I have no idea where the last couple of months have gone… but during those months I have been fortunate enough to visit Ukraine and Ireland. I love to travel. If I could be paid to lug around a backpack and meet people from the four “corners” of the globe then I’d be a very happy soul!
So this brings me to my next (this) post: the post-travel photo-sharing… yawn! We’ve all done it – come home with countless “funny” photos that really are more a case of “well, I guess you had to be there” moments, together with 23 different angles of the same rock/cliff/sea/tree/person/pint glass (the latter being rather prominent in my pictures from Ireland). My point here is, who wants to see this? And I guess this links to travel writing – who wants to read it?
The short answer – ME!
I love a good travel tale – quite often I find that reading about another city or country results in it being bumped up a couple of places on my ‘list of places to visit’. After reading Rupert Attlee’s The Trail to Titicaca I almost believed that I could replicate his journey, before remembering that my last escapade on a bicycle (in Canberra, Australia) almost caused me to fall head first in to a lake.
But here’s the thing with travel writing – it all depends on the author-narrator. In much the same way as we only really want to see the photos from our nearest and dearest, we only really want to read about the adventures of somebody that we warm to.
I recently finished Joe Bennett’s A Land of Two Halves – Bennett’s experiences of hitch-hiking around New Zealand (a country at number 2 on my list, just edged to the top spot by Canada). Whilst I enjoyed the tales about the various people he met, I found Bennett’s contempt for anything vaguely “touristy” quite annoying. When I was traveling (admittedly with coaches rather than hitch-hiking) I loved the excuse of “I’m a tourist so therefore I can take a picture of a huge statue of a ram” (again, Canberra, Australia). The problem I had when reading this book was that once I realised I didn’t particularly like the narrator, I lost interest in the content of the book. It was like dozing off during the 3rd photo album of pictures by the hotel pool. I did, eventually, finish the book, but cannot say it inspired me or made the itch to pack my bag and jet off to New Zealand any harder to scratch.
But maybe travel stories aren’t meant to do that? Maybe they do convey the other side – the monotony of having to introduce yourself every other day to newcomers; the days of loneliness when you question why on earth you are on the other side of the world to everyone you care about; the moments when you realise that the £1,000s that you saved just won’t cover the whole trip…
Maybe Bennett’s book isn’t really aimed at the likes of me. But it does make me wonder who his audience is. And afterall, if you are publishing a book of any kind, surely the reader is a key factor?
I will still go to New Zealand one day, but where Attlee left me with a desire to meet families living in Patagonia (and a mental note to never eat mussels in southern Argentina), Bennett merely reminds me to avoid middle-aged men hitch-hiking on the side of the road and ex-pats who think they are above lowly backpackers.