I’d never really thought about travel writing prior to this class. Perhaps if I had been exposed to it sooner, I would have better documented my travels. Despite the lack of bloggers at that time, I did have access to books and articles… which I didn’t read. Even if I had, the adventure I longed for was one away from the usual mainstream tourist traps, and places I could see with my eyes closed due to overexposure in movies. Clifford states that “there is no politically innocent methology for intercultural interpretation” (Clifford 19) and I must say I welcome those interpretations. That is what I find intriguing with multicultural exposure, the honest perception of the traveler.
Before this class, I did not know what ethnographic writing was. As I learn more about it, I’m finding it fascinating. I think culture in travel writing should be as important as the geography, architecture, food, flora, and fauna of a place. Beliefs within a culture are very important to know when traveling. To further prove my point, I once took a photograph of a man who afterward told me never to do that because I would take his spirit with me. I also think about how some people might view the way travelers portray their culture. For example, one very controversial interpretation of culture which caused violent reactions is Salman Rushdie’s, Satanic Verses. It was very impacting to see how a book could cause such turmoil. Although it was not a book on travel writing, it certainly did involve the interpretation of culture. For this reason, I am interested in learning more about travel writing while still respecting other’s views, but where is the freedom in that?
Perhaps a writer’s views are like Clifford argued, not “politically innocent,” but how else can the reader get an unbarred, and honest view of other’s cultures? In my experience with social media, I read a post on Facebook from a girl I knew and grew up with, and it really insulted me. She was describing her negative experience when she came to visit years later and looked down on the community and the culture we grew up in. She was no longer understanding of the cattle business in our valley, and could no longer stand the cow manure stench that permeates the air during the summer. She found it barbaric and asked, “How can you all live here?” All because she had moved one hundred miles away. Although I was disturbed, I soon felt pity for her because she reminded me of the colonial subject, Mrs. Turner in Zora Neale Hurston’s, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Point is, we should not feel we’re better than others because we live in a different place.
Although, I grew up in a very close-knit, traditional family, I still have to learn about my mother’s views of culture. My mother came from a very humble home in Mexico, to which she went back to after she retired. The place where she lives was a booming agricultural community at some point in time, but due to a war over water rights, it has now become a poverty-stricken place, where youth, as well as elders, have no opportunities due to its remoteness. Nothing grows there anymore, not even hope.
Nevertheless, my mother loves living there because in her culture, you are where you came from and you should someday return “home.” My mother has such a fine-tuned understanding of her culture, and no matter how much time goes by or how far she travels, she always comes back with such respect for others who have never left, which just amazes me. One example is when she went to Madrid, Barcelona, and France all the while staying at the Ritz, and flying the Atlantic first-class. This was a gift from my sister a few years ago. When she came back, she gave away all the souvenirs she had bought and told everyone it was nothing to see and that the food was not that great. I never understood why she did that until I realized it was her respect for those who had nothing. This is one thing I would want to learn how to do. To tell a story without offending your audience.
Furthermore, it worries me to be a nascent writer in a sea of blogs. What will I have to include in my blogs to make my travel writing more interesting? I have been watching video tutorials, and reading the assigned texts, and I’m starting to get ideas of how to approach my travel blog. However, the blogs I have read, as entertaining as they are, are not “me”. I don’t feel I have that bubbly personality, or that I could fake one to follow the examples set by these blogs. I do, however, love Pico Iyer’s writing. But then again, that’s like striving to be Shakespeare.