Most travel writing - and I include my own in this - might look at first sight to be nothing more than fairly trivial recollections on one's journeys. The ups and downs of getting around in unfamiliar countries, of coping with unexpected food or different ways of doing things.
But we write at a time when, or so it seems to me, the world is becoming increasingly divided. Some newspapers would have us believe that there can be no dialogue between Christian and Muslim, between the democrat and the demagogue, between the greedy and the needy.
What travel writers do is ask questions about these differences - often very trivial questions - that explore everything that we have in common. We all need to eat and have shelter from the weather. We love and are loved. We nurture our young and grieve for our dying. The rhythms of our rituals may be different; the way we organise our families and our trade and our means of production may be different, but our fundamental needs and feelings are the same.
Travel writers understand our sameness and explore our differences without making judgement about them.
And in our divided, conflicting world it seems to me that it is needed more than ever.
Are we piddling in the wind? Possibly. One little stream will make no difference. But two little streams is better than one. Three can become a rivulet. Four ... you get my drift.
I cannot accept a world in which we settle our differences with guns. Travel writers might be nothing more than an entertainment for you to curl up with on a wet day. But collectively we can suggest that words are the only way to understand those differences and the only way to find a more peaceful way of living together.
Am I saying travel writers can change the world? Of course not. But I am suggesting that we feed curiosity, and that can never be a bad thing.