Travel Writing for the Rest of Us

More and more lately, I find myself immersed in travel writing, a sector that appears filled to bursting with totally ordinary white men trying to bring perspective to the world. This isn’t a criticism—much of the writing is beautiful and nuanced, but as a tiny woman, often I don’t really feel that I belong in their stories. Over the past decade, I’ve travelled to lots of different places, from Iceland to Azerbaijan and Mexico to Argentina—and I think, as a woman often travelling alone, my experience is very different to the easy confidence of a lot of travel writing.

Let’s face facts: travelling looks like paradise in Instagram photos, but in reality comes with the hefty weight of multiple challenges, some of which are felt much more bluntly depending on the traveller. Women travelling alone face inherent risks, especially in places where women’s rights are less developed. People who are disabled are rarely accounted for in guidebooks, and it’s only in recent years that I’ve seen guidebooks offering recommendations and advise for LGBT travellers. People with illnesses that may need management, people with young children, people of colour—the world of travel writing, in its efforts to broaden our view, sometimes narrows people down quite a bit.

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