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Travel Writing Helps Traveler Understand World

SUCHITOTO, El Salvador- I just wrote a travelogue entry where, after writing, I realized that I no longer concurred with my own conclusions. A funny place to be in, I suppose. Something had obviously occurred in between the time that I started writing the piece and the time that I finished: what happened was that [...]

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SUCHITOTO, El Salvador- I just wrote a travelogue entry where, after writing, I realized that I no longer concurred with my own conclusions. A funny place to be in, I suppose. Something had obviously occurred in between the time that I started writing the piece and the time that I finished: what happened was that I pushed an idea further, I pushed it so far that I came out on the other side of it. I realized that I needed to redouble back to the beginning and take the other cross road: I realized that I needed to go in another direction.

Perhaps the only reason why I made this realization was because I was writing. If I was just pondering or talking, I may still find myself a fool, but writing has the special advantage that you can show yourself what you think: it is on the screen, it is in front of you, you can look at it, poke it if you want, and, momentarily, remove your thoughts from yourself.

What I described above is perhaps the biggest benefit of writing: you get the opportunity, the time, the space to process your impressions, to figure out what you really feel. Writing is nothing other than the practice of processing of talking to yourself until you reach a conclusion.

The moment the final period is placed, the problem is often worked through, and sometimes it is a little better understood, perhaps even solved.

Writing does not begin at the computer screen or over a blank pad of paper, writing begins at the moment of observation — the sudden urge of wonder, inquiry, confusion, mystery is the true point of conception for writing. Everything else that comes after is just a working out of the initial burst of curiosity. The literal action of writing is just the backside of the exchange, it is through the experience that the written word finds life. Writing comes out of living, there is nothing abstract about it.

Writing is like sitting down with yourself — face to face. There is nobody else around as I write this — it is just me and me sitting across a table from each other, just staring each other in the face.

I throw out an inference, I write it, I have an idea thrown back at me, I evaluate the idea, turn it inside out, connect it with an observation, an experience, and then hand it back across the table — back to the screen.

Somewhere in between these interchanges travelogue entries are written.

The impact that writing daily has on my travels cannot be underestimated. These moments — no, hours — that I spend late at night behind the computer screen ticking these words out to oblivion are precious. Not precious because they make much money, not precious because they may someday get me somewhere, but precious because they provide the impetus to make time to stare my experience in the face.

What happened today? I write it. What do I think of this? I write it. How could I do this better? I write it. What problem, issue, concern do I have? I write it.

And writing becomes the bridge by which I can cross through to the other side of these questions, it is my modus operandi for finding solutions, for putting my hand up on the next rung of the proverbial ladder.

This travelogue helps me to see my world a little clearer, writing helps me to understand my world a little better.

If travel can be considered a selfish process then its only match is writing.

In travel, new questions arise daily, new experience is the essence of the lifestyle. Travel pushes the limits of every person in some regard nearly everyday, travel is an inherent key to stimulation, observation, and the collecting of impressions. Writing helps to refine what you take in from a day of travel, it helps you to process it, and to come up with something that feels solid.

If I did not write, the cerebral version of my travels would probably sit like a goopy block of left out butter in the mind. Taking out the cerebral hammer and smashing your thoughts into something communicable takes work, it takes energy. But I know that I would be missing out if I did not do this, if I did not write.

It is easy to become lazy in travel. It is far easier to not process your observations, to not question what is in front of you, to take the barrage of new experience as just another passing image in the kaleidoscope of travel.

It is my impression that I would miss out on a great part of my travels if I did not write.

The blogging medium is perfect for the traveler, as it forces me to digest and produce my experience daily. There is no break in the assembly line, no time to leave an inference sitting on the shelf — there are no days off. I am living in foreign countries or traveling daily, the experiences and impressions that I collect today must be published tomorrow — or they are gone for good.

Blogging is a good medium for a writer to learn how to discipline themselves to write daily — to push everything else to the side and make time to ponder, time to write, time to publish. Once you are in the habit of writing for a few hours a day, everyday, it not only becomes habit, but an addiction of sorts —

The human body and mind seem to crave that which it is given with regularity: if you work a muscle it will crave to be worked, if you sit slouched all day then you may crave a couch, if you write daily you will soon find that you crave the mental stimulation that comes from writing.

It is my impression that writing is not an activity, it is not a job, but it becomes a way of living, a way of seeing, and a way of interacting with your world. Once you become the main character in your story, you are done for — you are living your writing, and your writing should represent your living.

If someone were to tell me that they don’t have anything to write about, I would tell them that the writing is not the problem, the problem is found in the living. If you live each day fully there should always be something to write about, and, conversely, if you write daily there should always be the impetus to live fully — to actively engage the situations you find yourself in. I write about that which gets stuck in my craw, and I know that I need to use my craw as a net to catch the moments of living that could be transcribed into the written word.

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Filed under: Blogging, Travel Writing, Vagabond Journey Updates

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 3706 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

4 comments… add one

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  • Mike Crosby May 8, 2010, 3:51 pm

    Well done Wade.

    When I first started my blog last summer, my thought was–who am I to have a blog? And what the hell do I have to say that is so different than anyone else.

    What I found was, I indeed do have something to say. And we all do, and that is what’s so fascinating about blogs. We could all be together for a day, and if we each wrote about the day’s experiences, we’d each have separate articles. Our individual ways of looking at life are truly unique.

    You’re right too about the difficulty of writing while travelling. Last year when I traveled across the US, I set up a blog to show our travels. I never made one post, and I know I traveled in relative ease compared to you. At night it was–order some restaurant food delivery and turn on the TV, I’m tired.

    For you to do what you do, on a daily basis, with your original thought, is indeed enjoyment for your readers, and something you’ll have the rest of your life. It’s Wade thinking out loud and the world gets to partake. Thanks for that too Wade. I have always enjoyed your writing.

    One more thought: I really like the idea that the process of writing begins with living life itself. Maybe a small detail, but it’s something I’ve never thought about. That’s what you do Wade, you make me think.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com May 10, 2010, 9:37 am

      Thanks, I really appreciate this! Right on, blogging is a form of publishing that is direct, raw, and on the ground — everyone can participate, everyone can share what they have to offer.

      Thanks for the feedback!

      Walk Slow,


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  • Janell May 11, 2010, 2:24 pm

    That’s beautiful! I completely agree. I think if everyone learned to write daily and made an effort, the world would be a little bit better place. You’re doing wonderful things here.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com May 11, 2010, 5:42 pm

      Thanks Janell,

      You are doing pretty well too on your blog at Bits and Pieces.

      Walk Slow,


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