Friday, July 22, 2011

Why Do I Write About Travel?

     I don't get paid for the hours I spend writing about travel. Although I have sold quite a few copies of my travel book, What's an American Doing Here: Reflections on Travel in the Third World, I am donating the proceeds to Doctors without Borders, so I surely will never get rich on that project. My blog and the variety of on-line articles I have written are not a source of income either. Fortunately, that is not a concern for me but it still begs the question: "Why write about travel in the first place." Since I spend a good bit of my time on that activity, I do have to answer that question for myself so I'll let you in on it too.

     I know that part of the reason I write so much is that the very act of putting my thoughts and experiences on paper is a rewarding, creative activity. It is challenging to just write, to put information, feelings and opinions together in an organized, coherent way. It is also interesting to see how much of consequence I remember after a lifetime of travel and, perhaps, to test how complex and comprehensive those memories are. This is surely one motivation for me to spend so much time with words and revisions and distribution of ideas. But it is surely not enough for the hours I spend in this pursuit.

     Back to the book for a moment. Since I was not dependent on income from my book, I decided to use the profits to pay the Third World back for what it has given me, and to provide something for the people who have greeted me and made me feel comfortable, people who have been concerned about the quality of my experiences in their locales. It is clear to me that my writing is an extension of that goal but that, too, is only part of story. There were others who have contributed to my lifetime of joy and excitement and learning in out of the way places, namely the travelers I met along the way and the information I gathered from them to make my journeys richer and more successful. Their sharing of experiences helped me make intelligent choices about where to go and what to do. Their warnings enabled me to avoid unpleasantness and even dangers in some settings. Their joyful memories have enhanced my enthusiasm and desire.

      It was fellow travelers who convinced me that Sri Lanka was a wonderful destination even during their protracted civil war. They were so right. Others explained to me what facilities to choose and what to avoid in the Indonesian hinterlands. Thanks to them I missed resting places full of bats and rats for company. Still others pointed out places or activities I eventually stopped for and tried out but would otherwise have been unaware of. Thanks to them, I learned the value of sharing information about such things. Those stories made our travels safer, more comfortable and more rewarding than they would have been if we had not gained the knowledge fellow travelers shared with us.

      That is what I am trying to do for folks who read my blog, my articles and my book. I hope some of the information and observations you read in these publications serve as helpful guidelines or useful suggestions that make your travel richer. I have not been everywhere (although I have been to the places I most wanted to visit) so my blog is not totally comprehensive, yet there are probably places I have encouraged you to visit which you may have otherwise missed. My experiences and thoughts may contribute in some way to your future adventures and that is only payback for the joys I have had enhanced by those folks we met and shared stories with along our respective travel paths. I hope it works out that way. If so, my hours of writing will have been well worthwhile.

A Scene from China

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