Staying real in a world of travel p**n: an oxymoron?


I’ve had a picture-heavy post sitting in my drafts folder for months.

I wanted to put it up. It was a joyful trip, one that I had a lot of fun on and discovered a beautiful city.

I want to say that life got in the way, that I got stuck trying  to edit a book, and then got stuck trying to re-query it again. I want to say that I just lost the taste for blogging (true) and this post was one of the casualties (also, partially, true). But to be perfectly honest, every time I tried to edit it up and make it consumable, I felt reluctant.

I just didn’t see what the point of it was.

There are so many people who have been to Edinburgh and described the experience much better. Some of them even have actual travel blogs. Most take better pictures than I do, or at the very least have something a bit more sophisticated than their phone camera. Pretty much everyone but me seems capable of inserting themselves into the shot without making it look like a super-awkward selfie.

So what am I thinking, cutting in on other people’s turf? I’m not a travel blogger – I wouldn’t even be able to put up a good fight if I tried.

Plus. Travel, when you strip away the shine of “going somewhere that isn’t here”, is pretty boring. You get on a transport, you travel, you wander around a new city trying to find safe places to eat and sleep, you try to discover things without getting mugged, you eat and sleep and then you go home. Pictures and videos with catchy titles and upbeat music are all well and good (even if they wouldn’t look out of place on the website of a tourist agency) but they’re just soundbites. A highlight taken while you fought off colds, tried not to get lost, and wondered why you spent so much money on a weekend.

(The answer to the latter question is: Because it’s awesome.)

I suppose I can give you a spiel about how travel lets me catch up with myself and get some much-needed “me time”, but let’s face it – I travelled 10 hours by train (in total) to run 13.1 miles with a bunch of strangers, while desperately trying to tell my bladder we WILL use the restrooms… in another two miles, because the queue here is just not worth it.

Let’s face it – there are more interesting things to talk about on the Internet than the minute sensations in your digestive tract as you run. Or the fact that no matter how much you try to smile to the official race photographers, the only images of you that they have are ugly, distorted snaps that your own mother wouldn’t pay 17 quid for.

I suppose I can tell you about all the weird, quirky, and frankly strange things that I did or that happened to me on this trip.

I could tell you how I read books by myself at restaurants while the wait staff looked on with raised brows.

I could tell you how I went for a half marathon and then walked all over the city centre and Edinburgh Castle on the same day.

I could tell you how after the race I couldn’t find a place to change, or the fundraiser’s tent, so I went off to the side of the path and stripped down to my sports bra so that I could put on a dry shirt. (Hardly an interesting sight, at a running event.)

I could tell you how meters before the finish line I stopped to pick up a man’s iPod, nearly getting stomped on in the process, and then ran to catch up with him. (It messed up my time, but that’s okay. I’m not a fast runner anyway.)

I could tell you about sharing a table with 3/5ths of a family on the train back, and, catching the dad looking at porn on his phone. (I’m telling myself he was checking the history after one of the kids used it.)

I could tell you about meeting a Teri Terry fan in a Waterstones in Edinburgh who didn’t know she had a series after Mind Games.

I could tell you about this divine lasagna I had right before race day, but I would rather try to recreate the recipe first.

I could tell those stories but like pictures, they are just soundbites and highlights. Good for a quirky novel, not so interesting in a blogpost/picture diary that doesn’t have a plot, a climax or an epilogue.

Well… and epilogue beyond: I want to go back.

And possibly live on the marina.

At the end of the day, travel diaries aren’t that interesting to read. Far better is when you actually go and do the thing, and sit in the weird, beautiful, uncomfortable feelings it inspires. Far better is to look through the pictures and find one that is so eye-catching, it inspires you to make art. Far better to make friends and try out different things and walk the streets until the soles of your shoes wear through. To sit in dark pubs and have a veggie burger under an Ouija board, or to sit in cafes while waiting for the nice bookshop across the street to open (just because they have cards you can’t live without.)

Writing about it… quite frankly, I can’t do it without sounding like a complete humblebraggart.


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