Writer’s Blog: On Adventure Travel Literature

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Why write a book anyway? There seems to be a welter of expedition and adventure literature hitting the shelves at the moment, along with a growing surge in high-profile expeditioning.

How can I justify adding to this? Well, having just printed out and read through the first draft of my book, the bottom line is that it’s not really about an expedition or an adventure. It’s about a personal experience, replacing ‘normal life’ rather leaving it as a backdrop to something extraordinary, and fits no particular genre other than ‘digressive’. I can’t compare it to other travel or adventure books, because I don’t really read travel or adventure books.

I’m aware that it does seem that every epic adventure simply has to have a book as part of a post-journey entourage of creative output, and some might assume this book should be lumped in with this sub-genre. But many of these are written out of obligation, and expert PR campaigns can override the fact that they’re not actually very good. The publisher makes some money; the expeditioner can add ‘author’ to his or her list of claimed professions. Other such books, it must be said, are truly heartfelt, written with passion, and garner praise because they speak valuable words with a voice of truth.

But many write books and go on adventures for the hell of it, with unashamedly selfish motives, garner neither money nor fame as a result, and I probably sit somewhere in this category. No book or film would be any better or worse as a result. Nothing external obliged me to write, and I can think of few periods of time more rewarding than the last four or five months.

And, now it’s well on the way to being finished, why it should become anything more than a personal memoir? It might turn out to be a pile of crap anyway! But James, who’s directing and producing a documentary based on footage from the same events, said a few weeks back:

“I like telling stories. And this is a really good story.”

Which was very flattering, but he’s an honest guy, so I should take his words at face value. Storytelling is surely one of the oldest crafts there is. I hope I haven’t fudged this attempt.

As for what anyone gets out of a story, that’s largely up to the reader or listener or viewer, and can be only partially guessed at by the storyteller. It might be escapism, inspiration, vicarious living, education, or the immediate enjoyment of being audience to a good yarn, leaving criticism and tedious over-analysis at the door.

Assuming that the story is told with honesty and enthusiasm, does publishing a book — or making a film — need any other justification?