Travel Writing is the Beacon of Hope
Travel writing in the Covid-19 era may seem counter-intuitive, but it is important in maintaining a positive frame of mind and healthy optimism.
We think we’ve got it bad but consider those poor folks who lived through the Great Depression of the 1930s. Between 1929 and 1933 the US unemployment rate jumped from 3.2% to 25%. There was little government intervention to help people until FDR’s New Deal. Millions of people were made homeless and many lived in makeshift shanty towns, Central Park became one of the biggest. The average family income dropped by 40%. People died of starvation. Relatively speaking we’ve got it easy.
It was against this backdrop that people turned to a world of fantasy, romance, comedy and music. The most popular books of the time, like the Maltese Falcon, Gone with the Wind and The Good Earth took readers to a different time and exotic places, far from the clawing pain of hunger. The movie industry also provided audiences with escape with extravagant musicals featuring hundreds of sparkling dancers high kicking their way through the Ziegfeld Follies. The Marx Brothers brought joy, while Fred and Ginger gave audiences romance and glamour. The Great Depression became a golden era for Hollywood, in much the same way as streaming services have never had it so good as the Covid-19 era.
People want to escape. Being cooped up for weeks on end brings a longing for new places, new scenery and above all hope.
This is where travel writers can step up. It is our duty to shine the beacon of hope and possibilities. Travel writing has always been about offering a fresh perspective, to inspire new journeys. In the same way people in the 1930s soaked up escapism of musicals and comedy, today’s audience are longing for a world beyond the house walls.
Now is the time to bring out the most inspiring and aspirational travel stories, those tales that will evoke wonder, dreams and joy. Now is the time to make your words dance like Fred and Ginger and bring hope to trapped minds.
Interestingly, travel is not actually necessary to travel writing in these times.
Several writers created travel texts during confinement. In 1790, Italian Xavier Maistre wrote a book describing his bedroom, where he was imprisoned following a duel. His book is a lesson in perspective. His room became a landscape, complete with topography. But Maistre is not alone. Orwell, Thoreau, and Seidel all wrote books set in small isolated spaces that explore the details and minutiae of life.
More modern examples of this genre include Allain de Botton’s diary of living in Heathrow’s departure hall for five days and Another Day in Paris which details the experience of sharing an Airbnb.
If we can’t take our audiences to new lands or experiences, we can provide a fresh perspective that can make the walls feel a little further away.
If you enjoyed my article please let me know with lots of clapping. I live for applause. For more nomadic tales and experiments come see me at Coolfooting where life is a journey not a race.