Lu-Hai Liang

thoughts from a freelance foreign correspondent

I just remembered travel journalism

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Writing about traveling is a lot of people’s dream job, combining the joy of expressing the experience of travel and getting paid to do it — it’s occupational paradise (I guess).

I’ve only done one piece of pure travel journalism in my career. A long time ago now.

But I haven’t pitched travel article ideas since I’ve been freelancing from my base in Beijing. Why not? I don’t really know.

Travel journalism is incredibly competitive, and it’s a shrinking industry. With bloggers, vloggers, and hundreds of tips, listicles and guidebooks out there it’s a saturated market.

However the market for unique travel stories, as well as the more literary travel narrative still exists.

I’ve been re-reading a travel book recently, one which I highly recommend. (I bought the book years ago but have been delving into it again as I want to write a travel narrative and want to glean clues about structure and detail).

Rolf Potts’ collection of travel stories ‘Marco Polo Didn’t Go There: Stories and Revelations from One Decade as a Postmodern Travel Writer’ is both one of the best travel story reading experiences and one of the best travel writing manuals.

The reason why the book also serves as a guide for travel writers is because of the ingenious decision to add a postscript to each story in the book. These postscripts fill you in on the details of the process of writing the travel story; why the author left some details out, and how the narrative came together; little asides on certain experiences; and thoughts on travel itself and modern tourism. The details contained in the postscript are gold-dust and worth more than reading a dozen Q&As with travel writers, simply because the postscript is closely paired to the travel story, so you can gain a kind of skeleton key into how a travel story is formed.

One of the standout stories in the book is about when Potts decided to try to invade the set of The Beach; the 2000 film set in Thailand starring Leo Dicaprio. His attempt is zany and born of a simple desire for adventure.

Adventure…I really should try to do more travel writing.

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Written by Lu-Hai Liang

May 15, 2015 at 6:04 am

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