All the way to Reno...

19:27, Dec 09 2012

I'm going to be taking you on a journey with me. From tomorrow, I will be a guest of the Nevada Commission on Tourism for a week, travelling from Reno through to Las Vegas by car before flying home.

It is a work trip, of sorts. I will be blogging about aspects of my trip here and publishing various articles in newspapers over the coming months.

This will be my first "familiarisation trip" (as they are called, per the industry parlance). I'm excited about it; a trip like this opens up an opportunity for me to do more travel writing work than I am currently able. Travel journalism is expensive for a start, but it's fun. There's a high buy-in. I usually only get to tack a travel story on as a plus-one if I'm going to be somewhere anyway.

Travel journalism is a unique brand of writing, as it is experiential rather than critical and so visiting Nevada as the guest of a tourism board (as I am) opens up little avenue for conflict. They get exposure. I get a story. (Win-win?)

So this trip is a professional opportunity for me, to experience and document the joys of the wider state of Nevada.

But thinking about going interests me on a personal level.


Ordinarily, planning a trip carries with it a level of emotional expectation: you take a holiday, to a destination that you have picked out over and above other parts of the world, which you have saved up for carefully and looked forward to.

I had a stake in planning my itinerary, but my knowledge of the state of Nevada is minimal. So I was essentially rubber-stamping ideas as they were proposed. The burden of expectation for me is negligible.

Outside of Las Vegas, Nevada has had little cultural imprint in my mind. There is Reno, where I will stay tomorrow night. I've driven through Reno. There's a great REM song that namedrops it, which I'll probably hum incessantly for a day or two. Apparently Kanye West and Modest Mouse have filmed music videos there. I know there'll be a casino or three.

I'll be going by Area 51, some ghost towns and old mining posts. I'll be going through a lot of desert, which makes me think a bit about certain scenes from Broken Arrow (even though I know it wasn't filmed, or set, anywhere near Nevada).  

I will spend two nights in Las Vegas, a place I have been to and enjoy, but will spend the daytime exploring scenery and national parks well outside the city limits.

Las Vegas excluded, these sights hold weak cultural weight in my mind. Not to insinuate that they are in any way weak places. It just puts me in a place where I can be a blank slate as I travel the state, with no pre-determined factors clouding my enjoyment. (For a start, how many times do you go somewhere and feel slightly irked that it looks different from what it did on the TV?)

It is interesting to me, that despite Nevada having not been a cultural landmark in my life and having little knowledge of the wider state, how genuinely excited about this trip I am.

It confirms to me again how intrinsically travel is as much about escape from our everyday lives, as it is to experience something specific.

You make anything commonplace, anything regular, no matter how magical... all you do is create someone who in time will be desperate for a break from that routine.

How people read travel writing is an extension of this. Travel writing at its best is as much about the human condition that inspires us to go as it is about recreating a specific setting.

I have seen through this blog that the best-written and most descriptive pieces of travel writing can hold little interest to a reader who has never been there. It is only when that sense of place and scenery is captured in unison with a universal, relatable truth about the nature of the journey does it become something that a lot of people can really get behind.

Anticipating this trip next week has put me in tune with this idea, thinking about the impact of simply being away and out of my comfort zone (the voyage if you will) alongside the idea of experiencing a new place.

So for the next week we'll be trekking through Nevada, exploring a genuinely new world to me with little preconception, dissecting the nature of the trip itself alongside the new scenery we'll encounter. My trusty sidekick LP will be with me, having decided to come along at the eleventh hour, to ride shotgun.

I hope you'll come along for the ride with me.

We've touched on this before and we'll come back to it again: what truly motivates you to travel?

Furthermore, what brings you to read about travel?

(Escapism? Ideas? Hope?)

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