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Friday, July 12, 2013

9 Gnomes About Travel Writing

...and no, I am not referring to the Travelocity troll. Look it up.

Meantime, a summer of ennui, spent mainly in the confines of swampy Washington, DC, has left me at a loss for words. That is why, dear reader, you may note a paucity of recent posts. But next week, I am off to speak at Destination Marketing International Association's annual conference. As I have been preparing my remarks, which mainly deal with the changing state of travel writing, I have come to certain realizations. To wit, when it comes to cliches in travel writing, some things never change. To that end, this update of an earlier post

Here a review of the Top 9 Travel Writing Taboos.

#1: Avoid cliches like the plague. The Danish in Copenhagen isn't the best thing since sliced bread (since when is sliced bread so great, anyway?) Since when did you actually feel like a kid in the candy store, even if you are an art historian and you were hanging at the Louvre (actually, if you were hanging at the Louvre, you .might be a masterpiece). And unless you were trying out a carousel, you don't give things a whirl.

#2: Avoid words you never use when talking. I'm talking iconicquaint, and rustic. 

#3: Just to prove that I am not overly persnickety, I'll allow one quaint or iconic per article. But never, ever use luxe or azure, for sure.

#4: That the grass is green is not newsworthy. That the beach is sandy is not newsworthy. Don't include useless and/or redundant adjectives. Keep it pithy, people.

#5: Can a city boast? Apparently, it can, as "Chicago boasts the best deep-dish pizza in the world" and "Honolulu boasts grand luxe hotels, sandy beaches, and azure skies."  But IMHO, a place cannot boast.

#6: Is Albania the next Italy? I don't think so. But some travel writers do. "The next...." is not merely cliched writing; it is also somewhat pejorative if you think about it (i.e.--the next best thing to sliced bread....but it ain't no slice of bread).

#7: Don't trash the locals or local customs just for the heck of it. If you do, as in this piece I did for National Geographic Traveler  that literally talks trash in Albania, provide context and balance.

#8: Maybe it's me, because I simply abhor chick-lit. Articles about your journey of self-discovery are usually a yawn, even to your closest friends. Sure, an Elizabeth Gilbert or a Frances Mayes may hit the jackpot with prosaic poppycock. But my best advice is to circumvent this form of literary litany.
An aside--why is it that 99 out of 100 of self-confessional, self-delusional pieces are written by women?

#9: Never, never, never use the term "something for everyone" in your writing. It's lazy, it's annoying (to me, anyway) and it's simply not true. Don't you be telling me Des Moines has something for everyone. For example, if you are a surfer, where's the beach? New York City doesn't have something for everyone. For example, if you are a climber, try finding a mountain to scale in Manhattan (skyscrapers don't count). Heck, even Sydney, the best city in the world (again, IMHO), doesn't have something for everyone. For example, if you are an astronomer, you can't see the Big Dipper and vast parts of Ursa Major in the Australian night sky. But you can pet a koala.

Which brings me to one more parenthetical point. You can pet a koala, but you can't pet a koala bear. Koalas are marsupials, not bears. Put that in your pouch and ponder. And one more point that may save your life one day: If you want to pet a koala, don't do so by awakening it from a eucalyptus-induced stupor. I can tell you from experience.. this not a good idea. A koala awakening from its hebetude can be vicious, vicious, I tell you.  But that's a story for another post.


Unknown said...

Even if I weren't into travel writing, I'd find this piece to be entertaining. Valid points with a huge side of humor leave this reader feeling more than satisfied!

Unknown said...

Even if I weren't interested in travel writing, I would find this post to be very entertaining. Valid points with a huge helping of humor leave this new reader feeling more than satisfied. Now I'm off to the travel writing taboo graveyard to bury my bad habits!