How to Write a Globetrotting Novel
Written by
She Writes
July 2019
Written by
She Writes
July 2019

This guest post was written by Rachel Linden, author of The Enlightenment of Bees

As an international aid worker I’ve traveled to over 50 countries so far. Travel is a cherished part of my life and a vital aspect of my writing. Each of my 3 novels features a globetrotting heroine and highlights some of the amazing places I’ve seen on my own adventures. I adore getting to share these special locations with readers! But it’s not easy to write a good travel novel. There are some big pitfalls that can trap an author. Here are my top 5 tips for writing a great globetrotting novel.


1. Visit the locations you are writing about if at all possible. There’s just no substitute for actually being in a place, exploring with all of your senses, and then using your experiences to add flavor to your stories. All the research in the world wouldn’t have told me that the metro stations in Budapest smell like fresh baked apple strudel (it wafts from tiny bakery kiosks located at the top of the escalators!) Nor would I truly have been able to describe a sky the shocking purple color of morning glories on a remote Bolivian mountain top.

If you are able to visit your book setting locations, make note of all the sensory details there. What do you hear, taste, feel? What emotions does the place elicit? Don’t just stick to visual descriptions; give your readers crisp multi-sensory details so they can see and hear and taste these places too.

2. Supplement travel with research. Even if I’m writing about a place I know well, I fact check, study photos to refresh my memory, and read up on history and cultural customs. If you can’t travel to the place, do extra research. Interview someone who’s been there recently. Make sure you use a variety of research methods - articles, photos, maps, videos, in person interviews, etc. Listen to the language and learn about the food, weather, festivals and religion of the place. This will give your writing strength and confidence as you include these authentic details.

3. Weave the place details into the story without using too much or too little. Your location is the backdrop that adds an extra element of zest and appeal to the story, but it's easy to overdo it. I’ve read several books where I felt like I was drowning in so much detail about the location that I couldn’t manage to find the plot! Wading through paragraphs of place description was frankly boring. It weakened the plot and eventually I lost interest in the story.

I’ve also read some stories where the setting should have added great appeal but the descriptions were so bland and the location so underutilized, that the entire plot could have taken place in a cardboard box! Too little detail is as boring as too much. If you’re going to use an exotic location - Chiang Mai, Rio, Reykjavik - spice up the story with vivid, specific details about that place. Even less exotic places can become powerful settings for a story if you can transport the reader there with specific, well-chosen details. Think of details like herbs and spices. You want them to enhance but not overpower, the storyline.

4. Try to orient your readers using familiar details about the place. A tricky aspect of writing successful travel fiction is that you need to transport the reader somewhere foreign but make the foreignness accessible even if your reader has never been there.

It’s a simple fact; readers do not care about a story if they can’t relate to it. You don’t want to write an exotic globetrotting book that a reader who hasn’t traveled much cannot connect with. You want to make your story relatable.

Part of making a travel story relatable involves making your locations relatable. One way is to mention a famous landmark. It can help readers feel as though they already know the place because they are familiar with something there. The Eiffel Tower in Paris. Big Ben in London. You can also include a few other well-known details that the reader can instantly recognize (think food, festivals, famous people), along with more obscure specifics to flesh out the setting.

5. Use your settings to kick up your plotline a notch. Every time I write a scene, I think about where it will take place and then ask myself if there is a better, more interesting setting I could use. Breaking off an engagement in a nice restaurant is fairly humdrum. Breaking off an engagement while dangling hundreds of feet above the Seattle waterfront in the glass capsule of a Ferris wheel is decidedly more intriguing! Use your locations to make each scene more engaging and unique.


Remember that at the end of the day, people don’t read novels solely to travel to a new place. People read and love novels that have characters they can empathize with and feel connected to as well as strong, engaging plots.

I love great travel stories because of how they make me FEEL, not just where they take me around the globe. So use those amazing locations as captivating backdrops to your story, but make sure that at the heart of your story you have empathetic characters engaging in relatable human drama. This is the most crucial key to enticing readers to come along for the ride, wherever you take them in the world. 

Rachel Linden is a novelist and international aid worker whose adventures in over fifty countries around the world provide excellent grist for her writing. She is the author of Ascension of Larks, Becoming the Talbot Sisters, and The Enlightenment of Bees. Currently, Rachel lives with her family in Seattle, WA, where she enjoys creating stories about hope, courage, and connection with a hint of romance and a touch of whimsy from her 1985 Westfalia camper van named Max. Visit her online at; Instagram: rachellinden_writer; Facebook: authorRachellinden.

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