The genre of travel literature encompasses outdoor literature, guide books, nature writing, and travel memoirs.
One of the earliest known records of taking pleasure in travel, of travelling for the sake of travel and writing about it, is Petrarch's (1304–1374) ascent of Mount Ventoux in 1336. He states that he went to the mountaintop for the pleasure of seeing the top of the famous height. His companions who stayed at the bottom he called frigida incuriositas ("a cold lack of curiosity"). He then wrote about his climb, making allegorical comparisons between climbing the mountain and his own moral progress in life.
Travel books come in styles ranging from the documentary, to the literary, as well as the journalistic, and from memoir to the humorous to the serious. They are often associated with tourism and include guide books. Travel writing may be found on web sites, in periodicals, on blogs and in books. It has been produced by a variety of writers, including travelers, military officers, missionaries, explorers, scientists, pilgrims, social and physical scientists, educators, and migrants.
Ivan T. Sanderson published Animal Treasure, a report of an expedition to the jungles of then-British West Africa; Caribbean Treasure, an account of an expedition to Trinidad, Haiti, and Surinam, begun in late 1936 and ending in late 1938; and Living Treasure, an account of an expedition to Jamaica, British Honduras (now Belize) and the Yucatan. These authors are naturalists, who write in support of their fields of study.
A particularly famous slave travel narrative is Frederick Douglass' autobiographical Narrative, which is deeply intertwined with his travel experiences, beginning with his travels being entirely at the command of his masters and ending with him traveling when and where he wishes. Solomon Northup's Twelve Years a Slave is a more traditional travel narrative, and he too overcomes the restrictions of law and tradition in the south to escape after he is kidnapped and enslaved. Harriet Ann Jacobs' Incidents includes significant travel that covers a small distance, as she escapes one living situation for a slightly better one, but also later includes her escape from slavery to freedom in the north.
In the 21st century, travel literature became a genre of social media in the form of travel blogs, with travel bloggers using outlets like personal blogs, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to convey information about their adventures, and provide advice for navigating particular countries, or for traveling generally. Travel blogs were among the first instances of blogging, which began in the mid-1990s. In 2018 the most popular self-hosted blogging platform is WordPress, due to its ease of use.
Prizes awarded annually for travel books have included the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award, which ran from 1980 to 2004, the Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature, and the Dolman Best Travel Book Award, which began in 2006. The North American Travel Journalists Association holds an annual awards competition honoring travel journalism in a multitude of categories, ranging across print and online media.