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Travel Writing

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In the early days of February this valley was visited by Jeanine Barone, who is a writer for Huffington Post out of that other Washington - D.C., the liars’ capital of the nation, which - I must add - has nothing to do with Ms. Barone’s blog about her stay and activities at the Mazama Basecamp.

Barone is an excellent travel writer and travel writing is a skill in itself. (I know that because I did some travel writing for Golfweek magazine, along with some other publications. One of these was the in-flight mag of Alaska Airlines at the end of the last century.)

Her blog, replete with photographs of the Mazama environs, was richly endowed with effusive hyperbole about the lodge, the snow, the skiing, the people - descriptive commentaries about whatever caught her eye. It is these attributes that make for a successful travel writer. It tells the reader, “Ya gotta see this place.”

If and when I get to see her full article in Huffington I am sure it will include a lot more about the upper Methow that will no doubt include the quaint-itude of the town of Winthrop, written in the same almost gushing prose. This description is in no way meant to demean the writer’s talents, rather to illustrate what is requisite in travel writing.

For example, while I had done some short, matter of fact pieces about certain golf courses, I followed the journalistic dictums of the five W’s - Who, What, Where, When and Why. Just the facts Ma’am, as Joe Friday used to say on Dragnet. This is how I was trained.

Well, when the Alaska Airlines assignment came to me, with big, big dollars attached to its acceptance, my task was to write about golf in Eastern Washington. I wrote a lead, or opening paragraph about how misunderstood the state was insofar as its reputation of being wet and soggy most of the year. Not so, I proclaimed and cited statistics of rainfall on this side of the mountains, the quality of dry, sparse of trees, and even some desert courses. From there, yatta-yatta-yatta about the differing areas in the east and illuminated some specific courses in each.

The story was kicked back by the editors. It was lacking in “color,” in more vivid descriptions throughout. Try again, Bob.

I did. The lead paragraph went something like “As the sinking evening sun impales itself on the snowy peaks of the North Cascade Mountains, it bleeds a roseate glow sometimes verging into Alpenglo descending on the range’s eastern flanks . . .” and from there was a similar description of the courses, It may well have contained a phrase like “The course’s staff was so unbelievably helpful and friendly they probably would have set your ball on the tee had you asked.” The editor(s) loved it, the fact-checker had no problems and I got paid well.

This was my introduction to what REAL travel writing was about, and I carried the experience (and still do) when writing anything to do with travel, places and - if warranted - people.

Around that same time I was publishing ‘The Goat Wall Street Journal,’ an essentially humorous monthly publication. I solicited material from friends in the golf writing community as well as personal individuals with a sense of humor. A few belonged to the Travel Writers’ Association of America (as I remember the name). At one point, a group of about twelve travel writers were staying at Sun Mountain Lodge. One was a stalwart of the Goat. All were writing about the Methow for different publications.

I remember sitting with the guy I knew: he was trying to recruit me to join their organization. “Man, if you like to travel, this is the life,” he said, going on to tell me of free lodging, free meals, transportation, gifts, and getting paid on top of it all. “In the end,” he stated over a fragrant glass of Santa Pasquale Chablis, vintage 1967, “In the end, we’re all whores.”

The comment resonated, and decades later it still does, but it is not as pejorative as it implies. Golf travel has gotten me first class travel, with wife, everything paid, to a five star hotel on the Indian Ocean beach in Bali for nine days, a side trip to Lomboc, and on my own to Arizona, San Antonio, Cabo san Lucas, two golf cruises to Hawaii and other lesser places, all on someone else’s dime plus a paycheck for the text produced on my return.

I am hopeful that somebody reading this will offer an expense paid week in the resort areas of Carlton, Washington. I can be quite effusive about “The Mediterranean of the Methow,” even if its name has changed. I mean, Ya gotta see this place.


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Have a comment?

Bob - Your description of the contrast between "just the facts" news writing and "colorful" travel writing is funny, true, and should be instructive to the average reader. Travel writing is largely opinion, and if the writer is getting paid to basically sell a product, obviously the opinion will be glowing. The thing they taught us about "don't believe everything you read" seems to be especially true for descriptions of vacation resorts, restaurants, and probably even golf courses - GASP!

Laurelle Walsh


This is a comment regarding my supposed hyperbole in my blog post regarding the Methow Valley. I noted that Laurelle Walsh was concerned that you can't believe everything you read, especially if it's a travel writer who is paid to "sell a product." I'm not paid to write my blog nor am I paid to "sell a product." I actually only write about places and people I feel strongly about. I adore the Methow Valley, so much so, that I am planning another trip there in the summer. If I didn't like it, I wouldn't have gushed about it and, if you read some of my other blog posts, which include product reviews, you'll see that I tell it like it is. People will ask me what's my favorite place. And I always respond that I love every place I've visited for different reasons. The sense of community in the Methow Valley as well as the expanses of wilderness that's been protected from overdevelopment are some of the key reasons why I "gushed" about my trip.

Jeanine Barone

New York City

Dear Jeanine, We like to be appreciated here in the Methow Valley, really we do. People don't protect what they don't know and love. Thanks for loving us. Jane Gilbertsen

Jane Gilbertsen