Travel Writing: Why it Sucks

On 6 November 2010 by Jessica

At 20-minutes-plus, it’s not likely many people are going to sit through this entire video – but if you’re a travel writer, you really ought to. And don’t tune out after he talks about why current travel writing is so awful; stay to the end when he provides an example of what travel writing could be.

hat tip to Leif Pettersen for pointing this out

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6 Responses to “Travel Writing: Why it Sucks”

  • I tracked down the story in question and, as it happens, I did read it when it came out. It is my understanding that the publication in which the story ran does not permit its freelance contributors to accept any type of discounted or free travel, hotel stays, meals, etc., so the speaker would seem to be incorrect if he intended to imply that such perks were actually received by the writer of this particular article.

    If, of the other hand, he was suggesting that, as a general proposition, discounts or “freebies” might skew the perspective of travel writers in favor of the entity providing them, he would find that editors of the travel sections of at least some U.S. newspapers would agree and that they do prohibit their staff and freelance writers from accepting such monetary consideration from travel providers.

  • I was with him till he started making fun of how people travel and what they do when they travel. While taking photos of the Mona Lisa may not be his cup of tea, it’s arrogant to make fun of someone because what they want to experience is not what he wants to experience. While I agree with most of his points about writing that sucks, he should just leave it at that instead of blaming travelers for not wanting the type of travel experience that he thinks is worthwhile.

  • While there are some good stories published in the mainstream travel press in the U.S., there certainly are many dull pieces that make it into print. Except for length, I disagree with the premise that the Quietus story would not run in the travel section any newspaper in the world.

  • I did actually watch the whole thing and it is pretty cool. Now I don’t actually agree that his example of good writing is something that I personally would enjoy reading, but I grant that it is far from the advertising copy he first presents and is well worth being printed. Thanks for posting this. I hope it gets me to think more about my own writing between shifts of work and attempting to get enough sleep.

  • “An oasis off London’s beaten path?” Ugh.

    Thank you for sharing this, Jessica. I think the fact that the speaker provides examples of boring and sharp writing. I always try to keep this kind of thing in mind whenever I write, but it’s easy to fall into a lazy trap. This was a good reminder to keep my travel writing sharp, concise, clear and real.

  • Hey Jessica, thanks for sharing this video. I actually listened to the entire 20 minutes and will share it too.

    I like how he also puts some responsibility back on travellers, saying (& I’m paraphrasing): it’s ironic that people who travel think they’re off on a great adventure when it’s usually when people are most risk adverse — doing & seeing what everyone has already done and seen.

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