Travel literature is travel writing aspiring to literary value. Travel literature typically records the experiences of an author touring a place for the pleasure of travel. An individual work is sometimes called a travelogue or itinerary. Travel literature may be cross-cultural or transnational in focus, or may involve travel to different regions within the same country. Accounts of spaceflight may also be considered travel literature.
Literary travelogues generally exhibit a coherent narrative or aesthetic beyond the logging of dates and events as found in travel journals or a ship's log. Travel literature is closely associated with outdoor literature and the genres often overlap with no definite boundaries. Another sub-genre, invented in the 19th century, is the guide book.
Early examples of travel literature include Pausanias' Description of Greece in the 2nd century CE, and the travelogues of Ibn Jubayr (1145–1214) and Ibn Batutta (1304–1377), both of whom recorded their travels across the known world in detail. The travel genre was a fairly common genre in medieval Arabic literature.
One of the earliest known records of taking pleasure in travel, of travelling for the sake of travel and writing about it, is Petrarch's (1304–1374) ascent of Mount Ventoux in 1336. He states that he went to the mountaintop for the pleasure of seeing the top of the famous height. His companions who stayed at the bottom he called frigida incuriositas ("a cold lack of curiosity"). He then wrote about his climb, making allegorical comparisons between climbing the mountain and his own moral progress in life.
Michault Taillevent, a poet for the Duke of Burgundy, travelled through the Jura Mountains in 1430 and left us with his personal reflections, his horrified reaction to the sheer rock faces, and the terrifying thunderous cascades of mountain streams. Antoine de la Sale (c. 1388–c. 1462), author of Petit Jehan de Saintre, climbed to the crater of a volcano in the Lipari Islands in 1407, leaving us with his impressions. "Councils of mad youth" were his stated reasons for going. In the mid-15th century, Gilles le Bouvier, in his Livre de la description des pays, gave us his reason to travel and write:
- Because many people of diverse nations and countries delight and take pleasure, as I have done in times past, in seeing the world and things therein, and also because many wish to know without going there, and others wish to see, go, and travel, I have begun this little book.
In 1589, Richard Hakluyt (c. 1552–1616) published Voyages, a foundational text of the travel literature genre.
Other later examples of travel literature include accounts of the Grand Tour. Aristocrats, clergy, and others with money and leisure time travelled Europe to learn about the art and architecture of its past. One tourism literature pioneer was Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–1894).
Travel literature also became popular during the Song Dynasty (960–1279) of medieval China. The genre was called 'travel record literature' (youji wenxue), and was often written in narrative, prose, essay and diary style. Travel literature authors such as Fan Chengda (1126–1193) and Xu Xiake (1587–1641) incorporated a wealth of geographical and topographical information into their writing, while the 'daytrip essay' Record of Stone Bell Mountain by the noted poet and statesman Su Shi (1037–1101) presented a philosophical and moral argument as its central purpose.
In the 18th century, travel literature was commonly known as the book of travels, which mainly consisted of maritime diaries. In 18th century Britain, almost every famous writer worked in the travel literature form. Captain James Cook's diaries (1784) were the equivalent of today's best sellers.
Burton Holmes was an American traveler, photographer and filmmaker, who coined the term "travelogue". Travel stories, slide shows, and motion pictures were all in existence before Holmes began his career, as was the profession of travel lecturer; but Holmes was the first person to put all of these elements together into documentary travel lectures. The Americans, Paul Theroux, Bill Bryson and William Least Heat-Moon, Welsh author Jan Morris and Englishman Eric Newby are or were widely acclaimed as travel writers although Morris is also a historian and Theroux a novelist.
Travel literature often intersects with essay writing, as in V. S. Naipaul's India: A Wounded Civilization, where a trip becomes the occasion for extended observations on a nation and people. This is similarly the case in Rebecca West's work on Yugoslavia, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon.
Sometimes a writer will settle into a locality for an extended period, absorbing a sense of place while continuing to observe with a travel writer's sensibility. Examples of such writings include Lawrence Durrell's Bitter Lemons, Deborah Tall's The Island of the White Cow and Peter Mayle's best-selling A Year in Provence and its sequels.
Travel and nature writing merge in many of the works by Sally Carrighar, Ivan T. Sanderson and Gerald Durrell. These authors are naturalists, who write in support of their fields of study. Charles Darwin wrote his famous account of the journey of HMS Beagle at the intersection of science, natural history and travel.
Literary travel writing also occurs when an author, famous in another field, travels and writes about his or her experiences. Examples of such writers are Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens, Mary Wollstonecraft, Robert Louis Stevenson, Hilaire Belloc, D. H. Lawrence, Rebecca West and John Steinbeck.
Fictional travelogues make up a large proportion of travel literature. Although it may be desirable in some contexts to distinguish fictional from non-fictional works, such distinctions have proved notoriously difficult to make in practice, as in the famous instance of the travel writings of Marco Polo or John Mandeville. Many "fictional" works of travel literature are based on factual journeys – Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and presumably, Homer's Odyssey (c. 8th century BCE) – while other works, though based on imaginary and even highly fantastic or satirical journeys – Dante's Divine Comedy, Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, Voltaire's Candide or Samuel Johnson's The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia – nevertheless contain factual elements.
One contemporary example of a real life journey transformed into a work of fiction is travel writer Kira Salak's novel, The White Mary, which takes place in Papua New Guinea and the Congo and is largely based on her own experiences in those countries.
Travel literature in criticism
The systematic study of travel literature emerged as a legitimate field of scholarly inquiry in the mid-1990s, with its own conferences, organizations, journals, monographs, anthologies, and encyclopedias. Among the most important, pre-1995 monographs are: Abroad (1980) by Paul Fussell, an exploration of British interwar travel writing as escapism; Gone Primitive: Modern Intellects, Savage Minds (1990) by Marianna Torgovnick, an inquiry into the primitivist presentation of foreign cultures; Haunted Journeys: Desire and Transgression in European Travel Writing (1991) by Dennis Porter, a close look at the psychological correlatives of travel; Discourses of Difference: An Analysis of Women’s Travel Writing by Sara Mills, an inquiry into the intersection of gender and colonialism during the 19th century; Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (1992), Mary Louise Pratt's influential study of Victorian travel writing’s dissemination of a colonial mind-set; and Belated Travelers (1994), an analysis of colonial anxiety by Ali Behdad.
The study of travel writing developed most extensively in the late 1990s, encouraged by the currency of Foucauldian criticism and Edward Said's postcolonial landmark study Orientalism. This growing interdisciplinary preoccupation with cultural diversity, globalization, and migration is expressed in other fields of literary study, most notably Comparative Literature. The first international travel writing conference, “Snapshots from Abroad”, organized by Donald Ross at the University of Minnesota in 1997, attracted over one hundred scholars and led to the foundation of the International Society for Travel Writing (ISTW). The first issue of Studies in Travel Writing was published the same year, edited by Tim Youngs. Annual scholarly conferences about travel writing, held in the USA, Europe and Asia, saw an unprecedented upswing in the number of published travel literature monographs and essay collections, as well as a proliferation of travel writing anthologies.
Major directions in recent travel writing scholarship include: studies about the role of gender in travel and travel writing (e.g. Women Travelers in Colonial India: The Power of the Female Gaze  by Indira Ghose); explorations of the political functions of travel (e.g. Radicals on the Road: The Politics of English Travel Writing in the 1930s  by Bernard Schweizer); postcolonial perspectives on travel (e.g. English Travel Writing: From Pilgrimages to Postcolonial Explorations (2000) by Barbara Korte); and studies about the function of language in travel and travel writing (e.g. Across the Lines: Travel, Language, and Translation  by Michael Cronin). Tim Youngs is a driving force behind the growth of the field, notably through the journal Studies in Travel Writing, through his two co-edited volumes of essays on travel writing, Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing (2002), co-edited with T. Hulme, and Perspectives in Travel Writing (2004), co-edited with G. Hooper. Youngs also co-organized the 2005 travel writing conference, “Mobilis in Mobile”, in Hong Kong. Kristi Siegel is another prolific editor of travel writing scholarship, having edited Issues in Travel Writing: Empire, Spectacle and Displacement (2002), as well as Gender, Genre, and Identity in Women’s Travel Writing (2004).
Travel writing is a genre that has, as its focus, accounts of real or imaginary places. The genre encompasses a number of styles that may range from the documentary to the evocative, from literary to journalistic, and from the humorous to the serious. Travel writing is often associated with tourism, and includes works of an ephemeral nature such as guide books and reviews, with the intent being to educate the reader about the destination, provide helpful advice for those visiting the destination, and inspire readers to travel to the destination. Effective travel writing should allow readers a vivid recollection of the area/areas being described in a way that is useful and entertaining. Travel writing of various degrees of quality may be found on web sites, in magazines and in books. Travel writing has also been produced by other types of travelers, such as military officers, missionaries, explorers, scientists, pilgrims, and migrants.
A guide book is a book for tourists or travelers that provides details about a geographic location, tourist destination, or itinerary. It is the written equivalent of a tour guide. Modern travel guides often now take the form of travel websites rather than printed books.
A travel journal, also called road journal or travelogue, is a record made by a voyager. Generally in diary form, a travel journal contains descriptions of the traveler's experiences, and is normally written during the course of the journey, with the intention of updating friends or family on the journey. Travel journals may be published in printed form, or online as blogs. Some travel blogs today are built with the intent of supporting the traveler financially during their journey.
Travel writing is a long-established literary format; an early example is the writing of Pausanias (2nd century AD) who produced his Description of Greece based on his own observations. Another more recent example is Che Guevara's The Motorcycle Diaries.
Travel journals generally refer to the notes made by travellers en route, before being worked up in detail for publication. James Boswell published his The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides in 1786 and Goethe published his Italian Journey, based on diaries, in 1816.
- Travel blog
Travel blogs are online travel journals, sometimes known as travelogs.
The first online travel blog was posted by Jeff Greenwald on GNN, the Global Network Navigator in 1993-1994, describing his journey around the world. (These dispatches formed the basis for his subsequent book, The Size of the World.)
One of the web's first online diaries - and a prototype of what was to become the 'blog' - was "A Hypertext Journal" (1996) by artists Karen Guthrie and Nina Pope, who followed the route of Boswell & Johnson's "Tour of the Western Isles" whilst responding to ongoing requests and interactions with their remote online audience. Today, websites such as first2board.com, boardingarea.com and upgrd.com serve as aggregators of top national bloggers, offering a wide variety of travel content on one site. Notable current travel blogs include NomadicMatt.com, Everywhereist.com, Letter from Europe, BaconIsMagic.com, At390.com, and WanderingEarl.com.
Many websites now offer free or cheap travel blog formats where travelers can upload photos and map their trips as well as meet other travelers. Many sites allow users to display their experiences with little or no technical expertise while keeping an archive of all their past trips. Many travel blog websites also publish articles and guides focusing on travel related issues. There are some who believe that the increase of blogs may threaten traditional postcards.
List of travel books
- Beautiful England (series of travel books from 1910 to 1950s)
- British Guild of Travel Writers
- Dolman Best Travel Book Award (begun 2006)
- Imaginary voyages
- Outdoor literature
- Picador Travel Classics
- Thomas Cook Travel Book Award (ran from 1980–2004)
- El-Shihibi, Fathi A. (2006). Travel Genre in Arabic Literature: A Selective Literary and Historical Study (Originally presented as the author's thesis (Ph.D.--Boston University, 1998)). Boca Raton, Fla: Dissertation.com. ISBN 1-58112-326-4.
- Deschaux, Robert; Taillevent, Michault (1975). Un poète bourguignon du XVe siècle, Michault Taillevent: édition et étude. Librairie Droz. pp. 31–32.
- Hargett 1985, p. 67.
- Hargett 1985, pp. 67–93.
- Hargett 1985, pp. 74–76.
- Stolley 1992, p. 26.
- Fussell 1963, p. 54.
- Finkel, Michael (August 2008). "Kira Salek: The White Mary". National Geographic Adventure. Retrieved 12 November 2010.
- Trachtenberg, Jeffrey A. (26 July 2008). "Imaginary Journey". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 12 November 2010.
- "The White Mary: A Novel". Amazon.com. ASIN 0805088474.
- "Welcome". International Society for Travel Writing. 2010. Retrieved 4 February 2010.
- Siegel, Kristi. "Publications". KristiSiegel.com. Retrieved 12 November 2010.
- Paul Willis (2008-08-04). "Can Postcards Survive the Digital Age?". CNN. Retrieved 2008-08-14.
- Batten, Charles Lynn (1978). Pleasurable Instruction: Form and Convention in Eighteenth-Century Travel Literature. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-03260-6. OCLC 4419780.
- Chaney, Edward (1998). The Evolution of the Grand Tour: Anglo-Italian Cultural Relations Since the Renaissance. London: Frank Cass. ISBN 978-0-7146-4577-3. OCLC 38304358.
- Chatzipanagioti-Sangmeister, Julia (2006). Griechenland, Zypern, Balkan und Levante: eine kommentierte Bibliographie der Reiseliteratur des 18. Jahrhunderts (in German). Eutin: Lumpeter and Lasel. ISBN 978-3-9810674-2-2. OCLC 470750661.
- Cox, Edward Godfrey (1935). A Reference Guide To The Literature Of Travel. Including Voyages, Geographical Descriptions, Adventures, Shipwrecks and Expeditions. Seattle: University of Washington. Vol. 1
- Fussell, Paul (1963). "Patrick Brydone: The Eighteenth-Century Traveler As Representative Man". Literature As a Mode of Travel. New York: New York Public Library. pp. 53–67. OCLC 83683507.
- Hargett, James M. (1985). "Some Preliminary Remarks on the Travel Records of the Song Dynasty (960-1279)". Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews 7 (1/2): 67–93. doi:10.2307/495194. JSTOR 495194.
- Speake, Jennifer (2003). Literature of Travel and Exploration: An Encyclopedia. New York: Fitzroy Dearborn. ISBN 1-57958-247-8. OCLC 55631133.
- Stolley, Karen (1992). El lazarillo de ciegos caminantes: un itinerario crítico (in Spanish). Hanover, NH: Ediciones del Norte. ISBN 978-0-910061-49-0. OCLC 29205545.
|Look up itinerary in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Travel literature.|
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Travel writing.|
- International Society for Travel Writing
- "The Literature of Travel, 1700–1900" and "Essay on travel literature, from The Cambridge History of English and American Literature (1907–1921).
- Historical British travel writers: an extensive open access library on the Vision of Britain site.
- The Significance of the Travelogue.