Travel writers as court jesters

I just ran across an with Rick Steves on cnn.com from a few weeks ago. Here’s the quote I really liked:

jester “I believe that, especially in this post-9/11 world, travel writers take on the role — or should take on the role — of what the medieval jester did 1,000 years ago in Europe. They were out there, they knew what was going on, and they brought the truth home inside the royal court, and the king wouldn’t kill them. The jesters could say the truth to the king, and that’s a beautiful thing, and today, I think travel writers have, if not a responsibility, at least an opportunity to go out there, learn about the world and bring it home to a country that is quite fearful right now about the rest of the world.”

I’ve never felt very comfortable with the kind of travel writing that gushes on and on about how great and perfect everything is in this place or that, especially when it’s about some luxury hotel that costs as much per night as their average staffer makes in six months to a year. Being a court jester seems more admirable in the end, so bring on the hat and bells!

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