A journey, not a destination
Old World Wandering is an experiment. It is a literary travelogue reinvented for the internet. We’ve spent the past year travelling across Southeast Asia and the Indian Subcontinent, looking for connections: connections between past and present, between communities, and – most of all – between places. We believe that travel writing is about journeys, not destinations, about people, not a list of sites, and – at its heart – about the connections that bind us all together. It is also about more than just the news.
Put in the same place, journalists and travellers will have very different stories to tell. In Iran, for example, a journalist will look for an angle: women’s rights, say, or protests against the government. That’s vital work, but because most people have put together their impression of Iran almost entirely from what appears in the news, they think it is a dangerous place to visit, while any traveller will tell you that Iranians are among the most hospitable people in the world.
We’re not travelling from Shanghai to Cape Town to chase stories. We’re doing it to give substance to all the places we know about only from the news, and both of us think the best way to share that picture is through long-form dispatches.
Across the Old World
We have a long road still ahead of us, and we want to pave it with stories. Over the next 18 months – or longer – the two of us will travel from Shanghai to Cape Town overland. Our journey will take us across the length of the Silk Road, from Xi’an to Istanbul, where we’ll turn south and make our way along Africa’s east coast to our homes near the continent’s southern tip.
This is a journey we will make, one way or another, but with your help it can be much more. Old World Wandering has already published long-form non-fiction recognised for its quality and depth. We’ve documented the world’s largest gathering of women in India, for instance, and discussed development and identity with the Chinese fortune seekers transforming Southeast Asia’s sleepiest capital. We’ve done this without payment, because we love travel writing and we want to be a part of its transition to the internet, but our attention has also been divided. Like everyone, we need to earn money, and for us that means regularly stopping en route to write for financial magazines.
Quality writing takes time. The Chinese of Vientiane is 9,576 words long and took 71 hours to write, not to mention edit, post – with photos – and promote. Daisann McLane, National Geographic Traveller’s Editor at Large, called it “the best writing I've read lately on the most under-reported Southeast Asian country.” It has been translated into Chinese – twice – as well as Lao.
We’ll be travelling through China with a longlist of stories while this campaign is running its course. It includes a portrait of the 100,000-strong African community in Guangzhou, profiles of two young women whose lives have been transformed utterly by moving to Shanghai, and an exploration of Chinese creativity in Jingdezhen, the world’s oldest industrial town. Travel writing is separated from journalism by its accidents and we hope the ideas on this longlist are only a start. With your support, they will be.
Who are we?
Iain Manley and Claire van den Heever, a South African couple who have travelled together for eight years. Iain's first book – about the pirates, prostitutes and opium peddlers of old Singapore – was published in 2010. Claire's, which tells the story of Chinese art's journey from propaganda to market darling, is due for publication in October.
To follow our progress through the Old World, and receive updates on this project, follow Iain or Claire on Twitter, like our Facebook page, or subscribe to email updates.
“Old World Wandering is taking a new and refreshing approach to travel writing, creating a travelogue that offers sharp, detailed long-form narratives.”
Henry Lane Fox, The Browser
“Old World Wandering consistently puts out some of the best travel writing around. That the whole thing is done by two people on a shoestring makes it all the more incredible.”
Aaron Lammer, Longform
“Thoughtful, well-written slow travel writing with a strong sense of history and culture is hard to find nowadays—here's one place where it reliably can be found.”
Daisann McLane, National Geographic Traveller
We've done our best to offer backers high quality rewards, and as a result roughly half of our $34,500 target will only cover overheads. All rewards include international shipping.
If you pledge $50 to receive a custom journal from our partners at Bound, you'll receive a redemption code by email when the campaign reaches its target.
If you’d like to receive two of any of our unlimited rewards – like a set of photographs for you and a friend – simply double your pledge. Unfortunately, we can only fulfil one limited reward per pledge. If two of you are interested in joining us for a long weekend in Istanbul – and you can't pay separately – or you want more than one hardcover book, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and we’ll figure something out.
The future of Old World Wandering rests on this project. Thank you for believing in us, and for spreading the word.
Thank you to Joel and the team at Bound, Chris Hoare, Michael Elliman, and Debbie Hill for all their support. We are grateful, too, to the staff at Riverloft Restaurant for helping us film the video, and for the bottomless cups of Lao coffee which fuelled us through the last few months. Special thanks to Ping at Pathoumphone Guesthouse for his cameo in the video, and for making us so welcome in Luang Prabang, even when we brought Em the stray kitten to live in our room.
Charlie Jackson, thank you – we couldn’t have done this without you.
Thank you also to the countless other people who, over the months or years, have shown Old World Wandering their support. It hasn't gone unnoticed.