Enter any new profession and friends will immediately label you an expert in the field; qualify as a teacher, for instance, and they’ll never dare attempt mental maths in your presence again. Volunteer at a vet surgery and your mum will ask you to look at that growth on her foot because you’re ‘basically a doctor now.’ Become a bin man and you’ll wake up to your neighbours’ rubbish strewn across your lawn (this might also be because they hate you). So what do people expect when you tell them you’re a travel writer?
Credit: Rob Young (Flickr)
When I started my internship at My Destination, it promptly became clear that I was the least travelled of the office. One mention of Asia elicited zealous gushing of spiritual meditations, drunken stupors, elephant rides, unusual diseases; my only experience is of the latter, from the Thai Kwan Do take away at the end of my road. Each desk is proudly ornamented with souvenirs from around the world. My desk has a banana on it (which, technically, is from overseas).
People expect so much more from a travel writer. The immediate assumption is that an average day is divided between bareback camel-riding across boundless steppes, ascending previously insurmountable cliff faces while stripped to the waist, and snacking on pan-fried gibbon sinew, all the while clenching a pen between your teeth, pockets fat with bescribbled notebooks.
Credit: iandeth (Flickr)
Strip away the hyperbole, and there’s truth here. What’s missing is an office, computers, and a general approximation of ‘work.’ Certainly there’s travel, but it’s tempered by reality.
It’s a constant disappointment to my friends that, after a few months writing about the world, I’m not Wikipedia on legs. A travel writer becomes a dispensary of holiday advice, regardless of if we’ve been to the destination or not. Friends gape in disbelief if we aren’t intimately acquainted with the transport system of Kyrgyzstan or the taste of caramelised vampire bat.
Recently, I tried to impress some strangers in a pub with my temporary profession. When one of the girls returned from the bar, she greeted me with a friendly ‘Hola!’
I gave her a priggish smile. ‘Ah, so you speak Italian!’
Credit: India Untravelled (Flickr)
The flipside of this, although I remain far from adept, is that as the sun sets on my internship, my knowledge of the world stands far broader than before. I now know where the Seychelles are, and have magnanimously relinquished my dream of riding an endangered giant tortoise. I’ve learned that the Whitsundays are as close as we can get to paradise on Earth. If I really must broaden my palette, I know Hong Kong waits with its chicken feet soup and other exquisite delights. Much of the world remains a mystery to me, but my interest in discovering it has never been stronger.
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