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Travel Writers - Writing About Travel

There are travellers who have returned to write a book, and then there are the great writers who travel.

Are they producing travel diaries or literature?

Travel Writing At Its Best

A caricature of the people, or a detailed fresco of the place, is often all we get from the writer/traveller.

Travel diaries, and literature from writing about travel.

For the lazy traveller/reader, it is a start at a comprehension between them and us, there and here. But even this is a fruitless exercise. To read different writers can often mean a transportation to a different place; supposedly the same.

If we really want to experience the place, we must get up and go there ourselves.

Maybe we have already been to Cairo, or are seriously contemplating travelling to Timbuktu.

Ibn Batuta, in historic reveries and encounters with Golden Kingdoms, can only disillusion the reader; as the romance is completely lost when Time Magazine reports that Tuareg rebels attack a convoy of modern-day Trans-Sahara travellers.

These collective characterisations only serve a purpose in their own split perspectives, because the encountered individuals are only seen from the writer's point of view.

Jonathan Raban even tells us that the Theroux on the trains is not the Theroux who stops by on his houseboat for a cheery, drinky chat.

Because of this, travel literature takes on an almost fictional aura. The reader is introduced to real characters who may never be met, and transported to places at the turn of a page.

The Thomas Cook Travel Book Awards (1980/2004) brought in the heavyweight writers, trying their hand at travelling; while the traveller filling in a diary, tried to present the experience in quality writing.

Ernest Hemingway was one of the world’s ultimate Literary Travellers; from Cuba to Kilimanjaro, or bullfighting in Spain, Hemingway was there to bring you the laughter and the pain.

There are writers who have written great travel books, and there are great writers who travel.

Paul Theroux, walking around Britain in The Kingdom by the Sea, may drop in on Jonathan Raban, but his encounter with Borges, in South America, is pure experience transcribed to manuscript.

Jorge Luis Borges is a legend in South American literature, but to his credit, Paul Theroux has reproduced the greatest travel experiences aboard Asian railways.

Travellers may dream of taking the Trans-Siberian Express but Theroux, in Riding The Iron Rooster, puts us off that seven day extravaganza. Perhaps he was just tired, and wanted to get home.

The Old Patagonian Express can not compare with The Great Railway Bazaar, except for the meeting with Borges. But Paul Theroux has a knack of getting it right.

No matter which part of Britain you live in, he was there; like a silent gull devouring the crumbs of custom and accent to return with owl-like words of piercing accuracy.

A traveller I met in Asia: long hair, open sandals and a British passport, so long from home that his accent was almost German, claimed to have savoured Theroux as a far back as the African Novellas, but hated him for what he said about Guatemala.

Eric, the traveller, had lived in the colourful Central American country, most probably with the Indians, and could not forgive the literary American for his portrayal of life there. However, it is hot and sweaty, and you can guarantee that a slice of water melon has more flies upon it than those little black seeds: You try to eat it, or remain on the train with a parched throat.

To blow the flies off the slice of fruit is a feat more tolerable than to suffer another gust of warm sand through an open window, in a train that travels slower than a queue for tickets in India.

So put down that book, get out the map, and remember that the web is there for you to tell us all about your travels when you get back; or even by e-mail while you're on the road.

By Michel.

Related Links

An online travel magazine just for woman, with first person accounts from women travellers.

Check out some of the writers on Travel Notes or submit your own travel writing for consideration.

Travel Mag:
Plenty of interesting features here too.

Links to a variety of personal travelogues written by travellers on world-wide adventures.

Travel on Twitter:
There's also a lot of interesting people writing about travel on Twitter; trying to use less than 140 characters to get their point across.

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