Friday, February 4, 2011

Sucky Travel-Writing Tips

#1 Hang With Tourists like Elizabeth Gilbert

The Eat, Pray, Love author traveled to find herself but apparently no one else. In Italy, her best bud was Swiss. In India, her best bud was Texan. In Bali, her best bud was Brazilian. Did she really need to go to these places? Couldn't she have hung with expatriates in New York? If there's a reason to go somewhere, there's a reason to get to know people from there. Perhaps, locals could have enlightened her that the third phase of Buddha's search (after hedonism and asceticism) wasn't a Latino fling.

#2 Get Lost In Details like Julia Dimon

Never wonder what Islam is really about, rather notice what snacks its festivals offer. By pointing out the dots but never trying to connect them, you won't offend anyone. You also won't likely amuse or enlighten anyone. Still, as long as you look like this Word Travels host, no one will care whether you say anything meaningful or not. Besides, you're just trying to become a famous writer, you're not trying to convey a message. That would be presumptuous and silly.

#3 Reflexively U.S. Bash Like Paul Theroux

Whenever you see a scrap of litter or a traffic jam, remind readers that all such global evils result from Americanization. Define American culture as Big Macs and Coca-cola, excluding medical advances, computer technology and anything else decent, so that you can piously denigrate all Americana. Then, when you are bringing your old American butt to a young girl in Thailand for a massage (as you wrote about), think of it as her opportunity for connection to literary greatness not as contact with icky American stuff.

#4 Hype the Writerly Image like Jennifer Leo

Whenever possible use the phrase "travel writing lifestyle." Suggest to your adoring fans that travel writers are and always have been an exclusive group of celebrities, who jet from one beach restaurant to another on publishers' unlimited tabs. Ignore the reality that we have a long tradition of viewing life from the edge. Forget that many of us like Hemingway look at the world so hard and with such heart that glug, glug, click, bang sometimes seems a reasonable response. Do
everything you can to help travel writing evolve
from timeless art into pop-culture fad.

Follow these tips and you're on your way to becoming a sucky travel writer.
Namaste and blessings from your sucky-life coach and sucky-writing guru.


  1. The movie "Eat, Pray, Love" just looked too "bleh" (so I avoided it). For one thing, there were not going to be any vampires in it. For another? I never understood (back when I was a kid and was forced to go to church and church-school) why people who live sucky lives always seemed to get the podium spotlight. I cannot tell you HOW many times I've heard sermons from former junkies, sex addicts or supposedly demon possessed people who suddenly found Jesus - and every thing's supposedly perfect after that. Try talking to their now-adult children - kids they neglected or abused along the way. Tell their victims that everything is suddenly okay.

    I wasn't about to pay to watch a movie about some superficial relationship-whore who suddenly turned spiritual. Surely Hollywood can come up with better story-lines to promote than that. Otherwise, people may as well just go sit in a pew to watch whatever animated action is happening at church.

    Gandhi? He was worth paying to see featured in a movie - because he actually had something intelligent to say.

  2. Paul Theroux is my favorite sucky travel writer. I don't mind his mild America bashing so much as the fact that he seems to hate traveling. I recently reviewed his Ghost Train to the Eastern Star.

  3. Lyn, Lyn, Lyn...Guess I have to bump your book up on my reading wishlist.