travel writing, a thought!

I’ve been asked (by a few in a Bicycle-travel-writing group!) to ‘say’ something about writing, travel writing that is. Gee? What can I ‘say’? What do I know? Not much but ok, here goes and off the top! – We face a tough task, perhaps an almost impossible one, in attempting to truthfully and whole-heartedly express the many many layers of a journey. It takes time, and especially time to understand the consequences of a long trip. Travel writing becomes far more potent and richer when those consequences have been lived. The living of them returns to enrich the writing of the journey. That is why much travel writing today, when it’s written too quick, too fast, blurted out… is…sorry to be blunt here, but superficial. Best wait and digest the awesome thing one is doing. Remember it is FOOD, just as the food you eat to push the pedals, don’t forget that, – food to be slowly digested, otherwise one will spew out only the surface stuff…but then again it depends on what you really wish to express. Surface stuff is fine, if that’s just what you need to get across…but some writers need or really wish to express a bit more. Each one is different here. Good travel writing must, indeed, has no choice but push the boundaries, it’s got to push YOU, like a very very long climb in the dark, against the wind, with rain coming and with no idea of where you’re going to camp. But when you finally get there, there is a physical relief and a ‘high’…well, that’s how it should feel after a few hours digging with your ‘pen’ into the truth of your story. It is not mere description…sorry, but any kid can do that. One thing for sure and it’s this, try to avoid ‘telling’ the story. Dig deep, listen, reflect and find a way to ‘show’ what happened…indeed, sometimes to do that…it may require to write oneself out of the script! We, ie. ‘the traveller’ ‘us’ you’ ‘me’ is not the point. Get beyond the ‘surface layers’ of mere description, get deeper into that moment. The truth of the journey is in there. Feel-out and feel-into the intimacy of ‘that’ small, sometimes seemingly inconsequencial moment, open up to what was ‘really’ going on there, then of course balance it with the wider, grander, open-ended context of where and how and with whom. Ted Simon mentioned to me once about ‘surrender’ in travel. When you surrender and be vulnerable, the words will come. Good luck to us all with all our writings, it’s an endless long climb!