[Feature photo: Chris Brown]

1. Read good travel writing compulsively

The best free teacher for any writer is reading. When you read on a regular basis, you strengthen the word, sentence, image, and metaphor connections in your brain. After all, reading and writing are consequences of neurological connections. Use them or lose them. Here are a couple of terrific books: The Man Who Walked Through Time, by Colin Fletcher and on a different level: Desert Quartet, by Terry Tempest Williams. I’d be remiss to not include Matador, too.

2. Scare yourself.

Take yourself to places that challenge you (like off-trail with no GPS) when the last thing you want to do is leave the familiar. I learned the most about Utah’s unforgiving red sandstone when I climbed down into a little canyon and then… I learned more about the way the earth is always new when I left the world of humans and stepped out into twenty-five square miles of Joshua Tree and dirt wash desert. Go out without your cell phone. Carry only what you need to survive – and a notebook, pencil, and curiosity.

3. Stop taking photographs.

The amazing capabilities of your visual cortex and the memory centers of your brain will record and retain what matters. And there is the huge bonus of learning to use your other sensory systems: hearing, touch, taste, smell – remember those?

4. Shut down your computer.

5. Find a free copy (I admit, I’m cheating a bit here) of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. Read it. Read it again. Read it until you know it by heart. Editors still look for clean writing and Strunk and White are the clean-up crew.

[Editor’s bonus tool: Download our 11 secrets to being a successful travel journalist free PDF.]