Are You an Aspiring Travel Writer? Pico Iyer Has a Message For You

“Don’t get diverted by the external geography from what is the soul, the core, of that adventure,” says Pico Iyer.

2 min read
All great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.
Leo Tolstoy

Some times, the story focuses on the journey and takes the reader along. “I wish I could be present there” – these are words every reader has uttered at least once in their lifetime. The reader’s wish to travel to a space or time, described by an author, somewhat mirrors the latter’s own primal desire, particularly, perhaps in the case of travel writers.

Pico Iyer, however, reminds us that travel writing is not just about the journey undertaken by the writer.

Travel writing is not really about the movement as it is about the crossing of cultures.
Pico Iyer, Author

Iyer, whose essays on travel writing are part of university curricula in many parts of the world, has an exclusive message for students of literature who, surrounded as they are with what he calls “weapons of mass distraction” – or multimedia gadgets – still desire to undertake journeys, both literal and metaphorical. Rely more on the power of your imagination, he says.

Delivering the keynote address at the opening of Jaipur Literature Festival on Thursday, 25 January, Iyer stressed on the role of literature in society by saying: "Literature is indispensable because it is the voice of the individual."

With travel writing, this individual voice becomes more poignant as the crossing of cultures engenders unique conflicts — with or without resolutions. Iyer says: “Travel writing is all about looking at the world through new eyes, looking through other people’s eyes and seeing the world as it comes to you whether you are sitting in New Delhi or traveling to Mongolia.”

Emphasising on the role that imagination plays, he adds, “The journey is just a means to the end of a deep exploration of human emotions.”

When the urge is to Instagram every minute detail of one’s holiday, is there scope for any deeper engagement with the emotions?

Iyer has a little tip.

“Don’t get diverted by the external geography from what is the soul, the core, of that adventure.”

That cup of coffee in that quaint cafe beckons you on your next travel, dear reader, but what do you want to do with it — Instagram it and forget about it, or use it to explore what this adventure means to you?

(We Indians have much to talk about these days. But what would you tell India if you had the chance? Pick up the phone and write or record your Letter To India. Don’t be silent, tell her how you feel. Mail us your letter at We’ll make sure India gets your message)

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