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The first ever travel writer might have been the Greek geographer Pausanias, who wrote Hellados Periegesis, or Description of Greece – the oldest guidebook ever written. It is the first tome of the travel literature genre.
Over the centuries, travel writers have written for glossy magazines or the dun-colored pages of memoirs. They made their words concrete in print, shared them with readers who held physical paper, and spent more than just seven seconds looking at an article.
However, with the invention of the Internet, everything changed. What is the definition of travel writing today?
Travel Writing Definition
Before we discuss what travel writing is, perhaps we should say what it isn’t. Travel writing is not writing about your family’s vacation. It is not documenting what you liked or didn’t like about your last trip. And it is definitely not about writing destinations so you can travel for free.
Travel writing is when an individual travels to various destinations across the globe and finds a publishable story to tell about that area. The writing describes places the author has visited and their experiences while traveling.
Besides, travel writing is a form of creative nonfiction in which the narrator’s encounters with foreign places serve as the dominant subject. It is also called travel literature or tourism writing.
Travel writing has a way of transporting the reader to new places. When done well, it can inspire others to explore, experience new things, and gain an appreciation of different cultures.
But when you sit down to start writing about your travel experiences, it can be challenging to know where to start. A place is so many things, after all. It’s the people, the smells, the architecture, the sounds of the city, the tastes of food and much more.
So how do you take everything that happened and condense it into a readable blog post? How do you take your experiences and turn them into a story?
Before writing a travel post, think about what you want to get out of it. That way, you can work toward something and have a starting point you can care about.
Lola Mendez, the writer behind Miss Filatelista, a travel blog focusing on sustainability, says, “I feel accomplished when I get feedback that travel posts on my blog sparked interest for someone to go to a place or exposed them to a locale they’d never heard of.”
She also notes that essential elements in travel writing make someone wonder or question something. As an experienced travel writer, Lola tries to spread awareness about how people can be more mindful travelers as they explore the globe.
Travel writing is crucial because it humanizes distant places. Unlike standard journalism, it doesn’t pretend to detach objectivity, and it doesn’t follow the panic-driven war of disaster tropes of the twenty-four-hour news cycle.
Instead, this writing uses a personal lens to delve into the nuanced realities of daily life away from home, finding human commonalities as it explores cultural differences.
What is Travel Writing in Literature?
It is difficult to classify travel writing since it has many similarities with other genres, such as personal narratives, histories, exploration accounts, and tales of epic quests.
It derives from and adds to each of these forms. Travel writing has always been as much about exploring the writer’s self as it has been about the people or places visited.
Travel writers and critics of the genre often argue that the destination has little consequence. They claim that a travel writer’s true subject is the travel process, the work or travel involved.
In literature, travel writing records travelers’ experiences in fascinating places and circumstances. It includes vivid descriptions, historical backgrounds, illustrations, and possibly maps and diagrams.
It has an equal status with romance, action-adventure, mystery, and fantasy. Travel writing often blends with essay writing, coming from travel writing collections or magazine features.
Styles range from journalistic to introspective to funny and too serious. Early examples appear in ancient Greece, medieval China, and early Arabic literature. Today, you can find travel writing on websites, books, blogs, and periodicals.
General Rules of Travel Writing
Like any other writing genre, travel writing has its conventions – things expected and generally agreed upon as best practices. While there are many rules, travel writing should:
- Be in first-person
- Contain sensory details
- Tell the story in the past tense
- Have a conversational tone
- Give readers value through valuable tips for navigating into a culture or a place
- Be relatable to the audience
Nowadays, travel literature has become a social media genre in the form of travel blogs.
Travel bloggers use platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and personal blogs, to convey information about their adventures and advice for navigating particular countries or for traveling generally.
Online Writing Services
Travel writing may sound simple to many, but it isn’t straightforward. Writing an essay or research paper can be equally challenging, especially if you don’t know how to go about it.
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Examples of Travel Writing
Suppose travel writing is as much about the traveler as it is about the destination. In that case, American travel writing reveals as much about the American itself as it does about other people.
American travel writing between 1820 and 1870 reflected the nation’s expansion of its territorial boundaries, participation in the process of Manifest Destiny, and developing a sense of a distinct country from its ties with the European past. Here are a few travel writing examples to show its breadth.
- National Geographic Travel is a forever iconic publication featuring stories that explore travel through the lens of science, history, culture, or environment.
- The award-winning JRNY magazine is a beautiful ode to the art of travel writing and photography. It’s a magnificent print publication, a bit of a rarity that makes it even more a treasure.
- Patagonia’s journal is an epic example of content marketing. It contains genuine and dazzling stories of adventure around the world. I like to think of it as a journalistic marvel of travel content. It can highlight a brand and a purpose while still staying true to inspiring narratives.
- Travel + Leisure is a beautiful mix of roundups, service pieces, and inspiration.
Travel writing is writing about places, persons, and things in different sites. It also involves writing about how, when, and where to travel – all with the reader in mind.
Travel writing is about relaying your experiences to others so that they may emulate them or, at the very least, not make certain mistakes you made. Besides, it is writing about things in your backyard that are exotic to everyone else.
The best travel writing is a tentative inquiry into other places to provide insights and understanding. Like all forms of literature, its nuanced specifics speak to universal themes.
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