WRTG 3020 Topics in Writing: Travel Writing

Instructor Contact:

Daniel Levine

Email: danielglevine@colorado.edu

About the Course:

Traveling, we suspect, is something different from going on vacation. Vacation may be about pleasure, relaxation, luxurious exoticism, but traveling is a process of exploration, expansion, calculated risk, and self-discovery. Traveling is about seeing the world, but more importantly it’s about seeing the world—and your place in it—with fresh eyes. The “world” in this context could be a faraway locale, but it could also be someplace close to home. What matters is that the trip forces you to confront your beliefs and expectations, to press against the boundary of your comfort zone.

Whenever you travel and write about the experience, you engage with rhetoric: you are trying to win readers over with your story, and to convince readers to see the world through your perspective. In translating your travels into a written story, you begin to grapple with some essential rhetorical questions. What are your motives for the journey? How are you perceived by the people you meet? What is your impact on the culture/environment you are visiting? How much danger and discomfort are you willing to endure for the sake of the adventure and the tale you’ll be able to tell afterward? How does your journey, and the act of writing it down, change your view of “home” upon your return?

We will answer these questions together by reading and writing a variety of travel essays, and learning how to analyze the mechanics and effect of each story. You needn’t have traveled extensively—or at all—to write the essays in this class, for we will be studying skills and techniques which can be applied to more “ordinary” experiences. You must, however, have an interest in language and places and storytelling and cultural examination.

In this online format, I will model close reading and analytical strategies for you in mini-lectures which are you expected to listen to. In these short recordings, I will read aloud, and show you how to read like a writer, how to analyze craft and literary strategies. You will take these lessons and apply them when reading our travel essays on your own. Weekly discussion posts will ask you to reflect on your reading experience and share it with the class, then respond to your peers’ reflections as well. Peer-reviews of rough drafts will help you shape your stories into final drafts and learn to offer editorial critique.

Course Prerequisites: List course prereqs here: WRTG 1150 (I’m actually not positive what the department sets as prereq?)


By the end of the course you should be able to:

  • To understand the conventions of Narrative: how to construct a story out of your travel experiences that will excite, engage, and inform your audience. This will include the use of structure, pacing, chronology, dialogue, character development, and sensory description.
  • To Gain Rhetorical Knowledge of the composition process: This goal refers to a) analyzing the occasion, audience, and purpose of a piece of writing; b) using voice, tone, and structure to weave form and content together successfully; c) writing and reading in several genres; d) sharpening skills of analysis, argument, and inquiry to engage knowledge of ourselves and others. Writing done in the university and in the world around us uses rhetoric, or the art of adapting one’s language choices to meet the occasion, audience, purpose, and constraints of a piece of writing. Each occasion to compose is endowed with constraints such as time, resources, professional decorum, even professional or cultural politics, which influence the things we might write or say. This class will strengthen your rhetorical knowledge so you can succeed in all your writing endeavors.
  • To consider particular genres when composing: Genre refers to the kind of writing you will do. Each genre of writing has its own set of rules, expectations, and decorum. For instance, the content you would share in a 2 personal statement differs greatly from the kind content that is required for a grant proposal or a conference presentation or a blog post. In this class we’ll study what characterizes each of these genres and how best to fulfill the often unspoken rules and expectations of each genre.
  • To improve upon your Writing process: The writing process refers to a) Generating ideas, writing and revising drafts of an essay, editing and proofreading those drafts; b) workshops and critiquing your own and your classmates’ work; c) doing effective research; d) using technology such as websites, Internet search engines, and electronic databases; e) evaluating sources for accuracy, relevancy, credibility, and bias; f) reflecting on your writing in order to clarify the writing process. With each assignment, we will strive to demystify the writing process and practice writing as a manageable series of actions resulting in a document of which you can feel proud.
  • To sharpen Critical Thinking skills: Critical thinking refers to your ability to analyze issues, problems, or opportunities relevant to your field or profession; identify and evaluate information sources for relevance, validity, and credibility; apply advanced rhetorical knowledge in order to recognize the elements of sound reasoning; pose questions that lead to sustained inquiry and innovative thinking; frame an issue and develop a stance based on evidence and sound reasoning; recognize the elements and logical progression of persuasive arguments; and employ rhetorical strategies to produce a coherent and persuasive argument.
  • To strengthen your writing conventions: This means a) Sharpening your ability to issue claims, lines of reasoning and evidence, paragraph structure, appropriate vocabulary and genre conventions; b) master grammar, syntax, and punctuation and documenting sources. By discussing and analyzing, for example, the various conventions of a personal essay or a proposal for funding, you will gain an appreciation of how the different parts of these documents fit together and can be changed according to the circumstance in which you write them.

Required Texts:

All readings will be provided on Canvas.

Grading (out of 204 points):

Personal Journey (4-6 pages): 20 points

Food Writing (4-6 pages): 20 points

Traveling in Time (4-6 pages): 20 points

Research Component to Traveling in Time: 5 points

Final Project: 30 points total consisting of:

     Final Written Essay (5-7 pages): 25 points

Final Audio Essay (2-3 minutes): 5 points

Rough Drafts: 3 points each (3 x 4 = 12 total)

Peer Reviews: 3 points for each review (x 2 in each group x 4 Rough Drafts = 24 over entire semester)

Writing Journal: (9 x 2 points each) = 18 points

Discussion Posts: (3 for each post, 1 for each of 2 replies) = 5 points x 11 posts = 55

Total: 204 points


Now that you’ve selected your favorite Continuing Education courses, email or print the information, including class number, to more easily search Buff Portal and enroll. Still have questions? Contact an advisor.


Monday – Friday
8:00am to 5:00pm


We are located at the corner of University Avenue and 15th Street in a white brick building.


1505 University Avenue
University of Colorado Boulder
178 UCB
Boulder, Colorado