Everything You Need to Know About Travel Literature

Any work of literature that deals with an aspect of traveling, either by presenting a true account of such travel or by creating a fictitious narrative based on it, could be considered travel literature.


Travel literature may be roughly defined as any piece of writing in which the journey itself becomes an important and essentially positive element. The journey may range from a single day’s excursion to years spent wandering the world, crossing and re-crossing continents, encountering new cultures and civilizations, and often exposing oneself to danger.

Travel literature is a genre of writing that is composed primarily for entertainment, education, or observation. It usually follows the traveler outside his homeland and beyond his everyday life. A tourist has no literary purpose in mind; he or she requires only basic information about practical matters such as accommodations, restaurants, and sights. By contrast, the travel literature author intentionally seeks out new experiences, hoping to learn something new about the world by penetrating unfamiliar cultures and visiting places few have been before.

The traveler’s goal is to immerse himself in a culture far removed from his own; the travel writer’s goal is to examine the different moral attitudes he might encounter along with their social and political ramifications.

The term “travel literature” evokes the age of Romanticism, when poetry and fiction were written in response to specific geographic areas. The Romantics not only sought to depict new lands but also to create an experience for the reader. Many of the tales that emerged from that period reflected the Age of Enlightenment’s focus on scientific knowledge and rationality. Because we have moved into an age of accessible technology and instant communication, travel literature has changed from being concerned with just geographical descriptions to embracing cinematic imagery and topics that inspire worldly themes.