New Delhi, July 24 Move over bare-boned travel listings couched in a flourish of words. Powerful transformation stories about people and places are the fashion of travel writings of the day.
Writers are digging up human stories about destinations to lure the intrepid traveller to explore the same old world in new ways, says leading travel analyst, editor and television presenter Keith Bellows.
Bellows, also the vice-president and editor-in-chief of the National Geographic Travel Media, explains the new trend in travel writing with an example from Africa, a country he is connected to by birth.
Bellows was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Africa is a hard place not to write about – compelling from our perspective. There are two kinds of stories from Africa: experiential stories or I am going on a quest and want to discover something stories like a concept with a beginning, middle and end featuring characters, dialogues and emotional connect,” Bellows told IANS.
National Geographic Traveler, a couple of years ago, had commissioned a travel feature on a book, “I Married Adventure: The Lives of Martin and Osa Johnson (1940)”. Written by American adventurer Osa Johnson in 1940, the book was a chronicle about her travels around the world and the discovery of a lake atop Mt Marsabit in a rugged stretch of northern Kenya during her African Safari in the 1920s with wildlife photographer husband Martin. Osa named the lake “Paradise”.
She later followed “I Married Adventure…” with another book, “Four Years in Paradise” and a documentary, “Osa’s Four Years in Paradise” from footage shot during the trip.
“The seminal book (I Married Adventure…) had a love triangle and human travel. We took the book and went back in the footsteps of the person to see how the world has changed in Africa,” Bellows said.
Bellows said travel guides books were no longer in demand.
“It is boring stuff – the five best stuff to see. The new travel journalism is about experiential travel. They are not interested in having a vacation – there has been a transformation in travel with more focus on relationships… so that people can get a feel of the human conditions yet also amplify the place in 3,000 words,” Bellows said.
In a concept story about Paris, Bellows commissioned eight small essays on “how Paris had changed”. “Travel readers and travellers loo k beyond cocktail and beaches. They want to know about people doing incredible things in extraordinary places.”
The baby boomers want “something deeper when they are travelling than doing their basket list”. The younger generation looks at “values dimensions”, Bellows said.
The National Geographic Traveler, which launched its India edition this month, has tried to go beyond the mundane to probe the deeper essence of popular tourist destinations like the Himalayas and probe new terrain.
“If we take India, the golden triangle, Mumbai, Kerala and Goa have always been the annual hardlist. But the world does not want to know of the places the way you know them. They want to know how the places have changed,” he said.
Bellows has commissioned a Beatles trail in India for his publication’s October issue.
“It is essentially where the Beatles went in search of Ayurvedic therapy and yoga on a Royal Enfield. You have a story of discovery in a place of extreme interest,” he explained.
A cultural lens in travel stories from countries like India adds value to the articles.
“In our feature, ‘Big Fat Indian Wedding’, we sent a writer to spend two weeks with the Indian family that was in an eleborate process of preparation for a wedding. You will never be replicate such stories,” Bellows said.
The travel trends are changing too.
The younger generation has returned to the 1960s backpacking holidays with more luxury and in US, extended families of mothers, fathers and grandparents are travelling in groups, Bellows said.
Developing nations like India are seeing more individual or solo travel. And wellness and spiritual travel is the next big boom in India waiting to be harnessed, Bellows predicted.