In an age where social networking and blogging allows us instant communication, travel writing has now fallen on the shoulders of young explorers, armed with backpacks and digital camera’s to provide up to the minute updates on their adventures. Welcome to the new age of travel writing.
I feel travel writing has lost its personality. When I was a boy, my dreams were fueled by the stories from the mountaineers, my heroes, standing atop the windy summit of Mt. Everest. I used to take in every photograph, every film, and every dispatch about what was happening 29,000 feet above me. The stories that first inspired me told a personal and harsh reality about the place they were in. Reading the excellent Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, it didn’t romanticize the expedition. Rather, it told about what happens when things go wrong, when the objective changes, and the adventure becomes the will to survive. This is where I feel the writing has become impersonal and dull. I’m going to write about the splendid beauty of a place, like the explosion of color and aroma from a spice market in Kathmandu, or the simple design on the walls of a seldom explored church in the hillsides of Tuscany, but I’m also going to describe the troubles, the days when things turned unexpected, such as being trapped among a 2010 Maoist uprising in Nepal, or climbing a 450 foot sandstone tower in Utah in the midst of a rainstorm. I enjoy these stories because they make travel real and tangible.
My responsibility as a travel blogger is not to brag or show off where I’ve been or what I’ve done. My responsibility is to inspire others to do the same. I believe that personal experience abroad enriches the mind, and adventure forces one to realize what their body is truly capable of. I aim to make it as affordable and possible for any person my age. My recommendations are not the most luxurious or the most eye-popping, but I strive to make it simple and practical, such as urging travel on discount European airlines, or staying in simple room and board hostels. I encourage alternate forms of travel from being a simple tourist, to procuring work and volunteer opportunities for the ultimate cultural experience.
In selling travel, blogging and social media is the ultimate tool. In 2010, I was a volunteer for six months in Nepal. Through Facebook I was able to instantly share my photos, my experiences, and my personal thoughts and opinions, from the feeling of longing and homesickness, to physical ailments, joys, and defeats. It was acclaimed for being more than a travel story: it was an insight into the personal emotions of being in such an unfamiliar place. I took this into the founding of my personal travel blog, Mike Off The Map. Applying this model to my other travels, I make these rarely seen places realistic, tangible, and accessible. This is how I believe writing should be marketed. Not through clichéd, general descriptions, but through personal experiences and opportunities. I want to know about strange foods, bizarre and uncommon customs, and I want to see the world through the eyes of the people who inhabit it.
The future of travel writing will be determined by personal and shared experiences. Stereotypes and generalizations will be broken by stories of warmth and hospitality from even the roughest areas of the world. I see a new age of exploration where young adventurers will be inspired by the instantly transmitted photos and dispatches from those travelling into the unknown, in the same way that I was first inspired. Furthermore, discovery through social networks and blogging will unite those who dream of exploring the world into a global community of storytellers and photographers. This is where the modern travelogue is headed.