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10 Phrases Travel Writers Should Stop Using Immediately

By Sarah Miller July 7th, 2016

More than any other type of writing, travel writing tends to sound like it was all written by the same person.

I sympathize with those of you with the nearly impossible job of making one renovated riverfront or mountain town or new minimalist museum café sound different from the last. That said, travel writers tend to use some words and phrases way too much. Here are 10 of them.

1. Venture out

In travel articles, people are forever “venturing out” of their hotel rooms. “Venture” implies danger and risk; don’t the brave and the non-brave alike leave their hotel rooms?

If you are in Paris, you are not “venturing out” to Versailles. You are in Paris and you’re doing what you’re supposed to do.

2. Bucket list

It is certainly possible that when the moment of my death arrives its anguish will be somehow lessened by the knowledge that I once stayed at the Asheville, North Carolina, Biltmore Estate. But probably not.

Call me crazy: I don’t think a list of cool places I should visit needs to remind me of my mortality.

3. Places to see before you die

I am also looking at you, “Places to see before you die.” I know it’s coming, okay?

4.X place will make you feel like you’re in Y [harder to get to, more expensive] place.

Last night I read an article that suggested that I should take a trip to Oregon wine country because, if I stood in a certain place there at a certain time, I just might feel like I was in Burgundy.

I realize this construction (“This café will make you feel like you’re in Rome,” “This fish market will make you feel like you’re in Vietnam”) is not meant to be taken literally. But the idea that I’m in a place that I would enjoy more if I thought it was another place is just kind of depressing.

5. Buzzing with activity

Marketplaces, downtowns, the previously mentioned riverfronts that were once industrial sludge piles but now boasts a mediocre gastropub and an overpacked beer hall… A travel writer never met a popular place they couldn’t describe as “buzzing.”

The word reduces every location where humans gather to a droning sound and aimless milling about. It brings to mind crowds of insects, rather than crowds of people. Maybe I’m being optimistic, but I still prefer people to a swarm of bees.

6. Quirky

I don’t even know what this word means anymore. Is it when a coffee shop is not a Starbucks, when a casual restaurant is not an Applebee’s, and when a hotel is not a part of the Marriott “Family of Brands”? This does not ipso facto makes something “quirky.”

Quirky means odd, peculiar. It brings to mind a woman wearing big craft show earrings and purple granny glasses. But now, anything that is not corporate is “quirky.” I hope to make it to the moon before it becomes quirky.

7. Eclectic

Small towns and small-town things—restaurants, bookstores, clothing stores—are often labeled “eclectic.” It’s literally supposed to refer to something that draws from a wide range of sources, but it’s really come to mean a place that tries hard but does nothing particularly well, like that guy on a dating site who brags that in addition to practicing environmental law, he also plays guitar, sculpts, and makes furniture.

And don’t forget eclectic’s usual partner in crime, “artsy,” as in: “Don’t forget to check out this eclectic, artsy district near the lake.”

8. Recharge

Recharge at the hotel spa. Recharge with a coffee. Recharge with a mani-pedi. Thank you, I will be doing any and all of the above, but I will not be “recharging.”

This word was probably fine at one point, but it is so overused it just makes you want to fall asleep in a hotel lobby drooling on yourself. How’s that for recharging?

9. Wanderlust

The word “wanderlust” enables certain types of privileged individuals to characterize their desire to quit their jobs as a spiritual quest.

Doubly annoying for its relationship to yoga.

10. Don’t forget / Don’t miss / Be sure to catch

In order to compete with the popularity of sites like TripAdvisor (because who wouldn’t want total strangers whose taste you may or may not share giving you travel tips?), travel writing has taken on this tone of friendly advice.

As in, “Don’t forget to visit this ‘hidden gem’ we’ll pretend no one knows about even though everyone knows about it” or “Be sure to catch [overpriced attraction we definitely don’t feel pressured to include for a more clickable headline].”

This isn’t good or bad, but the notion that there are things you absolutely have to see and do when you visit a place introduces yet more FOMO into an already FOMO-rich world. We take vacations and travel to experience things, not check off boxes. My friend says such direction is helpful. He obviously lacks imagination.

More in this series:

10 Terms Food Writers Should Immediately Stop Using

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