Different Perspectives of Travel Writing

In The Global Imaginary of Contemporary Travel Writing by Debbie Lisle, I found her take on good verses bad travel writing intriguing.

 “There may be a good travelogues and bad travelogues but as a whole, the genre encourages a particular conservative political outlook that extends to its vision of global politics. This is frustrating because travel writing has the potential to re-imagine the world in ways that do not simply regurgitate the status quo or repeat a nostalgic longing for Empire” (Lisle xi).

I can understand Lisle’s point of frustration. I find that travel writing should be written to tell a story about a distance place. Much like how it was styled in earlier time periods by those like Marco Polo. The intension was to give those unable to travel, a taste of a different culture. The writings that focus on global politics lose sight of the storytelling aspect and instead contain factual information that drive the reader down a different path.

However, even though earlier travelogues do portray a good sense of storytelling, Lisle finds that travel writing do not remain static throughout the years. She claims that travel writing is always transforming just as the world we live in.

“The difficulty with this formulation—texts shaping reality and reality shaping text- is that it produces a ‘correspondence’ understanding of representation” (Lisle, 11).

In response, perhaps this is why several travel writers resort to writing about global politics, to avoid  any misunderstanding between what they consider true about an area compared to its reality.  In this case, text-heavy information about the political nature of a foreign country is the easiest way to communicate the reality of the current status of the country.

 In David Nicholson-Lord’s, The Politics of Travel, I was surprised to learn how much tourism has grown throughout history. Today it is said to be the 2nd largest industry in the world.

““Modern mass tourism also differs from its antecedents in that it has been industrialized. From the cheap charter flights and the itemized itineraries to the packaging of experiences in that curious new literary oeuvre, the travel brochure, it is a production line, with all the appurtenances of high volume, standardized lines, quality control and mass marketing.”

Lord’s quote, helps understand the importance of travel writing and travel blogging especially throughout more recent years.  Tourism has become a business among a number of countries across the globe. However Lord’s article goes into his disapproval of the popularization of tourism today.

“Today we’re more eclectic—anything from a video camera to a loud and silly shirt will do,”

Lord later states in his writing,  that due to the over-population of tourist to certain areas, it has created pollution and other factors that hurt the ecosystem.

As a travel writer, it is important to see through the veil of common tourist misconceptions. Similar to Lisle’s quotations in The Global Imaginary of Contemporary Travel Writing, a travel writer must write on the reality of the location, rather than what they believe to be true, which can be difficult to distinguish with enticing tourist attractions.

 In Pico Iyer’s writing titled,  “Why We Travel,”  Iyer looks at traveling as an invitation into other cultures.

“Travel in that sense guides us towards a better balance of wisdom and compassion – of seeing the world clearly, and yet feeling it truly,”

To Iyer, tourism is more than just a business like Lord suggests in The Politics of Travel.  Iyer finds tourism to be a way for countries to open their eyes to new customs and accept new ways of life.  Iyer suggests however that this maybe the mindset of a traveler rather than a tourist.

“Though it’s fashionable nowadays to draw a distinction between the “tourist” and the “traveler,” perhaps the real distinction lies between those who leave their assumptions at home, and those who don’t: Among those who don’t, a tourist is just someone who complains, “Nothing here is the way it is at home,” while a traveler is one who grumbles, “Everything here is the same as it is in Cairo — or Cuzco or Kathmandu.”

Again in regards to Lord’s writing on the political side of tourism, it is possible that the down fall of tourism can be in response to the travelers that fail to open their minds to new cultures and instead compare everything to their own way of doing things.



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