From travel writing I do expect the truth. I understand emphasizing some aspects and diminishing others, as when someone tells a funny anecdote and focuses on the enjoyable part. But it should be true; please, don't place you as the character, just tell the story someone told you if that's the case. If you are a good writer, you'll do it well and we readers will enjoy it as much as if you were there, will value your ability. I expect them to be good writers, not amazing explorers (more on that later), so if they did not live that story, no problem, just tell what you heard.
If you go for fiction, then do as Stevenson, Melville, or Jack London: live a lot of experiences yourself and then write fiction based on that. Create characters and stories. I seldom read fiction, but just finished "Adventure" by Jack London, a novel taking place in the Salomon Islands. Years ago, I read "The Cruise of the Snark", non fiction, where he tells about his intended RTW trip on a yatch (although finished prematurely), where he visits the Pacific (and the Salomon archipelago). I could feel all the influence of his very personal and real experience of the real trip in the novel, even if it is fiction (but many facts are just true). Thumbs up.
But travel writing and recurring to fiction? No, sorry.
I once read that Ryszard Kapuściński referred to something like "enhancing/boosting reality". I accept it as an ability to boost aspects that we regular people may miss, but he is able to perceive, as insightfulness, or as boosting the most interesting aspects, but not as inventing, placing you there. I've read and love almost all his books. Short after his death there was a biography claiming something similar about him, fabulating stories. Honestly, it worried me how it could change what/how I enjoyed his writings. Among the main reasons for me to visit Georgia was to visit Vardzia, after reading about it in his book Imperium: he tells about it very vividly, although he explains that only based on the info he got in a museum. So he was never there, but being such a good writer, he was able to make a great impression of the place. For these reasons and after having read contradictory opinions about the biographer I felt: this chap wants controversy, his accounts do not look objective, he just wants to make money of people like me, I'm not going to give him that chance buying his book blaming Kapuscinski.
About being explorer and writer... Mike Horn is an impressive explorer and writes very interesting books... He lived it and told it, but I don't expect him to be Steinbeck. So someone else (who also appears on the cover or 1st page) helps him with the writing and probably not only because of the language (they are originally written in French, even though he is South African), but also with the narration. And they write very well. Thumbs up as well.
(What a boring writing I'm doing) Conclusion: to me, travel writing needs truth, it is not fiction. Otherwise, go for fiction.
Last edited by estebangc; 24 Nov 2012 at 00:53.
Reason: Rewritten, poor grammar