Do you consider yourself a “travel writer”? I believe that it is high time to reassess the whole profession – or what remains of it – that is travel writing. Currently I am not reading anything listed under travel writing. I just cannot bring myself to slave over labored descriptions and hackneyed terms.
Why the attack?
No, this is far from an all-out attack as there are differing levels of travel writing and there are efficient bloggers and there are those who clearly work hard and carve out a career. I am weary of the pseudo-academic and partially intellectual travel writers out there who hop over to a destination and make half-investigated judgments and opinions that are meant to rile the reader and then convert this into a record number of punishing retorts.
These aforementioned are little better than social media whores. Click for Pinterest, click to Tweet, click to LinkedIn and so on to appeal to the faceless droves of trolls. Lists written to drum up interest in your page as well, this gets me, lists in magazines and advertorial- influenced writing. How dull. Thread counts for hotel sheets, reviews on Trip Advisor by people with little better to occupy their time. Obviously, it’s all a game that needs to be played and I am involved as well.
But, albeit arrogantly, I can perhaps stake a claim to being better informed as both an operator with a hotel suffering the online vitriol of customers placing reviews and as a journalist and erstwhile travel writer.
Rather than give publicity to the worst travel book I have ever set eyes upon (it was about Paraguay), and rather than confound myself with the details of how it actually made it into print and was not self-published, I’ll just move on.
We owe it to the trade of travel writing to actually push the boundaries once again and compose text that cries out to be read and therefore enjoyed. Obviously we can all point to Steinbeck, Mathiessen and others. Classics from Waugh will stand the test of time. What can we say of today’s internet fodder? For certain there are worthwhile publications out there. I can point to the Perceptive Travel as one online magazine we should read. Each piece is carefully vetted, only writers with a published book can submit articles and the layout is all about content. No faffing about with social media and various widgets to jazz up the design, the writing stands alone and the magazine wins awards.
This alone shows us that writing and the quality of the writing matters.
I moved in to travel writing since it was what principally interested me out of my Masters, but, over a decade down the line – while I am still prepared to write travel articles under my own conditions – I find myself placing a distance between me and the genre. I don’t want to read plain travel writing, I want to read engaging literature. Sure, I still write news and this is reflected in my current field of study of Conflict Resolutions here in Colombia. Previously, I flew below the radar here as a travel writer so as not to get mixed up in the self-censorship required of news/ investigative journalists here in Colombia. My goals have changed and I am more interested in writing articles on news which are perhaps less reported in the international mainstream media.
If this means that I have to get the realities of Colombia across by publishing a travel article, then so be it, but, expect it to be informed and interesting.
No more lists, no more dross. Intelligent writing from here on in.