There are two kinds of travel writers. There are the glorified publicists who flock to sun destinations, take freebies, and then pen glowing accounts of their adventures in paradise.
Then there are the hardscrabble travellers, the Paul Therouxs and Tim Cahills of the world, who would rather walk barefoot across the Mongolian desert than accept a free room at the inn. They are explorers in the tradition of Graham Greene, Michael Ondaatje and Jan Morris, and they are fine, important writers -- candidates for the Pulitzer and Booker Prize.
There is a new, third kind of travel writer, though -- the online gonzo journalist with a tattered copy of a Lonely Planet guide tucked in his or her back pocket and a battered laptop in their hands.
The unexplored world has shrunk, as the lively new travel program Word Travels shows in tonight's opening program: There aren't many unexplored places left. Exploration in the 21st century is as much a journey of the soul as it is a survey of unexplored lands and cultures.
In the opener, Vancouver online journo Robin Esrock and Toronto freelance videographer Julia Dimon journey to Bolivia -- "I love Bolivia, I think there's nowhere else quite like it," Esrock explains -- and they take time out from the sights to ruminate on the sense of place and time.
Word Travels is aimed at a younger viewer -- "If you're looking for a little bit of stability in your life and a regular paycheque, travel writing is not for you," Esrock says -- and the fast cuts, peppy music and stream-of-consciousness sound bites are unlikely to appeal to the Abercrombie and Kent crowd.
Word Travels shows young people having fun and doing something they love -- travelling and writing -- while offering a snapshot glimpse of the world. Future programs in the series will touch on Venezuela, Jordan, Latvia, Dubai, Thailand, Macau and, next week, Ethiopia.
"I think there's a real need for travel writing," Esrock says in tonight's opener. "It's one of the few sections in a newspaper with good news. And people live vicariously through what they read. So it's my job to go out there and find the things that are going to encourage people to follow their dreams and see the world."
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