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Ethnography Journalism and Travel Writing

Ethnography, Journalism, and Travel WritingI am shooting wide of the mark and I know it. I am like a floppy fish bouncing around out of water in New York City.I had a feeling that I would find myself in this position before leaving Eastern Europe, and I am not surprised or too concerned. . . [...]

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Ethnography, Journalism, and Travel Writing

I am shooting wide of the mark and I know it. I am like a floppy fish bouncing around out of water in New York City.

I had a feeling that I would find myself in this position before leaving Eastern Europe, and I am not surprised or too concerned. . . . Just going to ride this horse through the desert until it croaks beneath me. Then I will move on to where I feel more comfortable: the rest of the world.
Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
in Brooklyn, New York City- November 7, 2008
Travelogue Travel Photos

I wish to stand at the meeting point of travel writing, journalism, and ethnography. I wish to learn these three disciplines deeply, sluice the cream off the top, combine it all together and see what I come up with.

“Right now,” the journalist, the anthropologist, and the travel writer state equally, “I find that this place and these people and this situation is like this.”

All three disciplines generally record a defacto, first person account of the world in a certain place at a certain time; and all three disciplines use history, context, converations, and personal experience to essentially provide a still life of a brief moment of time on planet earth.

“I stand here now and these are my impressions of what I observe.”

This is all I wish to do.

Today, societies rarely erect long lasting monuments to their times. Ours is a history that will not be told in stone, but on paper: in digital files, books, magazines, and crammed away in the lost annals of the internet. Standing on the brink of a world in rapid flux, this has become the shinning generation of the chronicler. The question of “What is going on here?” has rarely been more difficult to answer.

The journalist, travel writer, and ethnographer ultimately write to the same ends. They document a moment, a place, a people, a situation. Their methods differ greatly, but their end results are the similar. They are all just recording evidence of “What is going on here.”

I am not there now. I am barely scratching the surface, but I am getting my feet wet. I know what I want to do, I just need to educate myself further in order to get there.

I enjoy writing on this travelogue. I can occasionally misspell a word or two, crank out an intentionally incomplete sentence, and write words that sometimes don’t make any sense together. I feel that this is alright, because this is a place for ideas, impressions, and the recording of experience: it does not have to be edited. It is a space to play around a little. This is what I enjoy about reading other people’s writing – the errant phrases that sometimes awkwardly provides the reader with a view of what is going on behind the written words.

I feel as if this is the true benefit of the travel blog: they show ideas and impressions of places as a person moves through them. The more incoherent, full of errors, and far-reaching they are the better. A travel blog is a place to air out dirty laundry and try new things, write of experiences as they happen, and to look back at the places from which you came.

Though I feel that I am not hitting the nail on the head on this travelogue either. I am not getting deep enough; I am not allowing myself the space to dig deeper. I am noticing this more and more in what I have been writing from New York City. I am lost here and I know it. I feel like I went down on a sinking ship and that these recent entries have been the result of me trying to grasp onto any piece of floating debris that I can. I hope that this is being shown.

I am from a rural area 600 km from NYC by Lake Ontario and have been traveling the world for the past eight or nine years. This is where I come from, and this is how I experience New York City. It is not pretty, but it does not have to be. It just has to be honest.

I am out of my element here, and this is allowing – no provoking – this self-criticism.

Through this self-critique a Path is emerging. There is a united line between the three aforementioned streams of writing that lead through the woods and I want to walk it. I want to take what I can from these three disciplines – study them deeply – and see what I can come up with. I can only hope that I will not think too much about this.

“Just spit it out,” Andy says. Good advice, but I know that the fatter my belly is, the thicker my spit will be. Now is a good time for me to fatten up a little: Read, read, read, study, study, experiment, laugh.

I know that, in the end, this is all for fun.

Related Pages:
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NYC- Another Concept of Journalism
USA- Fortunate Travel Blogger
Guatemala- I meet the Hobo Traveler
Honduras-Writing for Magazines and Newspapers
Morocco- Great Travel Books: The Royal Road to Romance
USA- The Real Impacts of Writing

Links to previous travelogue entries:
Congo Immigrant Impression of USA
Obama Celebration in Brooklyn
Code Pink Female Acivists Washington DC

Ethnography Journalism and Travel Writing
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Filed under: New York City, Travel Writing, USA

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3715 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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