Someone recently asked me why I write. We all have pastimes. I don’t knit or follow sports. I don’t do crossword puzzles. I can’t play cribbage. But I do write. I journal (just for myself) when I’m going through tough personal times. I write poems (to my partner) when I’m in love. I write editorials for neighbors who might benefit from my worldview on political issues (and, therefore, vote the way I do). And as a travel writer, I share travel experiences in hopes that people blessed with the opportunity to explore our world can minimize the expense and maximize the experience by learning from my mistakes rather than their own. Writing is my pastime…and my passion. Why else do I write? Let me count the metaphors… Writing unleashes the child in me. It’s how I enthuse. I’m having so much fun in my corner of life, I want others to come out and play. It’s like the wide-eyed innocence of a third-grader during show-and-tell. “Wow, this is neat. Check it out!”
Writing also channels the hunter-gatherer in me. I go out, shoot an idea, bring it home, fillet it, and cook it up to be consumed by people I care about. Sometimes I just want to serve up some tasty intellectual nourishment. And occasionally, when we are under attack, I need to blow a trumpet from the ramparts with my pen, warning, “All hands on deck!” or “Duck!” Writing gives expression to the artist in me. Ideas are my palette. The English language, which I have such a respect for, is my brush. And your brain is my canvas. The beauty of my creation is a matter of the way I design and present the ideas. Writing forces me to gather my thoughts and design them for public consumption. Just like many people enjoy going out on the town, but would never do so without tucking in their shirt and combing their hair, I want to share ideas, but wouldn’t do it without being presentable. I like my ideas to be put together well. (The best book I’ve read on writing well is just that: On Writing Well by William Zinsser.) So, like the old man whittles, I polish my writing. With each pass, I whittle it into a tighter, more effective piece of communication. Illuminating ideas get lost in the din of shrill discourse dominating our society today. It’s fun to find ways to cut through that din. In the arena of ideas, how well you write determines the strength and sharpness of your sword.
I believe strongly in the value of what I have to say as a travel writer: In Europe, there are two IQs of travelers: those who wait in lines, and those who don’t. If you have less than a month in England, don’t visit both Cambridge and Oxford; see one or the other…and Cambridge is better. I believe that bringing home a broader perspective is the best souvenir. And I believe that there’s too much fear in our society these days, and fear is for people who don’t get out much. I can share these ideas verbally. But by writing, I amplify my voice. I believe traveling in an efficient and meaningful way is worthwhile, and I want to share these ideas with as many people as possible. In my work, I measure profit in terms of “GTI”–gross trips impacted. By writing well, I increase my GTI. That’s success. But I also write to make money…so please buy my books. (And happy travels.)