Clarity To Realize What You’re Not

The other day I came across this scholarship for anyone interested in becoming a travel writer.

It’s a fully sponsored gig to tour around Southeast Asia, including Singapore, updating travel guides. Airfare included.

Sounds like my cup of tea.

I was keen on applying… I don’t know about you, but anytime my airfare is paid for, I’m game to go just about anywhere. And Southeast Asia is definitely an area of the world that is on my radar.

Now, this contest seems to be open to aspiring travel writers. I wouldn’t say my goal in life is to be a travel writer, and certainly I don’t want to go back to working for someone else, but nevertheless this sounded like a golden opportunity that would fit in well with my life goals. I was going to apply…

And then I had a peak at the entries of last year’s finalists.

Talk about being on a totally different wavelength.

Here is a sample from the winning entry:

Under the veil of tarpaulin, the market plays out like a slideshow for the senses; fresh bursts of neon pink dragon fruit and fiery red chillies, the reek of sweating meat, the slippery film of eels glistening in the slats of sunlight. A gaggle of women gossip in rapid Javanese as a vendor blasts out bubblegum pop from a distorted radio. Schoolgirls wear their white jilbab like halos, floating between rattan baskets of galangal and tamarind pods.

Dear lord, I don’t even know the meaning of 10% of those words.

The author goes on to write a masterpiece about receiving some medicinal concoction from the woman vendor standing there. You can read the rest of the entry if you like.

So, after reading this entry and others like it, I decided the contest was not for me.

I don’t write stuff like this.

I am not a novelist. I don’t write several paragraphs about a mundane experience with the words of an essayist. I don’t spend my time grueling over the word choice in a magnificent description of my internal world or the external world which I am beholding.

Nor would I want to. I really don’t have an interest in creating this type of writing, nor in doing it day-in and day-out like it’s my job.

Yet I was wowed by this piece of writing. Anyone can see that it was really excellent. The author has a real ability with words. And, anytime I encounter something excellent, I pause to absorb it in.

And, truth be told, travel websites often times seem to lack excellence… I really don’t want to read another generic blog post about somewhere, nor do I want to write any. (I basically think any travel blog trying to catch up with Wikitravel and the Lonely Planet forums in the ‘travel-guide’ sphere is wayyyy behind the eight-ball.)

But on the other hand, I am not trying to be a novelist or essayist or even a writer, per se. None of these are tables I want to sit at.

I mean, I think I can write a little… but just because I can write a little doesn’t mean I should embark on a writing career.

I don’t know about you, but it gives me some clarity to realize what I’m not.




Published March 1, 2012

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  • http://www.gobackpacking.com Dave

    I came to a similar realization after my RTW ended. I could keep working on building my own blog, or try to make money writing for magazines based on all the new experience I just gained.

    After looking into it further, I quickly realized I don’t have the patience or will to spend hours a week, or even a day, writing pitch letters and trying to get published in the mainstream.  

    By realizing what I didn’t want, it helped me focus on the path I was already on. And that’s made all the difference :)

    • http://ryangoesabroad.com Ryan

      Good word, Dave. And your perspective carries a lot of weight, considering you support yourself full time on your blogs… You figured out what you didn’t want to do, and that helped you succeed at building a lifestyle for yourself. That’s not only savvy, it’s enviable.