Many people write when they travel as a natural way of memorizing, sharing, and digesting their experiences.
I love that way of using writing, and travel literature is one of my favourite genres. Nowadays, it’s done mostly through travel blogs, but back in the day writers created some amazing travel books. Just think about Bruce Chatwin, for example.
Don’t get me wrong, I love blogging (I have been a blogger for more than 20 years), but with different formats come different stories, and different agendas. Many travel bloggers simply do it to get traffic and sell ads for financing their travels, rather than for writing beautiful prose.
As a result, it’s often, “The ten best remote places in the world”, “How to avoid this and that”, or “The top five mistakes travellers make”. Nothing wrong with good advice, but I really miss the kind of travel writing that comes from bringing the reader with you on the journey.
Put your soul in it
Interestingly, writing itself is very similar to travel writing, because it’s a journey inside the writer’s mind. We can shape our writing to a certain degree, but good writing will always be an experience of mind travelling with the writer. It’s a shared experience that gives you a unique insight in how the writer thinks, feels, and sees the world.
To make that work, you need to put a little more soul into your writing than simply trying to make the reader click an ad banner by recommending the best ice cream place. You need to share the deepest parts of yourself as part of your journey, yet keep the professional distance of writing. You are, after all, not best friends with the writer, but when the writing is good, you get the impression that you are. Like magic, it soon becomes your mind too, because you merge with the story.
That’s writing at its best, and to be that good, you have to be one with your craft. A lifelong journey that never ends, so the sooner you start the better. I still feel like a rookie, for instance, even though I’m not, but I keep having so much to learn from writing.
What to share?
As writers, I think it’s important to ask ourselves which part of our mind we want to take the reader to. We have to share a certain part of ourselves, because it’s a prerequisite of writing, but it’s up to us to choose it.
Sometimes we know it before we start writing, and sometimes it bubbles up to the surface as part of the process. But before we send our text out into the world, we must decide what we choose to share.
Which brings me to today’s exercise, because if there is one thing I have learned from writing that automatically gives you a direction, it is this: