A few weeks ago while teaching a travel writing seminar, I had students place themselves on a map on the wall. Where were they from? Where had they been? Soon the map was covered with post-its. Between the eight of us, we had covered the continents, from Spain to New Zealand. While we marveled at our mobility, we also had to face a serious question. If the world is this connected, what is the place and purpose of travel writing, a genre that developed with the discovery of the world? Explorers used to write home, describing the new lands they saw. Today, if a reader can type Tahiti, they can see paradise.
Simon Garfield's new book On the Map opens with a spread Facebook's map of connectivity. Someone put in all the coordinates of Facebook users, and out of the void a map arose, formed through millions of threaded connections. Despite the fact that we can travel the world on our iPad, the genre of travel writing persists. People still feel compelled to write what they saw, and I can vouch for the fact that there are readers out there, because I talk to them every day, as they browse our Destination Literature shelves.
So travel writers: take heart. We've got books to guide you through your process. Lonely Planet has just released the newly updated Guide to Travel Writing. From craft to query, travel writer Don George provides expert advice to help you write, sell and publish your tales of adventure. While the audience, focus, and form of the genre might be in continual flux, the folks at Matador Travel have done their best to map out the place it still holds for contemporary readers and to give you some ideas for how to stay up-to-date with the newest innovations. Click here to read the article on their blog. And finally, to sample some of the current travel writing published, pick up Travelers Tales new anthologyThe Best Women's Travel Writing 2013. And look for The Best American Travel Writing 2013, due out in October.
Through these books and my own travels I am convinced that the appeal of adventure persists. No matter how much of the world is known there are still the infinite revelations of the self that occur during each encounter with a new land. And so we keep reading.