Travel writing is more important than ever

“Journalism desperately needs a return to terrain, to the kind of firsthand, solitary discovery of local knowledge best associated with old-fashioned travel writing. Travel writing is more important than ever as a means to reveal the vivid reality of places that get lost in the elevator music of 24-hour media reports. In and of itself, travel writing is a low-rent occupation, best suited for the Sunday supplements. But it is also a deft vehicle for filling the void in serious journalism: for example, by rescuing such subjects as art, history, geography, and statecraft from the jargon and obscurantism of academia, for the best travel books have always been about something else. Mary McCarthy’s The Stones of Florence (1959) and Robert Byron’s The Station (1928) deal with the art of the Renaissance and the Byzantine empire respectively. Winston Churchill’s The River War (1899) and T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1926) employ both the experience of travel and the study of geography to explore warfare and statecraft in late nineteenth-century Sudan in Churchill’s case, and the techniques of guerrilla insurgency in Lawrence’s. Owen Lattimore’s The Desert Road to Turkestan (1929) is on one level about the organization of camel caravans, and on another about Russian and Chinese imperial ambitions. Freya Stark’s The Southern Gates of Arabia (1936) is as good a depiction of Osama bin Laden’s tribal homeland of eastern Yemen as any you’ll find.”
–Robert D. Kaplan, “Cultivating Loneliness“, Columbia Journalism Review, Jan-Feb 2006

Posted by | Comments Off on Travel writing is more important than ever  | August 22, 2006
Category: Travel Quote of the Day

Comments are closed.