Sara Wheeler | Is Travel Writing Dead?

Mass travel has liberated the form. No amount of package tours will stop ordinary life quietly continuing everywhere on earth. The creative process is an escape from personality (Eliot said that), and so is the open road. For me every journey still yields energy, joy and, above all, hope. There is always a dash of human dignity to lift a story out of absurdity and farce, however ugly the background. I don’t think so. And a journey goes in fits and starts, like life. Has tourism murdered travel writing?  
Photograph ©   Alexander Synaptic Don’t you sometimes find daily life almost unbearably poetic? The significance of the trivial is what makes a piece of travel writing human, not the stuntish business of being the first person to paddle the Congo. Throughout my own writing life, travel has loaned a vehicle in which to explore the inner terrain of fears and desires we stumble through every day. When I lived in Chile I found my weekly trawl round the supermarket gripping: watching women decide between this jar of dulce de leche or that one, weighing out their chirimoyas, loading up with boxes of washing powder. Minute curiosity is a requirement of the travel writer – as it is of the biographer, novelist and poet. Out there on the road, I have often found that the most aimless and boring interludes yield, in the long run, the most fertile material. The world everywhere, and simultaneously, is a beautiful and horrible place. Writing about travel always has and always will allow flexibility and freedom within a rigid frame of train journeys, weather and a knackered tent.