“When something human is recorded, good travel writing happens” (Paul Theroux)
I am fascinated by the many routes that travel writing can take. For travel writing is not only about a particular destination, but also about the process of traveling. And what involves traveling is always interesting: the planning, expectations, leaving home and arriving at the destination. Discovering the place, experiencing it, savoring its flavors. What I find more compelling about travel writing is not the direct description of the place per se. There are limitless sources of information (travel guides, the internet) that will give you factual information about the place you choose to visit. What interests me the most is how a particular travel record can bring a particular place to life, make it somehow real and meaningful to you. When the author’s vision of the setting becomes intimate through narrative, this is when you have me.
This is when the genre defies the definition of travelogue, a travel documentary. This is when travel narratives blur the distinctions between a direct description of the place and the literary. Because somebody’s description of a place is always a reconstruction. That is, the writer will have to rely on his memory of the place. And we all know how unreliable sometimes our memories are. This is when the author manages to transport the reader to a place: take him along the alleys, visit rooms, tea gardens or a corner of a quaint restaurant.
One thing to bear in mind: traveling is a journey and every journey is about a quest.
The structure of the travel narrative is also mythic: a) the hero leaves home; b) the hero undergoes adventures and c) the hero returns home. The structure of the quest narrative is old and mythic, which means that we somehow recognize it within ourselves. After all, we are all in the quest for something. We are all in a great journey. We are all travelers.