What is Travel Writing? Don Pinnock, Associate Editor of Getaway, gives us his version


What is Travel Writing? Don Pinnock, Associate Editor of Getaway, gives us his version
"Never define it, just do it." I came into travel writing as a news journalist with the inverted pyramid and all that shit in my head. Discovered, with delight, that travel writing was actually about essaying - a form of writing that pre-dated news journalism as we know it. My mentor was William Cobbett (Rural Rides) a 19th century British kak-stirrer who invented the Penny Press, and Sol Plaatjie, who did almost the same here in SA. And after them, all the others you know about, especially Barry Lopez, Redmond O'Hanlon and David Quamman. So for me, travel writing is both the story and the second exploration of a journey undertaken in pursuit of new experiences beyond our comfort zone. It's also the kind of writing that doesn't pretend to be objective, allowing a reader to travel through the writer's visual and emotional experiences, identifying with them. They need to feel they're there with you. I must add that travel is often stressful, even dangerous, and hard work so the 'second journey' - that of writing the story - is quite often more pleasurable and makes more sense to the writer.  The truth is that it's often better to have been somewhere that to actually be there. I often use Khartoum as an example. To have been there, with all that amazing history - Napoleon, Baker, Gordon, the Mahdi, the Mameluks, Kitchener and desert raiders - and to be able to call it to mind, is a treasure. To be in Khartoum - heat, dust, poverty, soldiers heading for Darfur, refugees from the southern wars, traffic, is absolute hell.

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