Travel writing is a special kind of narrative story telling that seems to offer so much potential. At home, we write about the every day, the observable, or the experienced in almost every word we pen, but travel writing pulls us from the ordinary, routine, or commonplace and allows us to write about these things in an unfamiliar context. It is always offers up something inspirational, in that there a constant stream of ideas and narratives twisting around one’s life when one is on the road. In fact, arguably this blog started as something of a piece of travel writing, albeit that trip was three years worth of living quasi-abroad in the distant *cough* lands of Vancouver, a twelve hour drive from where I grew up. I have a soft spot for travel writing, and really pine for the chance to get more of mine out.In the last installment of this (now grossly delayed) “week of lists” I thought I would look at travel writing itself, and just — simply — contemplate some styles of the same I wish I had the opportunity to do more of. Of course, this would imply doing much more travel, so… draw your own conclusions.
1 = Crazy Cuisine Reviews
I like food. I like strange food. Sometimes I don’t like what strange food does to me, but that’s an entirely different list. When travelling, I try to find weird things to consume. Why? Well, the simple answer is that even though I might end up hating the food that I’m trying, the experience of trying it is both an adventure and a story to me. And in that process I’m intrigued. And to be able to grasp more firmly on to that kind of culinary exploration and relate it back to an audience in words appeals to me almost as much as the strangeness of the food itself because it’s all part of the same adventure: sampling then telling the story afterwards.
2 = Survival Stories
Defining a sruvival narrative is a tricky thing. On the one hand I’ve been watching a lot of “Man Versus Wild” this past year and those types of drop-from-an-airplane, land-in-the-wilderness, fight-nature-to-survive adventures, while interesting, are way out of scope with my abilities. That said, survival comes in many less extreme flavours, and often these less extreme flavours can be made interesting not simply because the author has literally risked life and limb (though that helps) but because the idea of stepping far enough outside the comfort and safety of real-life and then telling the tale back to an interested audience is done in a way that grabs hold of the emotions and doesn’t let go.
3 = Awkward Side Quests
The flip side of survival is probably not directly the topic of embarassment, but along the same vein of “living through trial” story telling comes the kind of travel writing that falls from the fish-out-of-water, foot-in-your-mouth, bumbling extistentialist adventure story of un-planned travel. My wife is a planner. I am not. And I think part of that lack of planning stems from some unconscious interest in leaving open that gapof potential for some kind of awkward side quest to occur. When every moment of travel is planned, sure, you have a good time. But the truly weird and memorable experiences — or so popular culture has taught me — come from the occasional unplanned moments of serendipitous stumbling through a vacation. And, of course, these are fertile for fabulous stories.
4 = Documentary Essays
Here I am flipping my focus once again. In as much I would suggest that the uber-planned vacation can lead to a structured and well-executed exploration of some unfamiliar land through both words and explanation. The idea of setting out on a trip to investigate X and then coming home with a lot of evidence, anecdotes, photos, and narrative fodder for exactly X is appealing, too. The documentary-style travel essay, the journalistic seeking of a precise story from afar, is far less trival than most anything else on this list, but some day — and right now I don’t know when or how I would ever get anything more official than just a plan on this blog to do so — it is something I would like to tackle.
5 = Event Commentary
Most the travel I have done has been personal or family oriented, the planning for said travel largely revolving around sketched out itineries from guide-books or tour-operators or vacation packages. Perhaps it is the idea of travel running — destination racing — that has been lately planted in my mind, that is seems suddenly interesting to write commentary of travel-related events. After all, many people travel to some place to attend something and interact with others who have travelled to the same place for a specific event-type reason. It then just seems natural that there are stories to be dug from such jumbled adventures, and any future participation has me yearning to write down those narratives.