Truth in Travel Writing: A Conversation With Tim Hannigan

by Jennifer Roberts

Truth is a tricky subject on the best of days, but when you’re talking about a genre of writing that seems to defy easy binaries, well, let’s just say there’s a lot of nuance. The complexity of the topic didn’t stop Tim Hannigan and I from tackling it and trying to parse out not only why the issue of truth-telling in travel writing seems to be an endless source of debate, but also how travel writers can approach the ethical considerations around truth when thinking about their own travel writing.

During this conversation (nearly an hour long, as Tim and I were both enjoying it so much), Tim and I discuss a 2018 article in which Tim analyzed an unpublished travel book he wrote in his twenties and paid particular attention to how and why he had inserted fictional elements. The conversation found us speaking about why “craft” can sometimes trump “truth,” the conscious and unconscious decisions we make with each travel piece we write, why the stakes of truth-telling feel a bit higher when writing about the people we meet when traveling, and more. This is a must-listen for any travel writer, so don’t miss it!

Listen to the full conversation here:

[You can also listen on Spotify or iTunes.]

You can find the link to “Counting Up the Lies: A Self-Reflexive Investigation of Craft and Fictionalization in a Modern Travel Book,” discussed during the episode, here. You can find all of Tim’s books and more information about his writing on his website.

Our summer Travel Writing Workshops are coming up! Join us live online and learn how to uncover your best travel stories. Highly recommended for new and emerging travel writers.

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