Two Giants of Travel Writing

Many people dream of making a break from the hum-drum day-to-day and travelling the world, to chronicle their journeys with a literary flair that echoes down the generations. There’s something decidedly romantic about the literature of great journeys, and the internet provides even more opportunity for writers to create inspirational and finely-honed travel articles. While it can sometimes seem the journals and blogs of those making their way around parts of or the whole world are not exactly literary gems, there are some truly great writers who cut their teeth by visiting other countries and cultures and journaling about their experiences. If you’re looking for inspiration, here are some of the big names who once set out with a suitcase in one hand and a typewriter in the other:

Pearl S Buck

Perhaps the Grande Dame of this kind of writing, Pearl Buck was a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 and the Nobel Prize in 1938. Buck was born in the US but moved to China with her missionary parents when she was only three months old. Although she spent significant portions of her life in the US, she frequently returned to live in China for prolonged periods. She wrote numerous travel articles and non-fiction books usually dealing with countries in Asia.

Although much of her writing centres on the people and states of eastern Asia, her travel articles, commentary and political analysis had a wide scope and found publication in magazines and newspapers across the globe.

Ernest Hemingway

Not a man to do things by halves, Hemingway’s work was strongly rooted in what you might call participant observation. His non-fiction writing is often over-strained with desperate bravado and machismo, but he nonetheless brings some fine prose and incredible observations to the places he visited. ‘Death in the Afternoon’, first published in 1932, is the definitive English language book on the mood and atmosphere of a bull-fight in the first half of the 20th century. His time in East Africa led to the publication of the ‘Green Hills of Africa’, a book published in 1935 that detailed Hemingway’s stay in the Lake Manyara region of Tanzania.

The fiction that he produced was also heavily influenced by the places he visited – most famously of all through his experiences of working as an ambulance driver for the Italian army in the First World War, which would form the basis of his seminal ‘A Farewell to Arms’. His journalistic work also included a number of travel articles for publications across the globe.