I don’t know about you, but every time I return from a trip, I come home with an extra olfactory association as well—another stamp to the collection, so to speak. Singapore’s underground MRT stations smell like stale grass, the streets of Mandalay like boiled pork, and the back alleys of Saigon carry a hint of ham choy.
I wish I could explore this theme in my travel pieces, but smells don’t sell, especially when it comes to my substandard points of reference. But that’s what I experience, on a personal level, and so do a few others, as Google would reveal. And I’m posting this here because it’s my only outlet for this little oddity, because who in their right mind would pay me for a blow-by-blow of the various scents of the world? “Hop off the Keikyu-Kamata station,” I’d write, “to get a whiff of ramen spices, which smells a lot like Chinese lotus soup.”
Most travel blogs however, tend to stick to the conventional. “Head on to Hong’s Spicy Pan Mee for the best chilli pan mee! The chillies are spicy, and the noodles are a great byproduct of flour. Two thumbs up!”
And you read through the whole wall of facts, and you reach the end, and you realise that you might as well have read the ingredients list off the back of a cereal box. But I don’t want to hate on anyone’s writing, because I’m sure that they have an audience of their own. Personally, I like reading stuff that leaves me feeling like I’ve gotten something out of it. A regurgitation of a Wiki entry doesn’t count.
But that’s just me. When I look at pictures, I’m drawn towards the ones that seem to have a thousand moments captured within that frame. I love the pictures in National Geographic not because of the rule of thirds, or the leading lines, or the post-processing wonders. Somehow, those pictures seem to have a life of their own, something that carries on in the recesses of my mind even after I’ve sold the magazine to the paper-recycling man.
I love a good story, and that’s what I look for even in casual blog posts, which might be the reason why I seldom publish my personal works—it’s hard to come up with a proper story. Of course, I could tell you about my day, about what I ate, and how routine the commute was, but what’s in it for you? Don’t you suffer all these things on your own? To publish a seven-word blog post of “I just turned 23, I’m officially old” might be justified for you, but to the reader, it’s nothing but bullshit.
So I was talking to Tim the other day about my weird scent-ific journeys and how influencers were banking dough without a care for the written word, and he just said: “Why don’t you write a post about smells?”
“No way!” I said. “I don’t even have a plot!”
“Who cares? The twelve people that read your posts?”
“Hey man.” I was ready for a fight. The number might’ve been small, but I was writing for those twelve people.
“Nobody cares that you differentiate between the em dash and the en dash. Some of these ‘bloggers’ don’t even spell properly, and yet they see more hits a day than you do a year. Why are you even comparing blog posts to your goals as an author?”
I’ll tell you why, I thought. Because it’s better to get likes for work you believe in, than to play the game of hashtags and sponsored posts.
Instead, I said, “Yeah I guess I should think something up huh?”
“Just write the damn post and you’ll see.”
I don’t know what it is. Perhaps it’s the desire to prove Tim wrong, or perhaps it’s my desire to end this blog inactivity. So here I am, writing a story without a purpose; maybe, it’s justified for Tim, but me? I think it smells like bullshit.