Travel writing is a genre that focuses on places, real or imaginary, visited by someone, and the experiences of the person who visits them. It can come in many different forms, sometimes just documenting places with journalistic style, or sometimes taking a subjective and emotional tone trying to invoke the same emotions in the reader. Whichever form they come in, the body of work that falls under travel writing has become a valued body of literature with many gems that stand out as important cultural contributions.

The classics of the genre are a good place to start. The Road to Oxianai is deemed among modern writers to be the first book of great travel writing on which many have modelled techniques. It was written by Byron as he took his ten-month journey to Persia and Afghanistan in the years 1933-34. Another great classic is Patrick Leigh Fermor’s account of his trip across Europe on foot, also in 1933-34, but not published until 1977 and was called A Time of Gifts.

Bruce Chatwin was also a giant of the genre and was in 1977 awarded the Hawthornden Prize and E.M. Foster Award for his self explanatorily titled In Patagonia. A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush is another highly regarded book by the travel writer Eric Newby. It documents the author’s journey into the Hindu Kush which is an area around the Mountains of Nuristan in Afghanistan.

A history of travel writing would not be complete without mentioning Paul Theroux’s works. His 1975 classic The Great Railway Bazaar describes his trip by train across Asia. He also travelled through Europe, across the Middle East, in and out of India and then through South Asia. Many years later he took the same train again, re-tracing his steps to see the effects of change, and documented these new experiences in a book called Ghost Train to the Eastern Star.

Bill Bryson is probably the most well known travel writer of the past ten years or so. He has written many bestselling books about his travels, including In a Sunburned Country which is about Australia, and Notes from a Small Island, about Britain.

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