Traditionally, older-style travel narratives take us on historical trips of discovery and exploration. For example, we can still go to the remote Galapagos Islands with Charles Darwin through the pages of The Voyage of the Beagle (1839). We can get close to his ground-breaking studies of the finches and the tortoises. Most of us will never get a chance to go to the islands ourselves. So we can read about what it was like to be among the few first explorers of the area and to witness its raw nature, back in the 1830s.
Three Men in a Boat is hardly in the same category. First of all, the story is fiction. Jerome K. Jerome indeed went on Thames trips with his real-life friends George Wingrave (aka George) and Carl Hentschel (aka William Samuel Harris). But he merged and fictionalized some of them into the sequence of events we read here. He invented the dog, Montmorency. And this group was not going where no man had gone before. Taking such boat trips along the course of England’s most important river had come into fashion in the 1870s. By the time this book was released in 1889, it was a fad. According to the web site of the Jerome K. Jerome Society:
Boating on the Thames became the latest craze: in 1888, the year in which Jerome wrote Three Men in a Boat, there were 8,000 registered boats on the river; by the following year there were 12,000. Jerome was therefore writing about the “in thing” – the book doubtless swelled the number of boating fans – though the three friends had caught the bug earlier than most.
Additionally, this is a trip that can still be done by nearly anyone today. It is said that many of the same pubs and inns mentioned in the text are still in operation. In summary: this modern travelogue is a work of creative writing and fiction; it travels along relatively familiar and easy-to-reach territory; and it can be replicated. It can inspire new readers to one day make the trip in person themselves.