The Big Shift

by Ant Stone on November 17, 2008

in Australia

Tramlines score the roads of Melbourne; thin white loaf tins heaving her people between the suburbs. During the morning commute I observe Melbourne’s schoolboys with gusto. Their uniforms are so far from kool, I feel embarrassed for them. Ill-fitting blazers hang off their ink-stained wrists, while a flash of knobbly pale knees peek out between their oh-so-boring socks and shorts. They gather like identical grey rainclouds, each given a dull dollop of curls to swirl above a pair of pinpoint eyes that ride the river of childhood over the bridge of their noses between the pools of pink cheeks. There are countless other characters and clans that board these trams; I think up a manuscript almost daily from those short thrusts along the trolley’s grooves, then as I skip down the short steps I become hijacked by some other scene.

I used to think I needed baron landscapes and cultures far from my own to conjure up the magic I needed to scribe a tale. I needed a solemn Sri Lankan or a cheery Chinaman. Not so! It’s fair to say my writing has evolved as much as myself along The Trail. I very rarely reread a piece after I donate it to you, for the simple reason that I barely recognise myself. When I start to write I take a step back from reality; the air I breathe is from a foreign land of fictitious beings. Elves carry sentences, chunky trolls bash out the grammar and I become a kind of Alice. It’s become apparent to me recently that when people ask me what I like, ‘what am I about?’ or ‘what’s my creative outlet?’ and I nonchalantly say ‘I’m a writer, a travel writer’ that maybe I’m lying. I think I’ve worked out recently that I only want to be a travel writer because I like travel and I like writing therefore I must be a travel writer! Hah, isn’t it obvious? “ELF! Take this exclamation mark away with you!” Those of you that have read this travel blog for the last year or so will know I have a penchant to spin the reality into a fluid fiction. To unravel the thin veils of right-angled truths and rework them into chunky blankets of boyishness.

Take the view through my window. To the average Joe it’s a silver car lit up by a single street lamp. To me, it’s “a silver nugget being manipulated by an urban candle.” Take my desk. To you and yours it might be a wooden table covered in coffee cups, maps, writing pads and pencils. To me it’s “a tray of mankind mementos; collected by a curious chap on his way home, to some fantasy island.” Take you, my audience whom I’ve never met. To me, you’re a hall of twitching creatures. Some of you are talking over me, while others are transfixed by my sermon. Factions of you cheer while others hobble to the door. So I question; how can I be trusted to be a serious travel writer? When I absorb the wonder of life in faraway places, but bundle it frantically into my armpit and muddle it into ink for my dreamscapes?

Travel writing these days is as safe as it comes for the hobbyist like me. How can you go wrong telling people about places that only about 1-in-10 will ever visit? Your opinions are formed on a multicultural stage with scripts played out from the locals and their guests alike. Just take a look around the so-called blogosphere and marvel at the number of folk who are smearing repetitive junk about travel onto our lives. It’s an encyclopaedia of travel out there, I fear for some people they’ll find the real thing a tragic disappointment after building up their hopes on a dozen straight-edge websites. You don’t need to travel further then 20” from your screen to become saturated by the issues of the tourists in Tibet and the backpackers in Birmingham. There are Lonely Planet authors dovetailing gap year students, there are awesome photographers kissing comments with forward thinking directors while courageous couples open their hearts to headstrong soloists. Isn’t that amazing? The Internet is swallowing the world. To travel, you no longer have to travel – it’s all just slipping into these monitors of ours. Photos. Videos. Opinions. The internet is swallowing the world! This is why I’m slowly edging away from my dream to become a travel writer, because it just doesn’t seem like fun and it is the epitome of mixing business with pleasure. Travel photography mind you, well, there’s a prospect that could sidle up alongside any fiction work I stain the papyrus sheets with.

There again, how can I do any of that if in less than eight hundred words I go from the knobbly knees of Melburnian youths to the line “the internet is swallowing the world” via the frayed edges of my world of folkloric creatures?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Gillian November 20, 2008 at 3:18 am

I love your writing Ant! I’m sure I will continue to love your writing whether it be about travel or some other topic. I will keep following along.

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Kara November 20, 2008 at 12:54 pm

Your writing is honest and poetic. I think you mixture of both fiction and the world is more of a reality than people would like to admit.

However, I think the internet allows us to interact with more of the world then ever before. Instead of squelching my will to travel, it fuels it with all the places I can see, but have not experienced for myself. Personal experience, for me, will never be replaced with other people’s words.

Thanks so much for sharing your amazing stories and I look forward to reading more.

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Ant November 20, 2008 at 9:58 pm

@ Gillian: Thanks for your kind words – you’re exactly the kind of person I love writing for, and I’ll be keeping it up.

@ Kara: Thanks also to you, you make a good point in a nice way; the internet is a mere trail of breadcrumbs for us to follow.

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Skip November 26, 2008 at 11:26 pm

If the Elf ever needs time off, I’ll do his holiday cover….

“Come along Mr Exclamation mark, let get you cleaned up and ready for posting”.

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John the swede November 30, 2008 at 3:45 pm

Dude, if one person read this over the internet, and that person decide to take the step and perhaps travel the world or live his or her dream. Is’nt that worth everything?

And could you have seen what you see now in the same light without the knowledge you`ve gained from travelling? I mean, now you are able to write poetry about the “Melburnian youths” because you actually take notice of them. Because you have travelled and seen amazing stuff, but you can also relax and see the “wonderland” that is just around the corner or in a commuting bus…

Oh shit, I was chased by a Emu just 20 mins ago and now his waiting outside the internet cafe. Gotta run…fast…

seeya in Melb soon, kiss reb from me!

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[F]oxymoron December 5, 2008 at 6:19 pm

I’m a man…

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[F]oxymoron December 5, 2008 at 6:20 pm

… of few words … but I think …

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[F]oxymoron December 5, 2008 at 6:26 pm

… travel writing is now about offering solace to those seeking to affirm the complexity of the world with all 5 of their senses. Of course, most people are blind.

OK, my few words are used.

(keep writing)

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