Beware post-truth travel writing

It’s been four months since the following: I think I’ve calmed down enough to write about it.

 

“Oooooooh, I’ve written about the Shimla toy train!”

So says the full-time writer employed at a very, very well established boutique London travel company serving those who like to experience the world from a 5 star bubble. This is said to me at an above-my-pay-grade Christmas reception where I a tad bewildered: how did life come to this? Momentarily, it was nice to be having a conversation to get away from some of the more snooty guests. Nice to talk India.

“What’s it like?”

I slow-blink and almost drop my glass of fizz.

Almost.

(Personal rule: never waste a free bar. Father would be proud, but would question why I am drinking bubbles, not beer.)

I do manage to continue to smile – slightly cracked now – and maintain frothy conversation – after a momentary hesitation – and in no time at all the event tilts on its axis: we part with smiling seasons greetings. When privacy is guaranteed an out-loud eye roll is indulged upon: you are a professional writing travel pieces on places you’ve never even been!? WTAF?

Then it was Christmas and all was forgotten.

This morning researching a new trip, the above moment came flooding back to mind as a I read a too-good-to-be-true blog post about road-trippin’ The Sunshine State.

In these post-truth times, my propensity to cross check sources has increased. With newspapers, TV, social media my BS filters are default “on.” Whether this merely makes me less productive or saves me from harm is a question for another time. What saddens me is that reading more travelogue/journal entry/blog also requires a security check. Today, the way the piece was written just made me wonder. On this occasion it checked out.

19b

To say it’s not a level playing field for (travel) writing doesn’t really capture it. As a rant, this example does not have legs because it’s, well, inconsequential. It only matters to me because I blog from a “been there” vantage point. Of course it’d be naive to expect an unbiased blog from a travel company. The organisation has an agenda: to sell travel. What bothered me was the casual, firm, personal beliefs of the PR trained travel writer. Namely that it’s okay to write about it having never even been there/done it. (Let’s hope guides to brain surgery/bomb disposal/Brexit are not written in the same vein.)

It’s a PR piece, not a blog.

Some say we are in a post-truth era, or one in which we have reached peak bullshit. The world of public relations is a case in point. One wonders why everyone doesn’t communicate straightforwardly… instead we have advertisements masquerading as blogging, PR copy hacks faking travel writing.

EPILOGUE

Manfully on this occasion, the temptation to name and shame has been overcome as the Christmas encounter taught me a lesson. That said, I just looked up re-read the offending piece. Analysis: It’s a cut’n’paste from a tourist board press-release warmed over with stock photos dashed off before coffee time: click here to buy. Yet it doesn’t betray that the authour has never actually been to India.

Nor does being single and childless prevent them from penning a guide to “planning the perfect family adventure” either apparently.

Beware BS. There’s a lot of it around.

Especially [sigh] in travel writing.

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