Turning a page on travel

Updated: 2014-10-15 07:54

By Xing Yi(China Daily)

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Turning a page on travel

A Decade of Backpacking, I Just Want to Stop and See the World, We Always Travel Hand in Hand and Why We Travel are among the most popular travel books in China. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Turning a page on travel

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According to the China National Tourism Administration, the number of outbound Chinese travelers jumped from 12 million to 57 million between 2001 and 2010, the decade when Zhang was backpacking around the world. The number is expected to reach 116 million this year.

"However, at the time my book came out, there were few books that catered to young people's longing while traveling."

Zhang's book ignited a Chinese craze for travel writing. Featuring different themes, travel writing became a popular genre. But most of the books have one thing in common: The travelers are mostly young people.

The Late Gap Year (2009), written by Sun Dongchun, tells the story of a young man who gave up a white-collar job and started a three-month trip for a volunteer program in Southeast Asia. The trip turned into a yearlong travel. What's more, he even found his Miss Right and got married by the end of the story.

I Just Want to Stop and See the World, published in 2012, is a narrative by Chen Yuxin, who spent one year working and traveling around Europe at the age of 22.

In the book, she shares many of her exciting experiences, such as taking the trans-Siberian train, and joining a skinny-dipping club in Norway.

We Always Travel Hand in Hand, published in 2012, was written by a young couple. The husband, Zhang Qianli, was a photographer contracted to Getty Images while his wife, Tang Xiaomin, was a freelance writer. Their travel romance, complete with beautiful pictures, first went viral on a Chinese microblog. "More than 30 publishers contacted us and wanted to publish our story," says Tang.

Song Zhenshao, counselor at the psychological counseling center of Beijing Normal University, says: "To step out of ordinary life is a deep desire associated with freedom in people's hearts, and the hustle and bustle of city life intensifies the desire.

"Young people want to expand their horizons through travel, and reading travel books also satisfies the need, if vicariously."

But as more similar travelogues hit the bookshelves, the average sales for new travel books have dropped from tens of thousands copies to around 10,000 or even less. "The market for travel writing has become saturated," says Li Shen, editor of several travel books at the Beijing-based China Citic Press. "We have been very cautious in accepting manuscripts from new travel writers. We don't publish them unless they have a very unique perspective or unusual experiences."