I really don’t like most travel writing; I already know to roll my clothes tightly, to buy t-shirts along the way, to not drink the water, and to never take candy from strangers. Well, unless it’s really good candy.
I want to know about people. I want the impression of a city, to know how Notre Dame looks when you paying a professional photographer. Maybe I want to hear that when someone says “you look tired” in some parts of the world, it’s a compliment, or that a middle finger in Brazil is sign language for good luck. Yeah, that may be a load of fetid dingo’s kidneys, but I still want the story. Even those weird stories that everyone seems to collect when traveling: how to get an iguana through customs, or when you ask for chopsticks using Mandarin it can also sound like you’re calling someone a “bad woman” in Cantonese. (Yes, that actually happened. And not to me.)
I like hearing people talk about growing up in Leiden or Beijing. I like looking at roofs and wondering what kind of weather makes people build them that way. I like knowing that you can indeed barter with playboy magazines in Mexico and wear pajamas in broad daylight in Shanghai (kinda). Most travel writing just isn’t that candid, it can’t be. I admire the professionals that give themselves ulcers trying to make things look candid, but honestly, with that much money on the line you can’t truly act on the spur of the moment.
I however, can.
I don’t plan to constantly tweet about the croissants I’m eating, or announce how much you have to pay to use a public toilet in London. I’m not a serious journalist, if you want a serious journalist go read Paul Krugman, I bet he hasn’t laughed in years.
But you can come along. If you feel like it. Just read the disclaimer.