Do Travel Writers go to Hell? The book that changed my opinions on guide books and blogging
Have you ever thought that being a travel writer is quite possibly the most glamorous and exciting job you could possibly do? A life filled with adventure, excitement and discovery and the chance to travel the world and write about it for some of the best publications would be a dream come true, right?
Well, that’s what I thought too until I read this book. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed it, but it made me realise that being a travel writer isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Thomas is a travel writer working on updating the Lonely Planet guide to South America. He begins with good intentions and intends to research every place thoroughly and give honest, unbiased opinions. But a lack of money, time and resources get the better of him. The book provides a hilarious but worrying perspective on writing travel guide books and he thoroughly de-glamorizes the sought after career.
I think that this is probably the best phrase from the book that sums it up perfectly:
“I imagine that the difference between travelling and professional travel writing is like the difference between having sex and working in pornography. While both are still probably fun, being a professional brings many levels of complication to your original interest and will eventually consume your personal life.”
Tom’s gloomy perspective didn’t put me off writing about my travels and it actually made me realise that there is such a huge need for good quality travel blogs and less and less need for outdated guide books. In the book he ends up taking free accommodation in return for good reviews. He lets people take him out for fancy dinners and he writes guides based on word-of-mouth recommendations over first hand accounts. Of course, this makes a hilarious read as he drunkenly stumbles around South America, but I’m not sure I’d ever trust a guide book in the same way again.
Guide books are great for maps and timetables but for up-to-date opinions and reviews, you can’t beat a travel blog. Travel bloggers don’t have the same deadlines or pressures. We don’t feel the need to review places that we’re not interested in or write gushing reviews about mediocre accommodation. I may be a little biased but, these days, I’d always check out my favourite blogs for destination reviews before I’d buy a Lonely Planet.
If you’re interested in reading about the life of a travel writer you should definitely check out this book or, better still, check out some of my favourite travel bloggers this year!