Why are we so fascinated with chronicling our travels? Ever since people began traveling for the sake of travel, the adventurous have made permanent records of their exploits. These precious accounts of adventure offered insights for the masses, filled with personal reflections, narratives, and sometimes exaggerated details of the foreign people, places, food, and cultures they encountered. The exotic tales enabled readers to live vicariously through the lucky few who were able to travel to the ends of the earth. Today, the advent of technology has ushered in a new format of travel writing: the blog. Blogging makes it easy for travelers to keep in touch with loved ones back home and, possibly, gain a following among interested strangers.
In some instances, such as the New York Times’ Frugal Traveler column,
blog readers actually dictate where the traveler will go next in his or her
journey. Matt Gross, the Times’ resident
budget-travel blogger, is currently undertaking the traditional “Grand Tour of
Europe,” updating it for the modern, savvy traveler and attempting to stay within
a budget of 100 euros per day (which, I can attest, is harder than it
seems). Matt just wrote about his
stopover on the island nation of Malta. His next stop is Cyprus, but his itinerary for the
following weeks is undecided. So log on and weigh in; your suggestion could be
one of his future destinations!
Travel bloggers range from professionals on their mid-life crisis trip-of-a-lifetime, to college students on their term abroad. My personal experience studying in Italy last year actually led me away from blogging in favor of a more traditional direction. Before my departure for four months in Rome, I was unsure what my internet situation might be, and unable to forecast my level of commitment to updating a blog once I got to “The Eternal City.” I wanted to keep my friends and family back home in the loop, but the atmosphere of Rome was just too intoxicating; there was so much to experience on the crooked cobblestone streets and in the smoke-filled cafes that I was hesitant to bind myself to expensive and touristy internet outposts.
Image courtesy of Sara Rossi
I decided to take the old-fashioned route instead. Like many travelers, I felt intimidated by the idea of describing a place so well-documented. As Mark Twain once said:
What is there in Rome for me to see that others have not seen before me? What is there for me to touch that others have not touched? What is there for me to feel, to learn, to hear, to know, that shall thrill me before it pass to others? What can I discover?
Despite the prolific precedent of Italian
travel writing, I was intent to try my best to carve my own niche. I bought a
beautiful, handmade journal in Florence
and wrote in it religiously for four months. Every night, from my apartment overlooking the Tiber River
By the time December rolled around, I had visited Florence, Cinque Terre, Pisa, Siena, Greve, Orvieto, Venice, Padua, Vicenza, Verona, Naples, and the Amalfi Coast.
Image courtesy of Ben Benson
Through my travels, I had also become a better writer. Exploring the hill towns and medieval villages was incredible, but I craved something tangible that could take me back to the olive grove or the Renaissance cathedral cloister anytime I wanted.
For lack of an infinite budget to spend on trinkets and souvenirs, I wrote instead: The old woman stringing her laundry across the balcony to dry - a practice, it seemed, she had performed every day of her life. The young boys kicking a soccer ball around the alley outside their father’s bakery – they didn't need a grassy field or uniforms to dream of being the next Totti. The ancient relics of saints’ bones (and in some cases, their tongues) - the pride of the city, prominently displayed and universally revered.
Image Courtesy of Annie Schoenecker
Through all these small moments and character sketches, I felt that I was creating my own relic. Less sacred to be sure, and far less macabre, but I had my own timeless and irrefutable evidence that I had been there.
With the final product, I had created my own authentic, unique experience while traversing the well-charted territory of the “boot.” And while I may have been a bit selfish in keeping it to myself, rather than posting it online, I treasure the journal now as a testament to the personal nature of my journey and the unique perspective I had when writing it.
Image courtesy of Amber Ray
Have you ever written a travel journal, or a travel blog? Which do you prefer? Do you regularly read any travel blogs?
Sara R. for My Wonderful World