Op-Ed: What is Travel Writing?

Deep into the summer, everybody aspires to be a wanderlust travel blogger or social media poser. In a period when Snapchat hires individuals to travel the world and story every second of their trip, when Yelp and Tripadvisor must be used to vet any potential eatery or resting place, and the question of Would you still go there even if you could never post about it on Instagram? stumps young people everywhere, the concept of travel writing is even more confusing than before.

As a student, I read travel writing in the works of Bill Bryson, Henry David Thoreau, and Jon Krakauer. Some of the earliest travel writers were colonialists, painting their persecutory picture of new cultures. Some of the most recent travel writers have employed the “off the grid” lifestyle a la Eat, Pray, Love and On the Road. 

Travel writing is a genre of writing and literature that covers an array of categories: time, location, geography, emotion, physicality, reality, and imagination. It can never be truly objective, thus it is always subjective in experience, as reflected in an author’s voice and choice of what to include, which direction to take, and how to convey his or her experience to an audience. Travel writing is peculiar because it is very free in form. It can be fiction, autobiographical, poetry, prose, private, social and digital. The goal of travel writing is not to elicit emotion, because anything and everything elicits emotions, thus writing itself cannot be credited to that experience.

Travel writing is historic, artistic, political, sociological, and has become more relevant in the past decades as globalization has connected the world on such strong, close-knit levels through the influx of technology and mass communication. This genre helps us get closer to those great existential questions – finding out who we are, where we came from, and figuring out this grand world that we live in.

Thus, travel writing can be everything and everything can be travel writing. The key here is that travel writing does not have a definitive definition. Humans walk, wander, travel, and explore by means of physical traits and natural curiosity.

We are all travelers.

Travel Writing is merely one of the ways to capture these human environments and preserve it.

Travel writing is preservation.

– S.K.


Follow a fellow blogger, Brian Galetto’s Happy Friday Everday, to read his own experimentation with travel writing through his “City Series” posts.

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