Why? Because I like writing. Because I've managed to do a small amount of travel over the last 15 years and feel that for the sheer amount that I read it's worth trying to write something myself given the interesting raw material I've accumulated (as we all have). And because my grandmother always insisted that I would be a writer, and I don't want to let her down.
To that end I've been stocking up on travel literature - books by the likes of Patrick Leigh Fermor, Bill Bryson, Eric Newby, etc. (rather than Lonely Planet guides; nothing wrong with Lonely Planet, I love those books, but they're not the type of travel literature I'm referring to.)
Pura Jati, Danau Batur, Bali
Because one thing you find out when you start to read about travel writing is that it's just writing. Good travel writing is just good writing. In fact, I'd go further and say that I've noticed recently that many books that on the face of it are not at all travel literature, like "Mezzofanti's Gift" or "Moonwalking with Einstein", popular science-type of books, often incorporate elements of travel writing. The writer sets off on a quest overseas to meet the subject of his enquiry, and gives us an on-the-ground report of what it's like to be in India, or the countryside of England, etc, just to add colour in a way that would have been unnecessary a few years ago, as well as being ruinously expensive. But now we all have cheap flights. You see the same thing nowadays with documentaries where the presenter will scoot off around the world to meet someone when a few years earlier they would have made do without all the travel. Cheap flights again. And more travel genre crossover. So not only is 'travel writing' just 'writing', a lot of 'writing' is, or has elements of, 'travel writing'.
Another thing: there's something really nice about writing about your travels. You get to relive them. Writing about being in Greece, now I'm back home, leaving at 7:45 for work everyday, is a really nice way to spend your evening. I recommend it even if you're never going to show your writing anywhere, though of course you should. To write about Santorini you have to go fire up the Wikipedia page to get the names right, you might pick out a Flickr photo, and you're right back in there again, reliving the memories of a sundowner at the Oia windmill café, hearing the applause from the spectators at sea level as it starts to reach your ears seconds before the sun disappears from you at clifftop level.
McPherson Range, Lost World Valley, QLD.
So if, like me, you want to slowly insinuate yourself into society as a travel writer, where do you publish your articles? Obviously, some sort of print publication would be nice. I wrote my first (free, of course) piece for the (sadly now defunct - I hope it wasn't anything I said) Irish Queenslander, which appeared in the Feb/March edition, so that's a start.
Another place to try is a travel blogging website like World Nomads. The question I've quickly come up against is whether to stick my travel articles alongside my web development articles on my blog, or place them elsewhere, and I think as long as I link to them from my blog, like I'm doing here, then why not cast your seeds far and wide and see what grows.
Funny, my first reaction when I considered writing a piece in World Nomads was "Huh! Why should I give them free content?" until I realised that that's exactly what I give Twitter, Google+, Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, and Blogger.
Anyway, here are a couple of articles I've written recently that are in the 'travel writing' vein:
- On the Holy Lake, on World Nomads, about driftin' on Danau Bratur, Bali, in Sept '12.
- Setting my watch to island time, on World Nomads, which is about a trip to Santorini I did in June '11.
- El marcapáginas, about buying a book in Barcelona, Jun. '12.
- Speaking Each Others' Language, about being in Nafplio and trying to speak Greek, in July '13.
- Around Kyogle, New South Wales, about a quick family break in Dec. '13.