What Exactly IS Travel Writing?

5 June 2009 Post Author:
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I spent the better part of this past Sunday morning finally getting caught up on a number of my favorite travel blogs that I try to follow regularly. I also chatted briefly with a friend, who asked, when I told her what I was doing, about the travel blogs I follow, so I told her which ones they were, and what they were “about”. She, being the fairly persnickety “keeper-of-the-rules” person that she is, said “those aren’t travel writers!…..those blogs aren’t even about traveling!“……so I (because I like a good debate), of course, took the time to educate her as to what, exactly, is “Travel Writing”.….and what makes a good Travel Blog.

After spending more time that I cared to convincing her to see things my way (after all, I did have more reading I wanted to get back to), it occurred to me that perhaps there are others out there in the vast universe of cyberspace who might also not understand what, exactly, qualifies as “Travel Writing”, so here goes……

If a person writes about what’s going on in their hometown (say for example, Washington DC happenings), is that travel writing? If someone writes about a grand adventure like bicycling around the world, or hiking the Continental Divide Trail, is that travel writing? What about if someone combines poetry with music, and then takes that message on a road trip to inspire young people around that world…..is that a travel writing?

My answer is YES! All of those websites are good examples of travel writing. Not because any of them are about “travel” (they’re not), but because they make people want to travel. Take just a moment to think about that — what is the point of travel writing after all? Isn’t it to paint such a vivid picture with your words that they make someone feel as if they are there? Or better yet, to make them want to go there? Yes, photos accompanying your article are great (and required these days), but it’s the words that should really light a spark in others. That should always be your goal when you write about anything, but it’s most important when you’re writing about a destination or event or adventure.

I love TheDCTraveler blog – it makes me wish I still lived in that area of the country, and I’m actually planning a fall trip there after reading about all the fun I’m missing out on! And even though I am not much into bicycling or hiking, I must admit that Tom’s RideEarth website and The Adventures of Nowhere Man and Walking Carrot make me wish I were along on their adventures with them. And THAT is precisely what makes good travel writing – when you inspire others to tag along (vicariously) on your journey, or to take a journey of their own.

Oh and my persnickety friend? She did eventually agree with me 🙂


What’s your opinion on what makes for good travel writing? Tell us about your favorite Travel Blogs!

6 Responses to “What Exactly IS Travel Writing?”

  1. Nowhere_Man says:

    Thanks for the link to our site – the Carrot and I are pleased to know that our journal inspires others to heed the call of the wild, or at least to want to hike along with us in spirit. I’ve never really stopped to think what genre our writing might fall under, but I suppose travel writing is pretty accurate. So I guess that makes me a travel writer!

  2. Julie

    I really enjoyed this post. Travel writing is, or at least can be, such a broad genre. And place-based writing (the phrase I think may apply to work that’s clearly about a place but not necessarily about traveling in/through that place) is one of my favorite kinds. Thanks for this post!

  3. ZenTraveler says:

    Great post. Travel writing is a broad topic and genre. You can take it in many different directions — no pun intended 🙂

    I’m a big fan of Brave New Traveler because they write on all different aspects of travel from political to where the best pubs are. It’s such a wide range of diversified topics — just like travel writing.

  4. Tom Allen says:

    Thanks for the kind words about the blog. I’m really glad to hear the story is having such a positive effect on people – especially if I can make someone wish they were there when I myself am wishing I was anywhere but!!!

    I second the recommendation for Brave New Traveler (sic – I’m English!). I find myself returning again and again. I think travel writing should be much more than “I did this, then I went there and did that and it was great”. A bicycle tour should be much more than “I rode this many km, then I ate this and this broke and I fixed it and rode this many km again”. What about the mental journey, the back story, the issues raised, the pictures painted, the mistakes made, the lessons learned?

    Keep up the good work – I’ll be reading this site from now on.


  5. Trisha

    Thanks for stopping by Tom! I’ve been enjoying reading your blog updates as well – can’t wait to read about the next chapter in your adventure!

  6. Britni says:

    Great explanation of the wonderful occupation of travel writing! 🙂

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