One of the courses I am taking this summer is about travel writing. My assignments in that class are to write 500 words or less essays about my travels (using the readings from the course as inspiration.) I will be posting these on this blog as I go along. My first assignment was to write my own definition of travel writing. Here is what I came up with.
What is a traveler? What is travel writing?
To answer these questions, I first start by asking myself an even more basic question: What is travel? We use the word all the time, but what does it really mean? In the most fundamental sense, it means physically moving one’s body from one location to another. That seems pretty simple really. But is there more than that? Yes, of course there is more. How else could there be a whole genre of writing centered on the topic? Beyond that basic definition, travel involves the mind and soul as well as the body. It both pulls us outside of ourselves and roots us even deeper into our own being. It transports us to the past and makes us even more aware of the present. When we use the word travel, we are using a word that means movement, not a word that means “new place.” This is a word that cannot be static; it cannot be sedentary. It must be full of transition and growth. Now, back to one of the original questions: What is a traveler? A traveler is someone who actively seeks this change of place, this change of mindset. A traveler is a person who seeks the new to make better sense of the old. A traveler is a person who takes a journey so that they can move and learn. Finally, the real question: What is travel writing? Travel writing is a record of this journey, this step, this adventure. It is a way to process the experience externally and share it with those who don’t live inside your head. It is a journey of its own. Some of it is real, some is imagined, and it may possibly end up a different story than you initially intended.