The Man, the Myth, the Legend – DON GEORGE!

Posted: January 9, 2013 in Uncategorized

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After having the opportunity to listen to the famous travel writer and editor Don George, I felt privileged to not only learn about the field he works in, but also about the man himself. The immediate impression Don George gave off was one of enthusiasm and general satisfaction with his career.

The first topic Mr. George went into was his career as a travel writer.  He mentioned that he has been a travel writer for over twenty-six years, has visited over sixty countries, and has also written six hundred articles, such as “Winter Whale Watching”. In addition, he appears on television, radio, and teaches travel workshops.

Don George’s first job was as a travel writer for the San Francisco Examiner, which he maintained for seventeen years. The following year he joined the online magazine “Salon.com” and was responsible for the travel section. In 2001, George left Salon.com and joined Lonely Planet where he works as a global travel editor, spokesperson, workshop teacher, and writer. Today, he also edits two blog websites, one of which is named “Reece”.

            After talking about his personal life, Don George spoke about the essence of what travel writing really is. His first point was that it is completely non-fiction; in other words, readers expect the author to be writing truthfully and honestly about his or her experience at a particular destination. The other key element to travel writing is to “illuminate a place” (George). He elaborated by explaining that a travel writer must be able to bring a place to life for the reader. The goal of the writer is to “convey something essential by allowing the reader to feel like he or she has been there too” (George).

            The two categories of journal writing Don George discussed are service journalism and destination journalism. In service journalism, the travel writer provides a service to the reader by providing the essential information about specific places. For example, the “10 Best Dim Sum Restaurants in San Francisco” would classify as a service piece. In destination journalism, a personal travel experience is recreated for the reader, in hopes bringing a place to life.

             In regards to destination journalism, Mr. George discussed what the fundamental theme of each story is, and this term is called the “epiphany moment”. The epiphany moment is the most meaningful singular moment that touched one during their travel experience. The construction of this moment stems from questions such as, “What did I learn?” and “What was the essence or richness of my experience?” (George). Therefore, the remainder of the destination journal is story-telling. Important questions to ask oneself for this part include “What was the process in learning it?” and “What were the critical points of those steps?” or “What details must the reader know to appreciate my epiphany moment?” (George).

            The final aspect of Don George’s construction of a proper destination story is ensuring that it includes the basic three step structure: beginning, middle, and end. The beginning makes up the first two to four paragraphs and it introduces the setting; it tells the reader where you are, why you are there, and what is to come in the subsequent paragraphs. The middle takes up approximately ninety percent of the story and it is the long and windy road of what happened to you at the destination of focus. In addition, it is where important information is isolated to allow the reader to understand the main point. The end is where a travel writer wraps up the story by confirming that the reader knows the main point and where the reader is sent off back into the world feeling richer.

            Lastly, George offered information about how to be an excellent researcher prior to writing the travel article. He mentioned the significance of keeping a journal while at one’s destination and to take detailed notes. It is imperative to pay attention to the details of one’s surroundings because these details will act as building blocks for a larger anecdote.

            Overall, my time listening to Don George was one of great gratification.

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