Tips to cut out misrepresentation and avoid narrative biases in your travel writing

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I noticed the mood in the writing group shifted as the four of us moved further down the Google docs comments on my personal essay of motorbiking the Ha Giang Loop in Vietnam. I was submitting the story for publication. We stopped to discuss subsequent notes: beware of romanticizing; passive characters; be careful of the Noble savage.

I had done something wrong in my writing.

Worse was that three other writers could see a gap in my writing about travel experiences that I hadn’t noticed — I’d marginalized a group of people, assumed their voice, and painted passive people through…

This mother’s day all I wanted was to hug my mother. I wanted to make up for the 602 days since our last embrace. The reality is, as I imagine for many others because of COVID, a celebration at a distance. Unfortunately, our distance happens to be the Pacific Ocean, with more than 8,000 miles between Denver and where I live in Da Nang, Vietnam. As my mother passively told me she wanted to cancel mother’s day this year, I knew another gift of ordered flowers and chocolates wouldn’t make up for my absence. …

Photo by Thomas Brath Photography

I thought I knew kindness. I thought I knew how to give selflessly and appreciate being given to, and then I found myself as an outsider at the head of an Almsgiving ceremony in Luang Prabang, Laos.

It was dawn and I headed to the temple as my hostel had advertised how the people of the town came together every morning to give alms at the Wat Mai. It was an act of providing for those in need, specifically the Theravada Buddhist monks. What they received in the morning was what they would eat for the day.

The people made…

A story of bagels, cloning, and an appreciation of a good ass

Our story begins in the heart of the Bronx, New York City, inside a bagel shop, where Cardi A, the up and coming American rapper has just taken her first bite of what will become her favorite snack in the world — the pizza bagel. The bite was so good that Cardi A felt the surge of something new, something better, she had read an email to change her life forever.

“Awww shit,” the rapper said covering her mouth with the jewel topped, sharp-tipped fake nails glistening blue…

With new eyes this space has changed

Photo from Rose Hedberg

Challenge: write an expose about where you spend 95% of your time giving five new observations of this space and answering a given “what” question from a fellow writer.

I am Rose and I am trying again. Trying to be right, to understand, to see this permanent view clearly. With new eyes this space has changed. The three strands of Christmas lights hanging above are off-center and to the right. They each flicker according to a different timer — unintentionally. On the wall between the dog’s door to the patio and the full-size door there is a shadowed gap where…

The unsuspecting couple took a moment to realize how inappropriate their third Tinder date was having been arranged for the zoo when neither of them wanted or had kids.

Photo from Frank Mckenna from Unsplash

Challenge: create a scene in which someone plays an April Fool’s Day joke on a stranger.

“There you are,” Archil Hukleberry said to the unsuspecting couple.

The young couple turned toward Archil as he approached. Their faces held an expression of bewilderment and embarrassment as the strangers came closer. Archil was not alone. For every quick beat and frantic step Archil took there were the clumsy steps of a six-year-old boy…

Creative stories written in 15 minutes.

There are tons of publications out there covering the ins/outs of all things business about writing — we’re not one of them. There are publications for click-bated, high-clap, essays — we’re not one of them. There are publications for how-tos and best practices, but you guessed it, we’re not one of them. That’s just not our thing. We’re all about writing because we want to create.

The stories found within the Ideas Write Now publication have all been curated and written in the tight time frame of 15mins. Why? Because a deadline means forgoing perfection and jumping into creation. We…

She held no knife like that of the other ladies — her cut had been made

Photo from Pascal-debrunn

Challenge: use one specific object to describe an experience you had in a foreign place.

The lifeless eye lashes caused me to stop. The meat market was full of abstract body parts and repugnant smells. Repulsive for sure, but I could handle most aspects. This was Vietnam and a few months had afforded me the ability to handle strange smells and new eating habits.

The full face of a pig, however, was shocking. Like a mask, the face was idle and staged on the corner of the metal table just passed the entrance where Tom and I bought our vegetables…

Sammy fidgeted as she looked at pictures from her youthful middle-school years — an unwanted time capsule on sale for $8.99

Photo by Laura Fuhrman on Unsplash

Challenge: someone goes to the second-hand shop to buy (item from a fellow writer)when they notice something on the shelf, (another item from a fellow writer), in which they’re convinced is from their childhood.

Sammy had been on a kick to find something unique to put on her new bookshelf. She had just moved into the south shore studio where all that fit was her bed and a bookshelf. She was proud of how the warm wooden shelfs added ambience to her place, but four books just wouldn’t do. …

Why I’m choosing to stay despite USA advisory to return home.

Photo from

Socks and sneakers for the beach hardly seem as odd as the necessity for sanitizer and a face mask, but I can’t find my sandals and wearing a mask in public is a government mandate. I tie my laces and take a deep breath before opening my front door and lifting my surgical mask above my nose. There is a gate just beyond my front door, which is common in Vietnamese houses to keep out thieves and keep in motorbikes, but nowadays it’s the extra distance from out there. …

Rose Hedberg

Creative non-fiction writer, host of the Ideas Write Now creative writing workshop, permanently an expat without a kindle. Stories at

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