There is a land, far, far away, where travel writers spend more time than they should. Its siren call – echoing across panoramic vistas and sweeping through undiscovered villages – lures the travelling hacks to an oasis where mere everyday words are not enough to describe the awesome wonders that confront them.
In Cliché Land, words must be writerly words, wrought from a bejewelled mine. They must be words that dazzle, words that speak of the bustling and buzzing best-kept secrets to which the travel writer, and the travel writer alone – oh lucky travel writer – bears witness.
Luckily, all these words can be found in a very short dictionary issued to all travel writers on their first day on the job.
A copy has – mysteriously – fallen into my hands, and I thought I’d share some of its secrets with you here. Then I’ll have to kill you, obviously. Sorry about that.
“Off the beaten track”
Closely related to “hidden gem”, this is a destination so difficult to find that it’s in every guidebook and travel article ever written. You’ll know it when you get there because it will be packed with people getting off tour buses, clutching guidebooks and travel articles.
“Eateries and hostelries”
You’ll be hungry and thirsty when you reach your off-the-beaten-track destination, but fortunately there are establishments that will serve you food and drink. These aren’t restaurant, cafés or bars – oh no, they are “eateries” and “hostelries”. No one knows why.
(It is entirely different in Italy, by the way, where – when it’s time to eat pasta – you can go to a “spaghetteria” or – when it’s time to have a beer – you go to a “birreria”. I promise. Those are real Italian words.)
“The Mecca of …”
Assuming you’re not actually in a Saudi Arabian holy city, then it’s probably fairly safe to say the writer thinks this place is quite good for something or other. Surfing maybe. Or shopping. Please note, this construction doesn’t work with English holy places – “Head to the Lake District – the Canterbury of outdoor enthusiasts” just doesn’t do the job.
By the way, if you’re not in the Mecca of something or other, you might instead be in an Oasis or a Paradise. They amount to the same thing.
I realise the battle is lost, and the ramparts well and truly stormed, but one more time, just for the record – attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion, and C-beams glittering in the dark near the Tannhauser gate, those are awesome sights. They evoke a sense of awe, emotions that overwhelm in their intensity. Your pizza topping, on the other hand, is not awesome.
“Don’t miss the must-see”
If you tried not to miss everything you shouldn’t miss and saw everything you must see – well, frankly, there wouldn’t be any time left to get off the beaten track and have a cocktail in a hostelry. Why not miss something now and again, just to keep travel writers on their toes?
“Vibrant, bustling and buzzing”
You’re in the market. Look around you. Are there more than two other shoppers, besides you? That means you can officially say it’s “vibrant”. Has one shopper walked relatively quickly past another shopper? It is now “bustling”. Have you heard one stall-holder talk to a shopper, perhaps to tell them the price of something? Bingo – this market is SO “buzzing”. On the stall, is some of the fruit red and some of the vegetables green? It’s “colourful” baby, “colourful”! That’s one hell of a market.
Peru is the new Albania. That’s all I have to say. Think about it. Now you want to go, don’t you? Job done.
So. Love – or hate – these words and phrases? Why not share your favourites below? And see more clichés from the travel coalface in this post.
Want to read more pro travel-writing tips?
Choosing the right words to tell your travel story
How to become a travel writer – here’s how I did it, you can too!
Writing hotel reviews for guidebooks – Part 1 and Part 2
Cliche by Tom Newby, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0
Homma – Mani Cliche + El Corazon by Nirvana Melo, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0
Cliche Future Cop by davitydave, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0
Cliche Bakersfield Graffiti Art by A Syn, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0
Cliche Guevara by Jonas Bengtsson, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0