WHAT IS TRAVEL WRITING?


"It's not worthwhile to go around the world to count the cats in Zanzibar."
                                                                           HENRY DAVID THOREAU

Before we discuss what travel writing is, perhaps we should say what it isnít. Travel writing isnít writing about your familyís vacation. It isnít writing about what you liked or didnít like about your last trip. And it definitely isnít about writing about destinations so that you can travel for free.

Travel writing is writing about places, persons, and things in other places--also writing about how to travel, when to travel, and advice on travelingĖall with the reader in mind. Itís about relaying your travel experiences to others so that they may emulate them or at the very least not make the same mistakes you did. And itís writing about things in your own back yard that are exotic to everyone else---a local farmer's market, historic site, restaurant, museum.

To be a good travel writer, you need to be ON all the time, not just when you want to. When youíre on vacation, you do what you want when you want. Youíre mind focuses on the place youíre visiting only when it wants to. But to interpret a destination for your readers, you have to look for new angles on the same old things while at the same time sharing your pleasure with your readers.

But before we go further into travel writing, we need to take a look at the readers that will devour what you say about a place. There are three parts to the communication processĖthe sender (the writer), the receiver (the reader), and the message. When you were in school, you subconsciously learned that the writer was the most important part of the process because in academic writing, thatís the case. But in general writing, including travel writing, the reader is the most important part of the process. If a writer doesnít think about the reader before writing, the reader most likely wonít be interested or might possibly not understand what the writer is saying.

How did travel writing begin?
Travel has a long history. People have always traveled--from ancient caravansaries to modern resorts. But travel writing began, more or less, during Elizabethan times. Shakepeare got much of the background material for his plays, such as the "Merchant of Venice" and "Romeo and Juliet" from Elizabethan travel guides to Italy.

Why is it needed?
Travel writing celebrates the differences in manners and customs around the world. It helps the reader to understand other people and places. And it helps readers plan their own trips and avoid costly mistakes while traveling. But, most of all, it lets readers travel to far-off destinations that they may never see.


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