What Do You Believe When it Comes to Travel Writing?
This author travelled at their own expense…it may be the most important words at the end of any travel story which seeks to seduce our wanderlust.
Beware the travel pages of many newspapers, magazines, websites which may make the world seem sunnier and more spectacular than it really is.
Their tight lens closes in on the delights of food, luxury, exotic experiences and very up-market pubs with the threat you’d better see all this before you die.
There may be some disclosure that the lucky lout who wrote this piece was flown and fed and fete-ed by the very airlines, hotels and eateries who get such positive write-ups.
There’s a chance it really was as fabulous as they claim but whose word would you trust: the traveller who is feather-bedded for free or those who diligently cover their own bills?
I’m reminded of this by seeing for the first time in the weekend papers more travel writers claiming to pay their own way.
Maybe the public relations industry which greases the wheels of world-wide indulgence are grinding to a much-needed halt. Or readers are demanding greater independence and more honest reviews.
Either way, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being dead jealous of those gifted, determined or canny enough to get others to bankroll their jaunts in return for a few well-crafted words.
If there was ever a Golden Age of travel, we might excuse a select few writers gilding the lily as they sailed down The Nile, explored the South Seas and hunted big game in Africa.
But how times have changed with bloggers, Instagram influencers and too many others jostling to milk the most out of a host of more numerous and maybe less luxurious destinations.
There’s even a name for it, junketism, and it's attracted regulation.
The USA’s Federal Trade Commission requires writers and bloggers to disclose any ‘material connections’ with those who provide the goods and services, example: booze and bed, that they endorse.
One junket I shall never live down but am eternally grateful for was the Fiji Visitors Bureau agreeing to provide an on-the-record honeymoon for my then blushing bride and myself.
What she didn’t know, and I didn’t appreciate, was our two week all expenses paid honeymoon would mean staying in ten different properties. They varied from hideaway islands, to overdeveloped hotels and even an eco-resort with a leaky grass hut.
Apart from the endless transfers by boat, canoe, flying boat and bumpy minibus there were ten formal dinners with the manager or owner who wanted to explain to us at length about all the facilities.
It was an unforgettable honeymoon and she is still paying me out for it even now. The final newspaper story completes with happy snaps disclosed the generosity of our hosts and underlined my own parsimony.
Since then travel has been largely at my own expense, which I am happy to declare to anyone who could care less. It leaves me far keener to read about the experiences of those who have actually paid for them than others for whom another fairy-tale destination is just one more indulgent junket.
Any advice contained in this article is general in nature and does not take into account your particular objectives, personal circumstances or needs. If in doubt about your own situation you should seek appropriate advice.