, familiarizing yourself with the native music is a great way to immerse yourself in the culture. Other CDs may contain interviews, lectures and other helpful information.
  • Television. As pedestrian as it might sound, there are many excellent travel programs on television today. From the National Geographic Channel, the Travel Channel, The Cooking Channel and beyond, television is a resource you cannot afford to ignore.
  • Hard copy publications. Regional cookbooks, history books (even historical novels), photo books, books about regional or cultural art, travel directories, magazines and newspapers from your destination can be very informative.
  • Tourism agency promotional materials, travel company and travel industry materials are additional resources that you can exploit.

Apart from hard copy resources, there are these additional research tools:

  • Websites. Many destinations will have very good websites, some with the ability to receive inquiries by email.
  • Your local library. Still the best place to find sourcebooks, directories and publications that you want to use. And, since libraries today offer access to the Internet, you can kill two birds with one stone.
  • People. Talk to people you know, or to travel experts in your community. Don’t wait for the travel expert in your local media community to be featured in a public event, but seek him or her out. If they view you as a rival or threat, so be it, but that’s unlikely. 
  • Ethnic social clubs or churches. You may just find that some of these folks are recent immigrants, or are frequent travelers back and forth from you subject destination.

The bottom line is that the more you can immerse yourself in the physical and cultural environment of your destination, the more effective (and more marketable) you’ll be.

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  • Former Member
    Former Member
    Hi Joan -- thanks for the suggestion of an article topic. We'll add it to our list. To get a fully legal answer to your question you may have to check with an intellectual property attorney. I think the answer varies by what you are using in the book. Generally speaking (and note that I'm not an attorney) I think you'd be able to use a picture you take at a zoo if it's of the animals or such because it's in the public domain and it's a picture you took and have the rights to (as opposed to reusing a picture someone else took). If it's a picture of the zoo sign, with the zoo's logo and branding on it, that would be different and you'd need permission. As a starting point, if you search on "copyright" here on the ALC you'll find some articles that may help.
  • This is very helpful. If you wish to use parts of another person's work what is the best way to find that person and get permission to do so? If you go to a zoo, take pictures and use them in a book, do you have to get permission from the zoo? Please write articles on these subjects. Thank you.