Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Power of Travel and Travel Writing

By Divina Infusino

When Globe Pequot Press asked me to write a travel guide book about Southern California, I recoiled at first. A guide book? Scenes from “The Accidental Tourist” flashed to mind, specifically the one where the travel writer checks the hotel’s toilets to see if they flush properly.

I love travel writing because I have always found travel one of the most instantly expansive, perspective-changing acts a human can do. But the one thing I know about myself is that the more I feel a subject, the better I write. I could not imagine getting excited about a book loaded with directions, historical facts and figures, and bedroom counts, practical as that may be.

When I voiced my concerns to the editor, she said: “Oh no, no, no. We encourage creativity. We want your point of view. We have set categories –what to do, where to stay, where to shop and where to eat, but what you do with them is up to you.”

I sighed in relief. Ok, I can do this. So I embarked on writing Day Trips from Orange County, CA: Getaway Ideas for the Local Traveler and putting down 75,000 words in what for me was record time. In the process, however, I had a great fun because I realized, once again, that travel writing, no matter what the form, is as much about the person writing as the place visited.

Living Out the Near Death Writing Experience

The book’s mandate was to create day trips within two hours of John Wayne Airport. So I encompassed all of San Diego County, Los Angeles County and Orange County --places where I had lived and/or worked. I also included Palm Springs and Catalina where I had visited multiple times. While pulling each section together, I felt I was undergoing some sort of near-death-event, one of those times when your life flashes before you and you realize all you have done, felt and encountered.

As I wrote, I relived past and recent experiences, like rubbing shoulders with the pampered and prosperous in Beverly Hills, moving among West Hollywood and Hollywood’s decadence, drinking in La Jolla’s beauty and gentility and reveling in San Diego North County's spiritual vibe, Palm Spring’s desert nightlife and Orange County’s coastal charms, sumptuous spas, splashy shopping destinations and, of course, Disneyland.

Because Southern California is one of the most populated places on the planet, the hardest part was deciding what to leave out. The best part was discovering new areas –specifically the precarious cliffs, deep waters and hiking trails of Rancho Palos Verdes. Who knew that such relatively untouched terrain existed in Los Angeles County?

Writing Day Trips from Orange County, CA drove home the realization that the thrill, power and elevating nature of travel is all about the kiss that occurs between the place visited and the person visiting. In that moment of touch, you change. To write about it for publication can be plenty of hard work, but also a joy.


Kathi Diamant said...

Divina--don't know who else is reading this blog, but I'm loving it! enjoyed your article very much. If this is our only contact in months, it's still a very good one.

Laurel Corona said...

Divina--long before I thought I had a book in me (turns out I have many!) I thought the dream job of all dream jobs would be travel writing. Everything always seems more glamorous to outsiders, I've discovered. Thanks for sharing these insights.

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