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Monday, February 23, 2015

What the Top Ten overused travel cliches really mean


If you ask me, travel writing is supposed to be informative and entertaining. You either read it for a bit of fun and maybe a giggle, or for serious research into your next holiday that you've scrimped and saved for all year. It doesn't help if every place you read about is described by the same dull and repetitious words. Chances are the place is as equally dull and unremarkable.

If you're a travel writer, copywriter or public relations scribe, then you are forever dipping into the lexicon of adjectives and adverbs trying to find a new twist on an old subject. Trotting out the same old tripe is not going to impress anyone anymore.

Here are some of the most popular and overused cliches in the travel writing business and what they probably really mean. I've included some real life examples for your entertainment. Why change the names? They wrote it.



Luxury - we make the beds and do the cooking.

Luxury and 'luxurious' are constantly changing and relative terms. It means a level of service or experience beyond what you might expect at home or in your day-to-day living. More recently it has come to denote less tangible qualities like location or superlative service. Just because you say it's luxury doesn't make it so. How do you describe 'luxury' to a prince/princess or head-of-state? Bling and lapdogs don't equal luxury, sorry Paris Hilton. If you insist on using this word, make it relevant and meaningful, if you can.

Unique - different from the hotel across the road

If you want to drive your editor insane, use this word lots. Because of frequent misuse by lazy writers, 'unique' has lost its true meaning. If you want to get really finicky, everything down to molecular level is 'unique', so it's hardly a useful word to describe anything anymore. Do you mean 'exceptional', 'outstanding' or 'without equal'? Then say so. And 'unique' does not exist in degrees. Either it is, or it isn't. 'Most unique' or (cringe) 'almost unique' will ensure your submission is the last one an editor will ever read from you.

Best kept secret nestled uniquely in verdant paradise

Nestled - the builders are finished and you can check-in

A resort or hotel sits on a parcel of land, or in some cases, over water or perched on a cliff. Just because there's uncleared jungle out the back or it's up against a canyon doesn't make it 'nestled'. You might think it sounds cool and hip to 'nestle' something, but it just shows you are lost for words, grasping at straws or scraping the bottom of the barrel. Get it?

Pristine - there is garbage collection and someone sweeps the street

If I read this word, it instantly makes me (and many readers) think you have never seen pristine, ever. Anything touched by the hand of man instantly loses any quality of pristine. To describe a holiday resort (next to another resort) on a 'pristine' beach not only insults the word and your readers' intelligence, it advertises your ignorance. The Moon was pristine until some blokes left footprints and space junk all over the place.

Did I forget to mention 'lush and exotic'?

Hidden Gem - people stopped coming and we need the business

You found it, so it wasn't very well hidden was it? And if the clue in the brochure or guidebook calls it a 'hidden gem', then forget it. Even though your new-found boutique hotel might be 'out of the way', 'off the beaten path' or just at the end of the main drag, doesn't mean it's a hidden gem. Either way, as soon as the ink hits the paper, it's found.

Paradise - is a place where the ATMs work, the taxis are cheap and you can get a massage and/or cocktail for under $10

Seriously folks, have you ever been to paradise? If so, then you should be writing near-death experiences, not travel. Like Shangri-La or Nirvana, 'paradise' is an aspirational term that ceases to exist as soon as it's found. In my mind at least, true paradise won't ever be in a travel brochure, it's at the end of the white light.

Must-do / Must-See - Take my word for it, I'm a famous travel writer

Says who? Don't be so bossy. It's entirely possible that your reader may not want to see the world's largest tadpole feces or climb the 1000 steps to the souvenir stall at the top. Make a confident suggestion by all means, back-up your assertion too, but make it an order? No thanks. That's arrogant.

Iconic - a cross between eyesore and tourist trap

I liked this word once, but now it gets slapped on every piece of mundane architecture from gas stations to Big Bananas. You might get away with calling the Empire State Building or the Eiffel Tower 'iconic', but you can bet Ballina to a buck, it's been done by every two-bob copywriter and travel hack before you. Want to impress your editor? Then use this word very sparingly.

Exotic - someone or something you've never met before

Oh, you don't say? So you went all 'exotic' and tried the Thai restaurant instead of McDonalds? I often wonder if some writers would know 'exotic' if it slapped them in the face. Do you really mean 'alien' or 'unfamiliar'? Then say so. 'Exotic' is another way of saying 'I have no idea what to call this thing'. As soon as you get off the plane, it becomes 'exotic'. Surprise your readers , or your editor, with something original.

Breathtaking - you climbed a flight of stairs with all your luggage because the lift was broken

If you've just done the world's biggest bungy-jump or skydived from 10,000 feet, then okay. But if you just got out of a gondola with 20 people to see the valley, then it's more likely to be the fat German who farted bratwurst that took your breath away than the view. Save this one up for something really gob-smacking.

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