Saturday, November 14, 2015

Travel Writing or Writing about Travel

Travel, whether it is your own or the kinds of travel you read about in magazines and journals, has always represented incipient adventure for you, destinations of places you longed to see for the first time or places you'd want to revisit because of previous pleasant experiences.

There is the freeing sense of leaving a place behind, either for good or for considerable time, perhaps even leaving old habits or arrangements at a distance.  Travel also brings with it the tingle of uncertainty and anticipation.  Will the destination be as you hoped?  Will you in effect find some or any of the things you'd undertaken travel to discover in the first place?

Your experience with travel also includes the kinds of reading you found in novels rather than the travel articles of newspapers or magazines.  These destinations were undertaken in a feeling most sympathetic to Ishmael, who knew a thing or two about travel when he experienced those moments so well presented by William Wordsworth and his observation:  "The world is too much with us--"

You wanted to get away from things you were more likely to find boring, rather than Ishmael's greater tendency to depression.  Although there were times you might have welcomed an encounter with the likes of Captain Ahab, you did well enough with your encounters involving eccentrics, so much so that, like it or not at the time of encountering the eccentrics, you're aware that your fiction, indeed, any fiction, comes to life for you only if the individual you meet burrow into your awareness, to come out on request, as fully formed and passionate near-lunatics.

As a traveler, you've pretty much reached the stage where you wear everything you packed, doing so without the need to buy something you already have enough of at home and neglected to include this time.  

For some years, your travel mate, your late wife, had her own plan for travel packing.  Her approach, markedly different than yours, added a note of adventure to your travels together, she packing for every contingency, but wearing almost none of it.  

A travel venture of a week or more involves some approach to baggage and to the apparel and related items that go into the baggage.  Over the years, beginning with a Greyhound bus trip from Los Angeles to Mexico City, and concluding with the more recent ventures to Santa Fe and the New Mexico high country, you've managed, no pun intended here, to come to grips with what and how much to take.  

This metric includes considerations of things you might have taken, things you ought to have taken and did not, and things you considered important but realized you had no use for them on your trip. In this vital sense, travel played a part in helping you improve your abilities at improvisation.  If you were away from home and lacking something that might have been at home or might not have existed at all, you could--and did--learn to improvise it.

There is always the possibility of other, more emotional baggage, and its effect on the traveler.  This baggage also relies on the informed balance of what to bring along and what to leave behind.  Most of your travels have been because you wished to go to a particular destination, looked forward to your arrival there, and seemed to have a built-in sense of abandon to the Fates of Good Times.

There was a time in your life when much of your travel was by Greyhound bus, which to this day you associate with uniformed sailors, being sick in the rear seats or of babies, indulging  steady and mournful tears, but even that did not forestall the sense of adventure at the outset of the trip.

Through your longtime association with the Santa Barbara Writers' Conference, you began to enjoy the company of a fellow faculty member, who still practices the fine art of travel writing.  His verbal abilities, plus his talents as an amateur magician have helped you see yourself as a travel writer, not in the ordinary sense, rather of the sense of writing about known physical destinations but instead about the bargain rates, perfidious tour guides, and iffy meals available at emotional tourist traps.


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