Continuing my exploration into travel writing, today I consider how differently men and women perceive ‘place’ and reflect this in their writing, and what abilities are required of the travel writer.
Both women and men are products of their social, emotional, spiritual, physical, intellectual and psychological development. Some of this occurs as a result of upbringing: the family in which they grow up, the communities they find themselves in, their society – and the ideologies within these. Western society has developed through a long patriarchal history and its organisations, such as universities, legal systems, etc., reflect this. Women and men are a result of these societies.
The concerns of women are likely to be different given the above comments. Perhaps women don’t see the differences, or they don’t mind them, or they are so conditioned as to not question them, or they lean towards differing levels of rebellion and action. Either way, this must inevitably flavor their writing in different ways to the writing of men.
The implications of this may be seen in how writers perceive the places and cultures around them, how they write about them and through which filters they are viewing the world.
In travel writing, there must be a journey, either internal and/or external; a sense of destination: whether this is a final destination, one of many, or a sense of home; and a sense of place, this could be a location or could use the self as the location.
Travel writing requires of the author, an understanding of the location, a sensitivity to place and people, an openness, a keen observation and level of attention: the travel writer must explore, look, listen and taste carefully; they must reflect deeply and insightfully throughout the journey and while writing up, recording or reporting, in order to share the story. They must be honest, accurate and objective while doing all this.
Journey narratives are engaging and entertaining, but also the reader can develop their own sense of self, what it means to be human and connected, by musing on the insights of the travel writer and the writer’s own journey. This type of travel writing lends itself to the armchair travel reader as the journey can take place without actually going anywhere.
The potential travel writer needs the ability to find an episode in their travels that is whole and complete within itself, the ability to find the narrative thread within this episode, an understanding of a location(s) and its people, and an ability to extrapolate this. They also need to find humour and to laugh at one’s self.
Photo credit: Woman on Platform
Photo credit: Adventurer