Every single time I tell someone I have trained as a journalist, one of the first questions is always ‘What type of journalism do you want to do?’
I always stumble through some non-committal spiel about wanting to ‘work in magazines’ or ‘write features’, but that’s not really it at all. I love reading news, but I’m not serious enough to write it, and I’m not keen on the rigid news writing style. I want to do features, but it’s HARD to find people to publish them. What I really want to do, and what I am usually too afraid to tell people, is that I want to be a travel writer.
Note I say travel writer and not travel journalist. I believe that all non-fiction travel writing is a form of travel journalism in its own right. Dave Gorman and Danny Wallace are great at subtle travel journalism which gives an irresistible flavour of a place and its people as part of a real story rather than as straight travel copy. I would highly recommend Are You Dave Gorman? and America Unchained for an example of what I mean.
I want to be a travel writer partly for selfish reasons, but is there really a travel writer in the world who would say they don’t love being paid to travel and write? I want to see new places and be paid to do what I love to supplement that. There are so many places I want to go, and I think I’m a bit of a wanderer by nature. I want to see fjords and mountains and forests and giant lakes and sprawling cities and everything else in between, and without the budget to do that of my own accord, wouldn’t everyone be happy to get paid to do that?
But it isn’t entirely selfish. I’ve written city reviews before (of Copenhagen, Oslo, Reykjavik and Paris so far) and obviously I’m not paid for those. I do it out of genuine love and enthusiasm for the places I go, and I want other people to feel the same way. I’m excited by new places and people, and if I can make other people see why these places are so wonderful then I’m happy. Good travel writing should be about creating a piece of art that is exciting and dynamic and magical and I would love to do that for the rest of my life with the constant stimulation and inspiration of new places and spaces.
Travel journalism takes lots of different forms, and it is this versatility that particularly appeals. Man vs. Food is one of my favourite shows, which involves a man travelling around America and taking on food challenges in each city. This is nothing like Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island or all the travel magazines I used to buy and pore over religiously. It’s nothing like the wonderful features in travel brochures. It’s nothing like sharing your holiday photos with friends. But I consider all of these travel journalism, and isn’t it wonderful that there are so many manifestations of this coveted career path?
In a way, lots of journalism is some form of travel journalism. It might only be visiting a church fete for your local paper, or going to a book launch at a swanky location in London. It could be reporting from the battlefield in the middle of a warzone, or sitting in the front row of Paris Fashion Week. I would happily write about pretty much anything if it meant travelling to do it.
I will continue to write about the places I go for my own enjoyment, and hopefully one day the right person will read what I write and they will want to send me to some far flung destination to report back on everything I encounter. If that person is reading this now, I would be more than happy to go into the Arctic Circle, to Vancouver Island or to Israel, if you happen to have a couple of spare tickets lying around.
How about you? Do you want to write about sport, music, the economy, politics, fashion or something else entirely? What’s your journalistic passion and why?