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How to turn your travel woes into an engaging story

Face it: That story you’re telling your co-worker about frantically looking for rental cars while stuck at O’Hare is boring. We asked a storytelling expert how to make it a little bit more interesting.

The holidays are pretty much over and that means we’re back to work. For the many thousands of us who were stranded by terrible winter weather or flight cancellations around the country, it also means cornering your co-workers and making them listen to your travel nightmare story.

For the sake of everyone, don’t do it. Chances are you’re just gonna get glazed eyes and people actively avoiding you because travel stories are, believe it or not, boring.

“It’s like hearing someone else’s dreams. It means so much more to the person who experienced it, and everyone else is just bored,” says Soundside editor Jed Kim.

Soundside managing producer Sarah Leibovitz has her own holiday travel nightmare story that involves sleeping overnight at the Albany airport and driving to Newark to find a flight back to Seattle.

It was not particularly interesting, so we asked the founder of the storytelling program at Unexpected Productions improv school, Kent Whipple, to help her make the story a bit more engaging.

Whipple says that narrative description and scenic detail are critical to any good story. Leibovitz had the narrative description, like where she was and the time she spent there, down to a tee.

“But the scenic detail is kind of what we see while everything’s going on,” Whipple says. “So you want us to be in your brain. And you can do that by sharing details about — How are you feeling? What were you thinking? What did you want? And why weren’t you getting it?”

Whipple’s No. 1 rule of storytelling: Make people care about the storyteller, which you do by providing details.

Another potential problem with a travel story is that the ending can be anticlimactic. If you’re telling the story in person, you clearly arrived safely back at home.

Whipple advises storytellers to think of the stakes in a story, like why the trip was important or how you felt during the experience.

“We know the destination is getting home,” Whipple says, “but the journey is what makes it interesting, and that’s why we’ve told stories around campfires for a million years. We want to know what the journey was like.”

Soundside’s Leibovitz took Whipple’s advice into account and told the story below:

Sarah’s story about her travel nightmare


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Tricare west is a global news publication that tells the stories you want to know.

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