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Adventure Blog

Keep Your Day Job: Thoughts of a Travel Writer

Buzz Poole
04/17/2012 - 11:11
The Travel Writer

Writing for Gadling, David Farley muses on being a travel writer, connecting the dots between passing out drunk on a train and the fact that “[t]he word travel, after all, comes from ‘travail,’ which comes from ‘tripalium,’ a Roman instrument of torture.” Farley starts off by announcing that for all the cities with subways that he’s called home – Rome, Paris, Prague, San Francisco – he’d never fallen asleep on a train.

Frankly, I don’t think this is something to be proud of, as nodding off after a long evening of merriment has always struck me as a sign of being at ease with a place (though if it happens often, you might have other issues). I speak from experience: there is something pleasantly disorienting about waking up in Fremont, California, when downtown San Francisco had been your intended destination, or when you groggily recognize the shimmer of Yankee Stadium out the window of a train you’d meant to exit underground at Grand Central. The nice thing about getting lost on trains, of course, is that you just have to go to the other side of the tracks and wait for the next one to take you back.

Farley now knows what it feels like to pass out on a train, a Brooklyn-bound D train to be precise, after a recent stay in New York and a night out with friends. The result, other than a bit of fodder for a piece about travel writing, was finding a car service and a Russian driver named Andrei. Needless to say, Andrei turned out to be a character, assuming Farley’s expertise transcended knowing about restaurants and nightclubs and extended to regional dynamics of prostitution.

“Every spring I teach a travel writing class at New York University,” writes Farley. “Within the first five minutes of the first class, I tell my students the bubble-bursting secret: that being a travel writer is almost as over-romanticized as bacon, Brooklyn and Italy.” Farley goes on to explain the toll of traveling for a living: “I think back to the epic flights sitting behind guys who unforgivingly recline their seats into my lap, watching mediocre romantic comedies (which are always much better from 35,000 feet in the air, for some reason) and eating microwave-baked gruel all to chase a story somewhere on the planet. I actually hate the act of travel.”

Though Farley hates the act of travel, he still appreciates its rewards. He might not be getting wealthy, but it sounds like he has some rich experiences. Since the life of a travel writer rarely leads to fame and fortune, maybe it’s best to just stick with being a traveler.

What do you think of Farley’s outlook on the life of a travel writer?

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