I have a confession: I haven’t read a travel book in years.
I’ll dip in. But I usually can’t get myself enthused enough to finish. For a while, I wondered if something was wrong with me. I’ve worked in travel journalism for 13 years. Why do I get bored by travel writing?
It may say something about my poor introspection, but it took many years to figure it out.
For me, travel is about the place, not someone’s reaction to it. I would rather cut out the middle-man.
Travel isn’t just about vacations. It’s a study of history, food, people and nature. That’s why it’s inexhaustible.
So although I don’t read travel books, I am voracious about non-fiction books. Books about the history of salt, about Reconstruction, about a guy who grew up in Bombay, about the banana trade, about the heyday of silent movies in Hollywood. I always have at least 8 to 10 in the dugout, waiting for their turn to step up and knock me into their world.
All are the stories of other places. Isn’t that the essence of travel?
The concept of “travel writing” is so limiting. Far fewer people want to read about the act of travel (the revenue figures are cratering) but reading about the world has never gone out of style. The act of travel is a personal process, and it often involves details (taxicabs, tickets, uncomfortable beds) that obstruct actual learning. If you drop the “travel” and are just a “writer,” you haven’t lost a yard of territory. You are still covering the whole planet.
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