What is the purpose of travel writing?
Is it to help readers fall in love with the world? To help them celebrate and understand different cultures and foreign environments? Or is it to help readers plan their own trips and avoid costly mistakes? Or mentally take them somewhere they may never see themselves?
Most would argue it’s “all of the above.” Whatever the reason, the following travel platitudes are both unhelpful and downright dumb.
This is a lazy writer’s way of saying there’s “a lot to do here.” But it’s completely disingenuous. New York, for example, offers little for someone that prefers open spaces and suffers from agoraphobia. Los Alamos, on the other hand, provides few opportunities for artists, bohemians, country-cooking foodies. The next time your read “something for everyone,” what you’re really reading is “I can’t think of anything better to say.”
Here’s some free advice for you: Nothing in this world is a “must-see.” Not a popular TV-show. Not an award-winning movie. And certainly not a single travel attraction. While traveling, you should see and do what appeals to you—not what someone else says you must. When someone calls something a “must-see,” what they’re really doing is seeking validation for the things they really like or think makes them look cool for liking. See what you want to while adventuring, even a “must-see” if it truly appeals to you.
As dreamy as this expression sounds, never forget: Being lost sucks. It’s panic inducing. I got lost for twenty minutes in Yellowstone National Park as a boy, and it was horrifying. The point this cliché attempts but miserably fails to make is that spontaneity and side-missions are worth it. They can be invigorating. So seek those out instead of losing your bearings.
What does this or the similar “steeped in history” mean? Compared to Italy, does America have a rich history? Does Death Valley, Grand Canyon or Africa? Who knows? Who cares!? What you’re likely after here is “really old buildings” or “people have lived here for a very long time.” Other than that, every place has a history. Slum tourism can be just as enriching as Paris.
First, don’t “get lost” while traveling and you won’t need to find yourself. Secondly, if you’re lacking self-confidence, chances are you’re not going to find it while on vacation. Obviously, we’re all looking for inspiration, especially from the people, places and things we encounter abroad. But you’ll enjoy your next adventure a whole lot more if know yourself before hand.
I’m guilty of this. It’s stupid because it fails to describe how a place appears, something readers would obviously like to consider before visiting.
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Photo: Brandon, CC-BY
Off the Grid columnist Blake Snow writes epic stories for fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies. Visit his website or follow @blakesnow.