More than fifteen years ago, as a young student growing up in China, I dreamed of New York City as the place to see. New York city symbolized the United States, the greatest country on earth. I longed to see it. I wanted to even live there some day.
Although this trip is not my first visit to the city, I still feel that there is something very special about New York City. It is a city that has welcomed and accommodated people from all over the world. The cultural diversity has made it possible that we can find just about anything we may want.
There is always something for everyone. For example, New York has a wonderful variety of restaurants for just about every type of food we can imagine. We walk down one street, get Chinese food for lunch excellent food, great prices , then turn a corner, stop in an Italian bakery for a quick snack, or turn one more corner we may find Russian Tea Room, etc. In addition, Asian cuisine offers a diverse variety. It also calls for two distinct levels of information that might be summed up as background and foreground.
Remember, your readers need a sense of place and a sense of who is taking them on this journey. Descriptive prose provides the larger context while you, the writer, bring a strong sense of your personal motives, state of mind, and situation as we embark on the trip together. Remember, your goal is to come full circle, so always take time to check and see if your last few paragraphs relate to the beginning. Think of your essay as a flight into the unknown, which it should be for the reader even if you know the place inside out.
There are many techniques for starting, ranging from a short, punchy statement to a patch of dialogue with locals. Memories and the City , plunge in with sensuous word paintings of cityscapes.
Their two key questions might be reduced to: Where am I going, and who am I going with? The important thing, as a writer, is that you bring this to life with descriptive detail that sets the mood and weaves imagery, color, texture, sound, light, architecture and nature into a believable background. Resist the urge to overwrite this paragraph, but build it out to paint a picture that will serve as a point of reference for all that follows.
Limit yourself to six to eight sentences. Now, practice the art of shifting focus to the travel guide and companion— you —with a much shorter paragraph of three or four sentences.
In this paragraph, your reader should feel jolted out of a dream as the focus shifts to a particular human dilemma, goal, conscious sensation, or problem that co-exists with the lyrical quality of your opening paragraph.
Use this technique of shifting from descriptive prose to the here and now to drive your narrative forward. These two paragraphs—taken together—will create a sense of anticipation about the story and the place we barely know.
What we must know early on is that a voyage of discovery awaits, as soon as we turn the page. The arts of fiction—color, rhythm, imagery, narrative tension, dialogue, scenes—all belong to travel essays and books, which are often collections of related essays. As we watched and the sun began to set, the clouds became saturated with wild luminous colors; purple, yellow, grey and red, boiling in the distance.
After I chatted with the blue-bereted soldiers for a couple of minutes, a loud explosion rang out, and a plume of smoke rose up from a hill on the horizon. Listen for the sound of a tale unfolding by reading your work aloud, to yourself.
Your voice, thoughts, predicaments and discoveries are what will make your reader eager to follow you. It is your mind, not your personal life and quirky tastes, that serves as the filter for the essay. As one editor once bluntly asked of an essay of mine: But in the end, that digression into a gourmet restaurant came off as smug, self-referential and off-point.
I had intruded in my own essay. A new perspective may be formed. Perhaps their native country is not as free as they had been told or originally thought it to be, for example. One does not understand what it means to be a citizen of their native country until they have seen it from a distance, from another, completely different country.
This changes how one feels about their native country, whether in a better or worse light. Traveling is always beneficial for the individual experiencing it. Another great benefit to traveling is the life experience. Many people in the world do not have the luxury of going to another country for pleasure, or even to another city in their native country for that matter.
Traveling gets a person out of their comfort zone, away from all their normal pleasures and comforts and way of doing things. This forces them to be adventurous, to live life to the fullest, to take the most of this precious gift of life and use the time they have to discover new things, meet new people and experience a completely different life — much like people experience when reading fictional stories: They get to become whoever they are reading about, just like in travel they get to become the citizens of the country they are visiting, even if for just a short time.
They live outside themselves. To conclude, traveling is good for a person of any age. And it may even help a person to feel connected to the many people living in the world, even if their lives never meet, even if their lives are so completely different that they may as well be from different planets.
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