February 26, 2006

Pencil in the Sand

Why do writers write and who do they think they are writing for? Is there a greater purpose to the life of a travel writer than just their own aggrandisement and the pleasures of privilege?

A recent discussion on the banality of columnists raised the question, "What makes someone think that their spin on life's trivial occupations is worth printing in the paper so that millions of other people can read it?" And the reply from such a columnist came, "I don't understand why anyone would find my weekly analysis of urban perspective to be even remotely interesting. I'm just glad they do because it means I don't have to get a proper job."

But I want more than just to avoid getting a job. That's not enough for me. Realising that fact I suddenly found myself a little confused about what were my true motives for being published. Somewhere, mixed in with my aspirations of utilitarianism and a basic love of the greater world, a hint of revenge had crept in.

In recent years I had experienced a bad trot with one travel brand and still feel a deep sense of resentment: they owe me a good deal of money and an even larger measure of respect. There is a voice inside my head that says, "Become really well known for your travel writing and make sure you never print a word about them again! Better still; let's just hope they go broke - which can’t be too improbable given the principles by which they currently operate." Hardly an admirable motivation for writing and publishing.

No, there is far more behind all of this, because it started long before I got my fingers burned. Mine is a craft of creation, not reduction.

I have a desire for photo-journalism; a chance to report on the real faces of the world, to give a voice to the little people and a human dimension to the globalisation of the planet. So how does travel writing fit in here? Isn’t travel just a cop out, a step sideways into the world of fluff and nonsense? Not always. It can be but it doesn’t have to be. Not if it's done well.

In my mind there are two objectives for writing on travel. The first is the readers desire to momentarily escape into a different world and leave their own behind. Why else is the word 'escape' so synonymous with travel? The second is for me to experience more closely the cultural perspectives offered by those more wise than myself. The task of reporting on the world brings me deeper into it.

These two objectives set very clear guidelines for my writing, as I move forward and try to develop my skills. I am seeking to offer an immersion into travel through my words and pictures, but with a very strong flavour of human respect, deeper understanding, and affectionate recognition.

This may take many forms. Highlighting how they are not so different to us, and enjoying that which makes them unique to us. I want to give room for the contemplation of those differences so that I may benefit on a personal level, and reflect upon my own footprints as I study theirs.

In this way the realm of travel becomes a foothold into the greater arena of journalism, all the while serving a justified and valued role. Travel with heart: To enjoy the journey, not just the destination.