While browsing an online travel magazine that left me torpid afterward because of the writer’s endless narration of his itinerary donned in a language too sweet and delicious I’m sure it will leave a diabetic’s sugar level shooting to the ceiling, I thought, unless he was high on drugs which made his senses super keen, he must be lying.

Travel writers are a special group of writers. They thrive in the extraordinary and the bizarre. Most of them have a special truckload of word ammunition that often leaves my mouth agape because of  its sophistication and elegance. I often see a mountain, a room with a view, and a meal as they often are–a mountain, a room with a view, and a meal, respectively. For travel writers, however, a mountain is a cascade of boulders and debris swept by the gentle blow of the easterlies, a room with a view is a room flooded in a carefully orchestrated foxtrot of sunlight and cool wind on a tranquil Saturday morning, a meal is a plateful of freshly harvested farm produce perfectly showered with a local concoction of cane vinegar and a hint of muscovado. To a travel writer, everything is a novelty, and so it has to be written in a hyperbolically romanticized way to an extent that a reader who is a local of the place he’s writing about will not recognize, take offense at, and find patronizing.

I seldom trust, if not completely distrust, travel writers. They do not understand the dreariness and the dryness of the everyday and the commonplace. They are passersby who cannot wait to leave the place and catch the next bus, train, or plane because the thought of what is out there, the other side of the mountain, the horizon, the antipode beckons with tempting invitation that the now is expressed in such succulent platitudes.  I gravitate toward the everyday because the everyday does not imagine itself other than what it is. The everyday defies any attempt at making it look rosier than what it truly is. It is only in the everyday that reflection is possible and truthful.

4 thoughts on “Everyday”

  1. Ouch.Haha. One of them Fev. I ‘squirmed’ while reading your post – like I did when I first read Zinsser’s On Writing Well: “Nowhere else in nonfiction do writers use such syrupy words and groaning platitudes. Adjectives you would squirm to use in conversation…are common currency. Half the sights seen in a day’s sightseeing are quaint, especially windmills and covered bridges; they are certified for quaintness.”

    Old (bad) habits die hard. I wish I could write like Hemingway in “Pamplona in July” or maybe even Kerouac in On the Road. 🙂

    “unless he was high on drugs which made his senses super keen, he must be lying” – or maybe they don’t know how else to write about the experience (just yet)?

    1. The article is merely an observation, James, and I don’t mean to berate writers who write this way. There’s a certain type of readers who finds this kind of writing interesting enough. I am not sure if we can exactly call it a bad habit, at times it is merely a matter of taste.

      A writer only needs to maintain some control over his subject. My rule of thumb is that the written should be a little close to the spoken form. But of course it still depends on the purpose of the writing task.

  2. Interesting observation about the deliberate romanticization — it is so true! I think that it travel magazine articles are written for an audience that is meant to be lured as some of the travel writers get some great deals from host (hotels or restaurants) to write a great review.

    Some people, including me, just like documenting great experiences. I don’t necessarily really want to experience the reality, but only the best of what the place can offer. After all, I’m taking precious day off from work so it better be worth it!

    1. Aside from the economic reason, I think that the diction of these articles is very telling. It seems like most travel writers belonged to an extremely inspired lot. Maybe it is time to recognize the existence of travel writing jargon.

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