Travel writing can be geographical, adventurous, cross-cultural, or involve travel to different places within the same country. It can also be an inner philosophical journey of a person undergoing a transformation. Journey through time, space can also be a part of travel writing. In recent times, it has taken a form of creative non-fiction and is mostly restricted to ‘travelogues’1.
Well-known examples include: Gulliver’s Travels, Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne, Chronicles of Narnia by C.S.Lewis, Around the world in 80 days by Jules Verne, books written by Bill Bryson and every other space travel book.
Broad types of travel writing
- News: This includes brochures, booklets, pamphlets, and other material prepared and used by tourism departments with a view of attracting people to visit a particular area.
‘Incredible India’, ‘God’s Own Country’.
- Guide: It provides information about the places including geography, places to visit, interesting information. This type of writing is direct, assumes the role of an adviser, and does not offer much insight about the place other than providing information.
‘101 Weekend Gateways from Bengaluru’.
‘7 Cafes in Bengaluru for a Good Reading Time’.
‘What to do in Paris? If you have just 24 hours’.
- Destination: The author visits a certain place, or makes some sort of journey, and in the process makes profound observations about himself or his locale. The impressions of the writer, his opinion about the surrounding comes clearly into the writings.
An excerpt from Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer2.
Carthage, South Dakota, population 274, is a sleepy little cluster of clapboard houses, tidy yards, and weathered brick storefronts rising humbly from the immensity of the northern plains, set adrift in time. Stately rows of cottonwoods shade a grid of streets seldom disturbed by moving vehicles. There’s one grocery in town, one bank, a single gas station, a lone bar—the Cabaret, where Wayne Westerberg is sipping a cocktail and chewing on a sweet cigar, remembering the odd young man he knew as Alex. The Cabaret’s plywood-panelled walls are hung with deer antlers, Old Milwaukee beer promos, and mawkish paintings of game birds taking flight. Tendrils of cigarette smoke rise from clumps of farmers in overalls and dusty feed caps, their tired faces as grimy as coal miners’.
An excerpt from Notes from The Small Island by Bill Bryson3.
My first sight of the England was on a foggy march night in 1973 when I first arrived on the midnight ferry from calasis. For twenty minutes, the terminal area was aswarm with activity as cars and lorries poured forth, customs people did their duties, and everyone made for the London road. Then abruptly all was silence and I wandered through sleeping, low-lit streets threaded with fog, just like in a bulldog drummoned movie. It was rather wonderful having an English town to myself.
- Narrative/Literary: It can be in the form of journal, memoir, or a work of fiction; where author shares his experiences in the form of a journey.
Istanbul:Memories of a City by Orhan Pamuk
Flaubert, who visited Istanbul a hundred and two years before my birth, was struck by the variety of life in its teeming streets; in one of his letters he predicted that in a century’s time it would be the capital of the world. The reverse came true: after the Ottoman Empire collapsed, the world almost forgot that Istanbul existed. The city into which I was born was poorer, shabbier, and more isolated than it had ever been its two-thousand-year history. For me it has always been a city of ruins and of end-of-empire melancholy.
Some approaches in travel writing
- Description of ‘X’ no of people
Maximum City:Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
- Chronological: The City of Djinns by William Dalrymple
- Historical: The Last Mughal by William Dalrymple
- Fictional: Invented character, but the place is “Time” and right at the centre
E.g. ‘A day in the life of–’
- Outsider’s perspective of a certain place.
- One incident/event: Wonder,awe,shock,humor,disgust
- Is the story in first person?
- Have you balanced both show and tell?
- Have you paid attention to minute details?
- Have you formed opinions about the place?
- Have you written with a sense of curiosity, with a flow needed to gain reader attention?
- Write club: Journey from conference room to terrace
- Meeting Mahatma Gandhi: A time traveler’s account of going back in the time
- First visit to CCD (Cafe Coffee Day)
- Konkan Railway: Journey of a lifetime
- A day long road trip with BMTC(Bengaluru Metro Transport Corporation)
- Visit to any historical places of your interest
- Motorcycle diaries: Ladakh on the bike, with lake always within our sight
- The great Tamilnadu odyssey
- M.G. Road, Bengaluru: Journey from British raj to 21st century Bharat
Special thanks to: Aravind MJ (Event host: Meetup 68)
Extra information: Websites for reading travelogue, finding inspiration.