other places; other people; othering people

A travelogue is an old tradition; an old form of writing. There are records of travel diaries as early as the second century CE; there are Arabic travel journals in the twelfth century and Chinese travel literature in the tenth. There are diaries and journals; maps and economics; boredom and poetry.

A travelogue is the transcription of an adventure; of an exploration; a movement into the unknown or, less commonly, into the known. Travel literature considers one’s identity, and one’s country, and one’s world.

A travelogue is, often, a reflection of the self.

A travelogue tells the audience a lot about a traveller. Between the lines are the things the traveller sees every day, and the assumptions a traveller makes, and the joys a traveller takes from moving through the world.

writer's victoria tweet:
writer’s victoria tweet: “what drives people to suffer in parts of the world with unpronounceable names & indigestible food? we’ll ask @tomdoig”

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In Australia, and predominantly in English-language writing, a travelogue is about the traveller; and in its way, it is about the other. This requires an assumption around who is the audience, and who is the other, for there are few other ways to represent those with whom the narrative comes in contact.

I love travelogues. I love them for what they tell you about a person, and a place, and sometimes, what they tell you about yourself. I love travelogues of Australians in Australia; non-Australians in Australia; Australians not in Australia. (I also love travel tales of people in China and Malaysia and Singapore, the other places of my heart) I love these because whether these are travel stories of people in their homes or not in their homes, their stories are always new to me, and there’s always an exploration and an unfamiliarity and a joy, of sorts.

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I love it when people talk about their travelogues!

In other news, here’s Other Places, a thing Writer’s Victoria is hosting tonight:

What drives people to leave the comfort of their everyday lives and suffer in far-flung parts of the world with unpronounceable names and indigestible food? Is it our essentially “nomadic” nature, as Bruce Chatwin claims? Is it “The Call of the Wild”? Or is that just a bunch of pretentious First World rubbish? All of the above, according to Tom Doig, author of Moron to Moron: two men, two bikes, one Mongolian misadventure. Come along and find out why.

The audience: clearly not me. Though I choose to leave the comfort of my inner-north Melbourne home, it’s for the comfort of the family home in Malaysia, with its squat toilets and five grown adults in two bedrooms and mosquito netting. I’m a person with a name that is, in its way, unpronounceable (certainly many people mispronounce it). My food is, to many people, indigestible. So, in the dichotomy of the audience and the other, I’m pretty comfortable in assuming I’m the other, here, despite having been born in Australia and loving a good travelogue.

People not from the “first world” travel, and then write about it. People from the first world can be pretty rubbishly pretentious.

“The Call of the Wild” is primarily a racist concept used in racist situations (white people talking about not-white people).

I really wanted to go, because I love travel writing and I’m currently working on a brown person’s travelogue (mine). Now, I really want to go and find out if this event is gonna be as casually, thoughtlessly racist as it sounds like it’s going to be, but I really can’t justify the $50 just to get angry.

If you go, let me know. I’ve got some questions.

writer's victoria tweet:
writer’s victoria tweet: “are travel writers responding to ‘The Call of the Wild”? we’ll ask @tomdoig on Monday. Join us…”

Other Places
Writer’s Victoria
The Wheeler Centre
September 8, 18:30 – 20:30
Non-member $50 / Member $35 / Concession $30

I have not made my sadness known to Writer’s Victoria, as I’m not currently a member. Lately, as I publish more and more regularly, and as I truly begin to consider myself the writer part of ’emerging writer’, it’s something I’ve been considering. But right now, after this, I don’t want to. How can I expect support from an organisation that promotes this exclusion?

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3 thoughts on “other places; other people; othering people

  1. Writers Vic is a professional organisation. It has no more business excluding Victorian writers of colour like this than SFWA has to publish sexist drivel in its official magazine.

    What I’m saying is, A+ bridge burning, would toast marshmallows again.

    1. I do love (vegan) marshmallows.

      I just want to roll around in travelogues! Why must it always be so fraught with racism and privilege and “the Japanese briefly occupied Burma” and “they girls were so beautiful” and “dessert shouldn’t be green” and etc?

  2. Tom Doig

    Hi Stephanie, in case you’re interested, Writers Victoria just cut together a short YouTube version of my “Other Places” talk. It may or may not confirm your comments above. I aim to write ABOUT racism and cultural difference, rather than to be “casually, thoughtlessly racist” – but only you can be the judge of that.

    Best,

    Tom Doig

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