Tony Horwitz talks travel

Travel Writers & Books — By on March 9, 2007 at 7:40 am

Tony Horwitz, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Confederates in the Attic and several other popular travel books, stopped by Rolf Potts’ website recently to talk about travel and travel writing.  Some excerpts from his interview:

As a traveler and fact/story gatherer, what is your biggest challenge on the road?

Wearing down, mentally and physically. Travel comes from the French word, travail; it can be hard work. … Improvising in strange places makes for the best stories, but it’s also exhausting. You’re never really off work; everything that happens from the moment you wake to the moment you fall asleep is potential material. You’re also planning ahead — where do I go next, how do I get there, what will I do there? — while trying to milk the most out of the place you’re in.

What advice and/or warnings would you give to someone who is considering going into travel writing?

Take risks. Not necessarily physical risks, though that often comes with the territory. Rather, personal and professional risks. And do it while you’re young. Travel is potentially punishing: to your body, to your relationships, to your bank account. … If you do it young, the worst that can happen (apart from death, dismemberment, or chronic dysentery) is that you’ll suffer for awhile and find something else to do, which is better than being filled with regret years later over never having tried.

What is the biggest reward of life as a travel writer?

Seeing the world at someone else’s expense, and having something to do while you’re out there. Writing about travel makes you pay closer attention, and it gives you a way into whatever place you’re visiting. It makes you a traveler rather than just a tourist, or a vagrant. As Raban puts it, taking notes on the road “gives me occupation and identity when I might otherwise recognize myself as an ageing unkempt drifter without visible means of support.”

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