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Home > English > Close reading texts and techniques > Autobiographies and travel writing


Autobiographies and travel writing


Examples of travel writing

car driving on empty road towards craggy mountains

Let's look in detail at an example of travel writing.

In this extract the writer gives his impressions of an area of Montana called the Badlands.

Mauvaises terres. The first missionary explorers had given this place its name, a translation of the Plains Indian term meaning something like hard-to-travel country, for its daunting walls and pinnacles and buttresses of eroded sandstone and sheer clay. Where I was now, in Fallon County, Montana, close to the North Dakota state line, the Badlands were getting better. A horseback rider wouldn't have too much difficulty getting past the blisters and eruptions that scarred the prairie here. But the land was still bad enough to put one in mind of Neil Armstrong and the rest of the Apollo astronauts: dusty, cratered, its green turning to seer yellow under the June sun.

Breasting the regular swells of land, on a red dirt road as true as a line of longitude, the car was like a boat at sea. The ocean was hardly more solitary than this empty country, where in forty miles or so I hadn't seen another vehicle.

Here's a closer look at some of the features you should be able to spot -

  • The article is written in the 1st person, " Where I was now.... the Badlands were getting better".
  • The article describe the places in great detail. The writer creates a picture of the Badlands as being huge, empty and desolate.
  • The writer creates this vivid picture of place by using very descriptive, imaginative language. Did you spot the writer's use of a simile when he described the size of the Badlands? He said that the prairie was so big that his car was like a "boat at sea".
  • Notice how the writer made his feelings about the Badlands clear. Words like "daunting" and "solitary" give us an idea of his reaction to his surroundings.

Can you spot any other features of this type of writing which we've not pointed out for you, or some more examples of the ones above?



Atlantic rower Debra Veal.

Class Clips

Video clip - an example of a response to descriptive writing


A train.

Class Clips

Authors Steve Vickerstaff and Kate Humble talk about what makes good travel writing



Class Clips

Kate Humble gives some tips about travel writing

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