Do Travel Writers Go To Hell?

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Do Travel Writers Go To Hell?

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Set 9, 2008, 2:12 pm

Is anybody really surprised by this? Even authors of "legitimate" travel literature will admit if only to themselves that they have taken a little poetic license. Does it really matter? Where do we draw the line? Even my favorite author Norman Lewis called by Graham Greene "one of the best writers not of any particular decade, but of our century", manipulated facts to suit the prose.

Modificato: Ott 16, 2008, 8:08 am

First, I differentiate between travel writers, travel guide contributors and travel journalists.

Travel writers want to make their stories interesting, so they may add some spice to their tales. If that spice originates in something that actually happened, but maybe not exactly where and when the book says, I don't think it's a sin big enough to bring anyone to hell. However, I think travel writers will have to be more truthful as times goes by. Once upon a time travelers were also explorers. They told about places few if any had visited, so they could claim pretty much anything to be the truth. These days, however, almost anyone can go anywhere to check the facts, and people from anywhere are on the Internet, eager to provide correct and updated information. So travel writers now simply have to tell the truth.

Travel guide contributors want to make a living just by stating facts. This means they often get the facts without checking them, and sometimes without even visiting the places they write about. This means you can only use what they write as a general indication of what may be the truth. You should not be surprised if a street, cafe or hotel in the book does not exist any more in the real world, if it ever did. Usually they do, though, so it's worth bring a travel guide book on any trip to somewhere you haven't been before. Given that nobody should risk their lives based on something they read in a travel guide, I don't think slightly cheating travel guide contributors should be sent to hell either.

Travel journalists are usually sponsored by someone to write nice things about their place/meals/activities. This means of course that they can not be trusted to give a truthful description of what something/somewhere is like. So, again, you can not be sent to hell for doing something you're obviously expected to do.

I reckon you'll find plenty of writers in Hell, but for other reasons than their writing. #8D)


Set 21, 2008, 12:48 pm

Well said Bjørn, though this reminds me of going to dining establishments based upon recommendations and finding the food there nothing as described.

Of all the major travel guides which do people find the most up to date and accurate?

Modificato: Set 21, 2008, 8:24 pm

Bjørn your travel site and photography is an inspiration. Keep up the good work! Looks like I'll need to do a lot more work on my own site: A Long Desire

Dic 25, 2008, 11:27 am

Dennis ... I stick with Time Out guides wherever possible. Reading Do Travel Writers Go To Hell? has soured me on Lonely Planet.

Dic 26, 2008, 2:02 am

I LOVE the pictures in the Eyewitness Travel guides, and for Europe, I have wonderful luck with the Rick Steves' guides.

I only use the Lonely Planet website for nuts and bolts info, like what plug adapter to use and things like that, I find the books sterile and boring regardless of whether they are accurate and current or not.

Modificato: Mag 1, 2009, 8:57 am

Bjørn, loved the site and the photos! The photos from Croatia made me feel all nostalgic.

Now, I am going to take exception with your characterization of travel journalists :) Me being one occasionally and all. If you work for newspapers and magazines most of them will very specifically ask you to declare any and all funds you received in pursuit of the story. Some will ask you to state specifically in the story if you received free flight/accommodation/food/transportation and others will simply not buy a story from you. Also, as a journalist, I try to pick publications that are interested in the travel stories I like to write. For me, that usually means writing about a particular issue or personality rather than descriptive pieces of where to stay, what to see and where to eat.

Huh... all this to say that indeed there is some terribly biased writing out there especially in in-flight magazines which I am trying to stay away from...

As for writers in hell - I am right there with you. I am sure there is plenty of them there, but probably not because of their writing.


Nov 25, 2010, 12:41 pm

ive never been a fan of travel guides and as for travel literature, if they claim it as nonfiction i would be bothered but otherwise i like for things to be romantisized. so no more travel guides just get a good map and get lost. haha

Nov 25, 2010, 1:25 pm

Dante did.

Modificato: Dic 8, 2011, 10:40 am

9 LOL. Inferno is one of my favorite rereads.

In my travel book, I gave my mother and husband drafts to read so as to check for truth and accuracy. I also had video that I referred to. Non recorded conversations may not be precise because of the imperfection of memory, but I think as long as your intention is to convey the truth, as best remembered, you are ok :)