I think travel writers are incredible people. They share with others their passion for travel and the places they’ve gone through their pictures and their words. For the most part, I enjoy reading their tales of visiting far-flung locales and getting to experience the destinations and cultures of places I dream of visiting myself someday.
But… well, there’s always a but! Certain token expressions keep cropping up in travel writing and are being used so excessively that I am starting to suspect there is some kind of conspiracy going on. I consider myself a reasonable person and I don’t really buy into tin foil hat theories of zombie plagues and alien invasions. However, I’m having a hard time coming up with a logical explanation for this phenomenon. What else could account for the rampant amount of pristine beaches that are off the beaten path and quaint villages nestled away in hills infiltrating travel writing? Throw in some breath-taking scenery and stunning landscapes and it’s hard not to feel a little paranoid that some government cover-up may be at work.
A pristine beach! Source
While I reiterate I think travel writers are
possibly turning into zombies awesome, I may start building a collection of tin foil hats and handing them out if I have to read any of the following travel writing cliches again. I’ll spare you the tediousness of word-checking my own blog and freely admit I have been kidnapped by aliens fallen prey to some of these same expressions as well! These mind control tactics words can be ruthless. But I am convinced that we can win the war and learn to write without them. Or at least try to not use them so much.
Or you might turn into this guy (excerpt from The Walking Dead comics). Source
1. Off the beaten path/track.
If I had a dollar for every time I spotted this one, I probably I could have traveled twice around the world by now, in first class no less. Or started investing in my own luxurious end of the world bunker (you know, zombies and aliens). It is definitely the one that frustrates me the most, mainly because it has become such a crutch in travel writing when it comes to referring to less visited locales.
But it’s not impossible to come up with some alternatives! How about off the tourist trail? Or we can get all poetic and take a page out of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” with off the less traveled path. Away from the main thoroughfare. A bit out of the way down yonder. Or you can mix it up with off the well-worn track or off the well-trod path. It’s not that hard to find a substitute.
2. Steeped in history/rich in history.
I love tea as much as the next person, but the last time I checked, history was still an abstract intangible concept and not a hot beverage. So how can a place be steeped in history? History has been unfolding on our planet since the beginning of its existence, all the way back to the Big Bang or when God created the Earth in 7 days, whichever you believe. Something historical has happened on every square inch of the Earth’s surface. The jury is still out on zombie plagues but it’s hard to ignore the fact with all these rich in history cliches floating around.
I understand every place has a history. But can a place just be summed up in one phrase such as “rich in history”? That’s leaving me hanging and I want to know more! It’s impossible to summarize a place’s history in one blog post–trust me, I’ve tried and failed miserably. My current strategy is selecting one or two defining moments in a place’s history and expanding on those historical moments. That way I avoid the cliche “it’s so immersed in history” which sounds rather vague and unclear.
One of the first images that popped up when I typed in “quirky people” in Google Images.
One of the trends in travel writing (especially in blogs) that has emerged in recent years is the word quirky, typically used for anything that is slightly out of the norm. I do not usually mind the word quirky but it has been recycled so many times, the semantic satiation is starting to set in–you know when you repeat a word over and over that it starts to lose all meaning and sounds weird? (Hint: it’s a zombie invasion tactic) Quirkiness mostly seems to fall into hipster territory–which is ironic since hipsters have become commonplace and are no longer the quirky novelty they once were–but it also can be applied to anything considered remotely unconventional.
If you find yourself unwilling to part ways with quirky because you are talking about some cool new hip cafe or art gallery, maybe consider some alternatives. How about funky? What about wacky? Or my personal favorite: kooky. Offbeat. Eclectic. I’d rather go someplace kooky first than someplace quirky. It sounds more intriguing. (As long as there are no zombies, aliens, or ghosts).
4. Best-kept secret.
Unlike zombies and aliens, narwhals are not best-kept secrets and do exist!
Greece’s best-kept secret beaches! Paris’s best-kept secret cafes! Los Angeles’s best-kept secret celebrity hang out spots! Buenos Aires’s best-kept secret salsa bars! We all want to be able to proclaim we found a place not listed in our guidebooks that remains unknown to our fellow tourist brethren, a place most likely frequented by locals (or maybe a scarce amount of locals). We want to feel like an intrepid explorer testing uncharted waters–we want to be able to say we “discovered” it. That’s all well and good, but it’s hard to claim ownership of discovery if most locals know about it. I may or may not be looking at you, Christopher Columbus.
And if you are discovering a place you are 100% sure nobody knows about, chances are you are rediscovering it since people simply forgot it was even there in the first place, sort of how Pompeii was rediscovered. Let’s dispense with this hyperbole, shall we? (Hem, hem, Columbus).
5. bucket list.
To my great surprise, the term did not originate in the 2007 movie of the same name, The Bucket List. However, there is no doubt that the movie’s title was a major factor in popularizing the term. The general public has wholeheartedly embraced this expression, particularly travel bloggers. My major issue with this term is its origins–to kick the bucket. As in to die. And try as I might, I just can’t get the death imagery of a Grim Reaper out of my head every time I hear it. It could easily be replace it with Death List but that sounds morbid. Since when did we all become eager to constantly refer to our impending deaths?
I know some people may think “bucket list” conjures some kind of poetic, sentimental image but all I see are coffins and gravestones. It’s probably just me but I much prefer to use Lifetime List. Life belongs to the living. Death and all its assorted meanings, buckets included, belong to the deceased. I’m alive and I plan to be for a long time. No need to hasten the inevitable by proclaiming a bucket list to the Internet. If travel bloggers and writers want to share the things they want to accomplish before they kick the bucket, that’s all fine and dandy. But they may want to think twice before labeling it a bucket list–I mean, do they really want to attract more attention from the zombies than they already have? And their list will stand out from the run-of-the-mill bucket lists if they decide to name it something else!
Of course, you’re probably thinking, what do I know about any of this? I am rambling about conspiracies, aliens, and zombies. I am not a big-time travel blogger. I seldom update or promote my blog. I don’t have that many followers. Now that I have a full time job in the USA, I rarely have an opportunity to travel since we Americans are terrified of going on vacation. However, I love to write about travel and read other travel blogs. Seeing all these words being reused made me want to help other writers avoid falling into the trap of relying on too many cliches and resist the zombie invasion.
And if you do keep over using travel cliches? That’s okay too.
I promise I won’t tell anyone you’ve been potentially infected by the zombie horde. It”ll remain our best-kept secret.