The Challenge of Travel Writing

Posted by sue on October 3rd, 2007

So, I’m reading The Book of Disquiet, by Fernando Pessoa, one of Portugal’s most famous poets and authors (therefore, not famous at all. Ouch!). He was one depressed dude. He writes, “Everything wearies me, including what doesn’t weary me. My happiness is as painful as my pain.” Seriously, this is not a guy you want to invite to your next cocktail party (which is just as well, since he died in 1935).

But, he might just have a point about travel writing:
“[Travel books] are worth only as much as the imagination of the one who writes them, and if the writer has imagination, he can as easily enchant us with the detailed, photographic description…of scenes he imagined as he can with the necessarily less detailed description of the scenes he thought he saw.”

He points to the challenge we have here at Squid HQ. Communicating interesting tidbits about overseas living experiences has less to do with the inherent exoticism of living in Fez, or Cairo, or Lisbon, than it is about how good of writers we are. It turns out that we’re naturally rather boring people, and even worse writers. Sorry! We’ll work on it.

We’re going to the very north of Portugal this weekend, and also plan to visit Galicia, the area of Spain that’s north of Portugal. I have Thursday, Friday, and Monday off from teaching (a little break between terms) and we’re taking advantage of the long weekend to see more of the country. We’ll try to think of witty, observant things to say about it all. Or just drink lots of wine. One of the two.

38 Responses to “The Challenge of Travel Writing”

  1. Heather Says:

    Write while drinking the wine. Drinking and writing ensures that at least one person (you) will think what you’ve written is great.

  2. Cathy Says:

    I wouldn’t worry too much about how enchanting your writing is. I haven’t noticed any huge decline in the readership of this web site.

  3. sean Says:

    Wow, they celebrate Columbus with a five-day holiday there? I thought he was Italian.. :-j

  4. sue Says:

    The holiday in question was October 5, which celebrates the ousting of Portugal’s king and the establishment of a Republic in 1910.

    And yes, the readership of our site has held steady at 10 people, no matter what we post and however erratic our posting habits are. That is reassuring, I suppose. But, like many things in life, you hope you get better at them with time and practice.

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