Clickbait and Listicles Are Ruining Travel Writing

"17 Reasons To Join A Cult In Malawi -- #9 Has Me Packing My Bags Already!!"

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"The North KoreaN Powder Slopes They Don't Want You To Know About"

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Etc. Etc.

 

      The digital revolution has blessed our world with a flowering of creativity. But it's also created a content and product polluted marketplace, and travel journalism standards have largely shifted to pander to the lowest and most profitable common denominator: Clickbait and Listicles. Gross. 

      Steps to becoming a travel writer: Buy a Macbook, drink third wave coffee in a hipster neighborhood, disguise lack of creativity and depth with formulaic online travel journalism program shtick.  And now we have an over saturation of uninspiring content weighing down the travel journalism industry like a fat albatross with tiny balls.

 

If a tree falls in the forest and no one's around to hear it, then my illegal logging operation is a success. 

If a tree falls in the forest and no one's around to hear it, then my illegal logging operation is a success. 

 

      Selling a formula for marketable travel writing guarantees a push towards homogenous content, and now it's a race to the bottom. Some of the online programs alluded to above incentivize participation by offering their customers exclusive opportunities to paid assignments. Good travel writing, photography, and videography are hard won crafts, and perpetuating the "pay to play" model is a wanton disregard for the art of travel journalism itself. To borrow from Gilfoyle in HBO's Silicon Valley, "It's artless commerce, and I won't be party to it".

 

"WHO.DOES.#2.WORK.FOR??"

"WHO.DOES.#2.WORK.FOR??"

 

 

     The intersection of art and commerce has always been a slippery slope. But now the cart has been placed way, way too far in front of the horse -- so much attention is paid to buzz words, SEO, and demographics that masterful storytelling and literary panache are trolled out of their own ring. Originality and style are cumbersome sideshows in this new arena of the quick sell.

 

     Traveling is easier than ever before, but quality writing is not. It’s the same level of difficulty as it was when Mark Twain and T.E. Lawrence shared their narratives with the world. Finding a platform and audience for ones work is now a turn-key operation, but again, writing is not. It’s a beautiful thing that so many voices have found traction— but can we please punctuate them with more adventurous and original content? 

 

     Here are some links to contemporary travel writers that don't reflect the bottom-of-the-barrel sentiments crusaded against in this opinionated editorial --

 

Blue Abaya

The Runaway Guide

Travel Alchemy

Uncornered Market

Kas Rules Everything Around Me

Kas Rules Everything Around Me

The moonless night conceals all but the high beam illuminated, endlessly twisting road before us. We've just touched down in Antalya, and are now barreling along at warp speed through a night thicker than the bottom of a Turkish coffee fix.  Somewhere in the unknowable distance lies Kas, a seaside hamlet about as far removed from the culture and chaos of Istanbul as our driver is from traffic safety school. 

A Toast To The Guadalupe Valley

A Toast To The Guadalupe Valley

      Mexican’s don’t typically consider Baja California to be part of Mexico. It’s viewed as an outlier, a distant cousin — as much a part of the Mexican zeitgeist as the Aleutian Islands are to America. This sense of isolation from traditional Mexican mores has fermented into an intoxicating regional personality, and today our beloved Baja is “La Reina del Baile” ( Queen of the Dance, Spanish equivalent of “Belle of the Ball”).

Rattlesnake Tequila: A Gringo's Quest

Rattlesnake Tequila: A Gringo's Quest

A multitude of onlookers wait patiently along the terraced viewing platform, every eye transfixed upon the gently rocking sea below. No one speaks, save for the excited babbling of several disengaged toddlers. Below, the ebb of the crystalline tide reverses course, garnering enough momentum to crest into a slow, unmistakable wave — it’s headed for the point of no return, a craggy inlet upon which the mesmerized crowd has trained their attention.

Bratislava Sucks

Bratislava Sucks

At first I felt that it was in me to wax on the understated charms and bare knuckle beauty of this often overlooked post-soviet gem, but then I actually spent some time there. Considering it's approximation to other more deserving Eastern European heavyweights -- Vienna an hour to the west, Prague and Budapest equidistant on either side, and Krakow a few hours to the northeast -- who in their right mind would designate more than a 24 hour stopover to this highly unremarkable point of transit?