The philosophy of travel: How travel writing and photography change the world we see

By Cacinda Maloney

Effel Tower, Paris, France

Effel Tower, Paris, France

After listening to the podcast of Travel, truth and philosophy by the Travel Lab,  I had to add my thoughts regarding this topic.  They talk about how travel blogging and photography can open your eyes to a whole new world and inspire you to go and look to see what is out there , but sometimes they wonder if this whole new world of travel writing/blogging/photography, where you can see everything so vividly and real, create a preexisting idea that you go out and look for.  The iconic photography shot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris is a great example.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru is another classic example.

“How do we know when we’ve arrived when we travel? Because we recognize the image we’ve already seen. We think we’re chasing new experiences but we’re actually chasing our memories.” Dr. Alex Gillespie, a social psychologist.

Images that we see in the media and online gives us an idea of what something is like or gives us a preconceived idea of a place.  We see the same reoccurring images over and over again.  The world media shapes our iconic image of a place.  Tourists go to places because of the images that draw them there.  Then they take the same photographs that they have in their mind’s eye.  These genres of photographs are repeated.  So it is the images that are guiding us to these places that we see.

The Great Wall of China, Beijing, China

The Great Wall of China, Beijing, China

When we see these images, we ask ourselves:  who are these people beyond the horizon?  Who are these people that live on the other side?  What do we need to fear from them?  Accounts of who they are has been going on for centuries, like Columbus, Marco Polo, even 600 years after Columbus, we still search for new accounts of the cultures and the people beyond our circle.  Now the whole world is being photographed by thousands of writers and photographers.  Do we see it even better?  Does this make it a more comprehensible world?  Today there are more writers than readers.   We are all consumers of Lonely Planet, Tripadvisor, travel bloggers, travel writers.  We each go to a place and try to get our own honest account of them.

Travel Guides

Travel Guides

The heyday of the guide book has passed away.

  I recommend that you go out on your own and be an independent traveler.  The best way to meet a place is to meet a person from where you are going,  whereas a guide book is only the second best way to understand a place.  So I guess that great writing is our only hope, that and great photography.

In the above-mentioned video, they talk about the three parts to a story and only one part of it is art.  There is art in travel and there is an art in writing about it.

In the old days, there was only three types of images of a country:

  1. Paid tourism publications that were perfect
  2. Photography that was emotional
  3. The news, which brought images of war

Social media has opened up our idea of images of countries.  Social media is where people are spending most of their time today.  Social media has brought us realistic photos of these countries, and immediacy is something that we get as well.  Travel today is different and sees the culture in the midst of a disaster and shows us a different way to look at things, politics,  as well.  Citizens who write about travel are also there during the recovery phases of countries, after disasters, after wars, so we are seeing different images than we used to see.

When we think about the way in which we see places, we think about who is the author?

Print authorship is almost like 3rd party and hidden,  more direct about what has happened versus travel bloggers authorship is more about relationships.  Relationships are formed by the writer’s websites and (tweets).  Today we are even seeing travel bloggers from places like Cuba and Iran.  They bring a more personable relationship to the story.

Who do you trust when you see the images?  BBC, CNN or the person who you follow?

I believe the distinction between NEWS and travel writing is beginning to blur,

Travel=tweeting & writing

Broadcast media versus social media, today you get to choose what type of media you want.

Non-partial, fact objective  versus personable, in context:    Who do you trust?  Do you really want to know the truth?  Do you want a photograph of the truth or the imagination of these far off lands?  This is something that I find difficult when deciding what to write about in a place or a country.  Every place has the good and the bad.  Not all people will feel comfortable in the places that I visit.  I tend to want to write in a more romanticized way, showing you the beauty and amazing things within a country.  I want people to think, “Hey, that is a beautiful place and I want to go there.”  But each person brings with them their own challenges to each place they visit.  That is why it is so important before you go, for you to realize who is writing the articles that influence you to go and do the things that you are going to do.  It is written from their perspective.  Let’s say the writer is Asian and the story is about Hong  Kong.  They may have a better way to get around Hong Kong than you do if you are Colombian or American.  Or let’s say the writer is Hispanic American going to South America versus an Asian going to South America.  You can see how the differences will make your trip different from their trip.

For the new generation of travelers, the sense of being apart has disappeared  since people are so connected today.  Social media enables people to construct a story.  Photography allows us to communicate and reach a deep emotional portion of someones brain.  It is a set of symbols that allows you to set the scene to bring something extra or new.  Now, you determine what to bring to the story and which image to create for a particular place.

 

2017-06-25T11:36:56+00:00