I Want to Be a Travel Writer

I’ve always wanted to be a travel writer: who wouldn’t want to go off and have adventures, meet people, research interesting stories, and then get paid for it. That is until I realized everybody else wanted to do that, and the few who were good enough to get paid weren’t making a living. But I still like to read travel articles, learn about new places, and secretly entertain the thought that maybe I could’ve gone to the same place and written a better article.

Well, that finally happened. The article in question is “Hawaii: Searching For Koolau The Leper”, on a sleek travel website whose name I can’t even pronounce. So now I will become a travel writer critic.

Overall, the article follows a classic recipe: travel to an interesting place, search for some historical figure, and find echos of the past by interviewing the locals. The problem is that you need to do some historical research, and that takes time away from your working vacation. I know one should never let the facts get in the way of a good story, but in this case, they got in the way of my reading.

The story of Koolau the Leper was made famous by Jack London who heard a second- or third-hand account while traveling in Hawaii. So it was with great interest that I read the story told by his widow in The Kauai Papers, published by the Kauai Historical Society. Too bad our travel writer never found this credible account while he was at the local library, because it clearly states that Koolau and his wife came from Waimea, and hiked into Kalalau down the steep cliffs at the back of the valley on a trail that no longer exists.

Cliff at the back of Kalalau valley, viewed from the Pihea trail

So the entire following-in-his-footsteps premise of the article is undermined, and the author appears for what he really is: just another tourist. Yes, the Kalalau trail is hard, but it is nowhere near as hard as what Koolau and his wife actually had to do. If the writer had climbed that cliff, which might be feasible or might be suicide depending on whom you ask, then I would’ve been impressed. As it is, I think he needs to search for another way to pay for his vacations.

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