Why I am Not A Travel Writer (Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls)

In my novel HOW TO BE ALIVE, the main character, Jen, is just beginning to pursue her dream of being a travel writer. In the book she travels to Rome and Venice. I picked these places because I had visited them relatively recently and could draw on my experience.

Guess what some of the hardest scenes to write were? You got it– the Rome and Venice ones. Travel writing = not my thing.

Sure I remembered how the rose-colored glass in the Venetian street lamps looked against the gray sky. How quiet and haunting and reverent the church at the top of the Spanish Steps felt. But so much else eluded me. What was the name of the street with all the high-end shops? What were the water taxis in Venice called? What was the name of the square where the guy was selling pigeon food? (You know, so you could attract a bunch of pigeons and take your picture with them, naturally.) I never thought to pull out a notebook and jot these things down.

If the lack of important geographic details wasn’t my downfall, then the photography would surely end my career before it started. I’ll submit a few samples from my recent trip to Portland as evidence:

I call this pile of ham and fancy crackers at a bad angle. I'm not sure where I ordered this-- making it hard to write about in a travel article.

I call this pile of ham and fancy crackers at a bad angle. Also, I’m not sure where I ordered this– making it difficult to write about in a travel article.

If you look really closely through that rain-covered window you can see a waterfall. It's quite grand-- you'll just have to take my word for it.

If you look really closely through that rain-covered window you can see a waterfall. It’s quite grand– you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Random picture of plans from the Lan Su Chinese Gardens. I took it so I could show one of the volunteers and ask what type to plant it is. (It's a Chinese Mayapple).

Random picture of plants from the Lan Su Chinese Gardens, taken so I could show one of the volunteers and ask what they were. (Chinese Mayapples). Would be interesting to write about if I’d managed to take a decent photo.

Aside from quality (I actually did get some lovely shots– though not of that waterfall or the mayapples), the other problem with my photo-documentation of trips is that it usually stops about midway through. At some point I just stop remembering to pull out my phone and snap a picture. Rookie mistake. It’s a good thing that my writing dreams skew strongly toward fiction.

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5 thoughts on “Why I am Not A Travel Writer (Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls)

    • Absolutely! I think that’s why I eventually stop taking pictures– I’m just drinking in being in the place and pictures aren’t my go to way to do that. Also, extremely grateful for the ability to travel!

  1. You should see my travel scrapbooks. Or maybe you shouldn’t. They’re…thorough. A monument to a bad memory 🙂

    • I bet they are fabulous AND that you remember the names of the places you visited. 🙂 In a couple months I’ll look at my pictures and wonder what the name of the gardens where I saw those strange green plants in Portland was. (And then I’ll Google “gardens in Portland”.)

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