Bellagio Como Travel

Perched, Nestled and Other Hidden Gems

We all love travel writing clichés. Pick up any reputable travel publication, online magazine or blog, and you’ll find they are littered with words which have become strongly aligned with travel writing that we have often forgotten their original meaning.

Perched and Nestled have dominated the travel writing scene for so long that every time I see them from a reputable author or publication, I wonder how the writers can be immune to the cringe factor. Print media is responsible for perpetuating words that have turned into clichés. And with the widespread of online publications, blogs and travel sites in recent years, common words creep up into travel writing faster than you can say Beam me up, Scottie. But just as every destination has become a city of contrasts, so is a travel writer’s repertoire.

Bellagio, nestled and perched on Lake Como, Italy

Even poor St-Augustin’s The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page is not immune to such adaptation.

Travel writing clichés can often be a chicken or egg scenario. Was the village always quaint or did someone assign it a label that was copied to other similar towns?  When it comes to self-expression in travel writing, are we curbing our creativity or are we simply trying to assimilate to a standard that was set by peers or mentors?

Regardless of whether perched came before the bird, let’s address some of the pet hates. Next time you see one of these words in a travel article or essay, try to substitute a literal meaning or ask yourself a question. It’s guaranteed to take your travel reading enjoyment to a new unspoiled destination.

hidden gem – does anything remain hidden in the age of the internet?
itchy feet – substitute ‘a bout of tinea’ and reread the sentence
unspoiled gem – it soon will be by the time someone has read the article
off the beaten track or its first cousin, off the beaten path – has someone with a machete beaten a path for all to follow?
mecca – how about using Medina for a change?
has something for everyone – you’re assuming I have common tastes?
perched – what, like a canary?
must see – by whose standard? and why are you telling me what to do
the pearl of – why not ‘the mollusc of’?

The beauty of clichés is that we can learn from them and improve our writing. But in this age of digital communication where nothing is sacred, coin a phrase and someone will copy it. If you’re in luck, it will go viral, and in to time, you would have created your own brand of cliché that every other person will adopt.

If your repertoire is peppered with these expressions, try Gourmantic’s Travel Writing Cliché Bingo Game. First person to fill in all squares from one article wins an all expense paid trip to an unspoiled gem of a town, perched on a rolling hill, with an off the beaten track location that has something for everyone. This coveted prize is designed to cure anyone’s itchy feet. Hurry… you don’t want to miss out!

What are your pet hate travel writing clichés? Share them in the comments below.

About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is a drinks writer, author of GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN, SHRUBS & BOTANICAL SODAS and founder/editor of Gourmantic, Cocktails & Bars and The Gourmantic Garden. She has been writing extensively about spirits, cocktails, bars and cocktail gardening in more recent years. She is a spirits and cocktail competition judge, Icons of Whisky Australia nominee, contributor to Diageo Bar Academy, cocktail developer and is named in Australian Bartender Magazine's Top 100 Most Influential List. Her cocktail garden was featured on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia and has won several awards. She is a contributor to Real World Gardener radio program and is featured in several publications including Pip Magazine, Organic Gardener, Australian Bartender and Breathe (UK). Read the full bio here.


    • Jen: I’m a little divided between stating the colours as they are, blue, green, turquoise etc and assigning them, say a food analogy, like ‘espresso-coloured’ to denote dark brown. The latter is certainly more creative but in some cases the imagery it evokes distracts me from the content I am reading. It’s all subjective, of course. Besides, we don’t want to be following a ‘formula’ as such when it comes to writing. It stifles creativity.

  • You know I don’t have a problem with turquoise sea or emerald lake if the lake *is* turquoise or *is* emerald. It’s when they’re not, that it becomes a problem. As a guidebook writer, I was always correcting descriptions of places that weren’t accurate – taking into consideration changes in colour and textures due to the seasons. Is there a better way to describe turquoise than by using turquoise? Azure? A slightly different colour. Jade? A different colour again. Cobalt. A far deeper blue. Jen, I challenge you to describe them in a fresh way that isn’t flowery 🙂
    The problem is with travel writing that once you apply the same approach to fiction – a desire to write in a fresh, highly creative and original way – you lose your audience most of the time. That’s not why they want to read travel writing. Cliches exist for a reason. They’re part of our everyday vocabulary and language. I’d rather read something that spoke to me in a frank, natural and authentic way that let the people and places speak for themselves, than read an excruciatingly bad piece of writing that an author has laboured over in her desire to avoid cliches.
    The other issue is that authors write fiction and write travel writing in very different ways. I’ve made a living out of doing both and my approach is completely different. As a travel writer, I’m churning out between 1000-4000 words a day sometimes. I wouldn’t do that with fiction. Sometimes there’s not the time to sit and think, but rather I let my fingers do the working, whereas with fiction, my brain takes over.
    Instead of reading a list of cliches that people hate, I’d much rather read a list of their fresh alternatives. That would be original! What do you think? 🙂

    • Lara: You raise a very good point in relation to applying the fiction writing approach to travel writing. I find when I’m reading travel narratives, or travel fiction as opposed to guides and articles, there is more room for elaborate and often lyrical language. It doesn’t grate me as much, creative license by the author I guess.

      Which brings me to the purpose of this post. ‘Nestled’ and ‘Perched’ may have been breakthrough expressions in their time but they have become so overused that they turn to clichés. As a related point, I put up the photo of Bellagio for a reason. On the approach to the town, the minute I recognised it in the distance, those two words popped into my head!

      The challenge is always going to be how to come up with something new, how to keep it fresh, and not have it perpetuate into a cliché. But in this digital age, with so many travel blogs out there, is that at all possible…

      Thank you for your insightful comment, Lara 🙂

  • Great topic!  I took some inspiration from it both as a reader and as a writer.
    You bring up a good point with your last comment:  with so many travel blogs out there – is it possible to keep it fresh?   I don’t think so.  With no disrespect to my fellow bloggers, I often worry about the state of reading, writing and general information with the sheer numbesr of self-published online authorities.  It’s simply not possible for that many writers of that many pieces to come up with a unique and fresh way to say the same thing over and over.
    Fortunately, there will always be a few fresh and talented voices out there.  So, it’s not just our responsibilities as writers to avoid stale information and overused cliches – it’s also our responsibilities as readers to make sure we are being informed by reliable (and hopefully talented and entertaining) voices both for our own benefit and for the benefit of the ‘online information community’ in general.  (i.e. support for the best in information sources and entertaining writing – theoretically! – perpetuates this level of online information delivery)
    Thanks for the interesting post!

    • Forest, I agree with the lack of freshness on several blogs, highly successful ones I might add. With travel writing, we’re writing about a wide topic yet I wonder how many are trying to emulate some of the authority sites, eg, the ‘must-see’ and ‘Top 5 Lists..’

      I like your point about taking the entertaining approach to writing. While it is easier to achieve in a personal blog, I believe it has a place in the travel niche. Thank you for contributing to the discussion 🙂

  • I LOVE this discussion. I think whether about Paris or a Caribbean Island, the best travel writing has to focus on a detail that is unique to the writer’s experience with a place. So many places themselves are cliches, and as writers we should force ourselves to avoid what most readers already know, or at least we should try to have our writing be a personal response when faced with azure skies and white, sandy beaches… I had a writing teacher who called  pretty much half my writing a cliche. It was a good exercise. Now if that waiter with the handlebar mustache at a Paris cafe turns out to have a American southern accent – now that would be a story.

    • Margo, I totally relate to relaying the personal travel experience. What attracts me to read (and return to) someone’s blog is their experience, their point of view, their ideas. Posts that read like advertorials feel a little cold and sometimes can be ridled with cliches. In many cases, they elicit no reaction from me.

      Having said that, I try to mix the tone of the articles on Gourmantic, depending on what I’m aiming to convey. I think your writing teacher gave you great advice. Thank you for your comment and for the compliment 🙂

  • I was still shredding the last of the Winter’s snow in Chamonix when your post came out, so I missed it. I made an Xtranormal video on my YouTube channel, covering the same material, not realising this existed. The problem is perhaps that there are now so many bloggers posting travel articles onto the web that there is overload. In the early days of the just a few bad writers, some more good writers and a select few original talented writers, it was no real problem to read a few unoriginal pieces. For the record, I include myself in the first category.
    Now we are bombarded with copycat clichéd articles that give us no more information than we can find on Wikipedia or any of the travel wikis.
    I even suspect that majority of the readers of travel blogs comprise other travel bloggers. Why do I say this? Well the comments on travel blogs are invariably submitted by other bloggers.

    • You raise some good points, John. I agree that the vast number of travel blogs out there contribute to cliches and worn out expressions, simply by the sheer number and rehash of the same thing. The problem is coming out with something original and keeping it original. Look at the number of ‘list posts’ and ‘top 10’ where it’s basically a collation or a regurgitation of material seen elsewhere.

      I think the physical evidence points to bloggers reading travel blogs (as in comments) but that’s not always the case. Some blogs have a high number of comments, other don’t due to different style of writing that is less conversational but they get a lot of traffic. I’m in the latter category. My stats reveal that the majority of my readers are seeking information on a particular travel topic and with a low bounce rate, something catches their interest and they stay to read more articles. These people aren’t bloggers, or they’d leave a comment so I can reciprocate.

      Thanks for the comment, John and for contributing to the discussion.