In starting this travel blog, I’ve done a lot of thinking about traveling and blogging. Go figure.
Why do I like both of them so much? What does travel do for me? What’s the mysterious power in writing? One answer I have for why I love to travel so much is that it unapologetically pulls me into the moment. Whether I’m looping up a steep mountain with no guardrails in a shaky rental car, drinking ruby red wine on a Spanish rooftop, or throwing up on a crowded train platform in Belgium (yes, all of these are specific memories…some more pleasant than others), I feel completely and utterly present. A new place becomes, to borrow a phrase (quoting Hemingway, so pretentious), a “moveable feast” for the senses. I could fill up on all the sights, sounds, and colors.
But writing doesn’t necessarily pull me into the moment in that way. If I’m lucky enough to enter into that elusive state of flow, it can. But more often I’m all starts and stops, moving jerkily from one word to the next, clutching at a thought before it floats away out of grasp. Travel may throw me deep into the center of a moment, but writing pushes me outside of it. I’m floating somewhere out in space, looking back at it and trying to make sense of it.
But through the act of writing, I’m able to make that sense. I’m not recording my thoughts when I write; I’m creating them. Through the act of stringing words together, I form and shape ideas. Stephen King said, “I write to know what I think.”
I agree with that, but I also write to form what I think in the first place.
Writing connects events that would otherwise seem random. By picking up the pen or rather, putting fingers to keyboard, we turn our experiences into stories. We weave narratives, and by so doing we create meaning.
And there are no stories I’d rather tell than ones that happen in far off places in unfamiliar cultures around new languages. There’s no better material to fill the story of my life than that which comes from global exploration and adventures.
I remember something a psychology professor said in college: human being is a verb. And a large part of “being” is the act of making sense. In order to be, we tell stories and draw out the meaning in our experiences.
It’s almost alchemical. Creating gold out of metal scraps.
This is why, even though it can be so hard to sit down and make myself write, I have to do it. Ray Bradbury said it best. Ray Bradbury says everything best.“Write, so as not to be dead.”
I would add, Travel, so as to become startlingly alive. Fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.
Travel. Write. Rinse. Repeat.