This morning I sat down with my coffee and read the December issue of National Geographic Traveler. When I was quite young, I used to say my dream was to write one day for National Geographic or The Smithsonian. Now it’s NGT. I even went to a one-day seminar for aspiring writers in Chicago a few years ago, hosted by the magazine.
Unfortunately, I was very busy with a road trip of meetings for Rite Aid at the time and never followed through with writing some little thing, just to be able to begin working on that tenuous connection, dreaming of actual acceptance at some later date.
Everyone who know me knows I dream of writing about travel. But I always have excuses not to do so. I’m busy with work. Or, I tell myself I need to actually go somewhere interesting, then write about it. I’m not stupid; I know my best chance to get published is to start with short bits about things available locally.
So part of the problem is that I’d rather write about Lucca than Ashtabula and Lake county wineries. Even the wineries have been done, and done, and done. Not so much on a national scale, but that might be because while they’re appealing enough in this area, the quality of the product doesn’t really warrant national, let alone international appeal. But, that’s just another excuse. We have more than wineries around here. And I know that things I take for granted could appear to be quite charming and interesting to people who don’t know the area at all.
The other problem is that I spend an awful lot of time reading about traveling. And watching programs about travel on TV, from Rick Steves and Samantha Brown to “House Hunters International.” It’s all good. Give me a glimpse of the Dalmation coast from a condo under consideration, and I’m all agog. I’m currently reading The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh by Linda Colley, a nonfiction account of one of the first women known to travel globally and write about it – in the mid 18th century.
I have memoirs on the nightstand ready to go – one on Ireland, another on Amsterdam. I also subscribe to Conde Naste Traveler (only because I had to use some airline points before they expired – this one focuses too much on really expensive destinations for my budget) and look forward to daily e-newsletters from Frommer’s.
So I’m a kind of travel junkie, currently too fascinated by others’ accounts to take a serious stab at writing much of my own. Of them all, as indicated by the headline, I’d have to say I most admire (and envy!) Daisann McLane of NGT. What I love about her “Real Travel” articles is that she’s telling a story, rather than presenting a travelogue, and still you usually get such a keen feeling of where she is – an essence of a place, a day in India, for example, though the story is called “Tackling the ‘Yuck Factor’ .” In this case, we learn about an experience with the dreaded “pissoirs” of India during her fourth visit to the country, clad in a sari she deftly wrapped herself in, to the amazement of her Indian hosts.
Doesn’t sound like fodder for a story in a travel magazine, but it works and it’s delightful – a thoughtful and often funny commentary on those who won’t venture out of the hotel without their hand sanitizer and others who say, what the hell, and devour a pineapple spear from a street vendor.
Daisann also has written about what fun it is to cruise through foreign grocery stores, and the almost guilty pleasure of simply taking a nap in your room instead of dashing to check off another must-see sight on the good traveler’s list. I so look forward to her stories each month. Well done, Daisann! And forgive me for not referring to you as “McLane.” You just sound like a girlfriend I’d like to pal around with in an Italian Costco.
So the reason why I’m writing this blog is to get back into the habit of writing. It’s a weird kind of experience. On the one hand, it’s like keeping a journal and I don’t actually expect anyone to read this but me. On the other hand, it’s public property that could conceivably be read by Daisann McLane herself!
I do want to write. I do want to convey the delight I feel in experiencing something new, whether it’s the Norman Rockwell-esque charm of downtown Troy, Ohio, or that little leather shop with quirky designs in Florence. The wonders of the world are big and small, around the corner and many hours of flight away from my home.
And the wonder of my world today is a near-blizzard on a quiet Friday morning. Work is caught up and I’m enjoying writing this. I’m not going anywhere, so I can be cozy in my sweats, watching the snow blow wildly past the window. Later I’ll turn on the lights on my Christmas tree, light the fireplace, and pull out the pizzelle iron to make my first batch of holiday cookies. Pleasantly ordinary for me – but quite exotic to a resident of, say, Fiji or Saigon.
So, thank you, Daisann and Samantha and Rick, thank you Frances Mayes and Burt Wolfe. Thank you, Peter Mayle and Boyd Matson and Arthur Frommer. Thank you, Bill Bryson and Joseph from Travelscope and Anthony Bourdain. Thank you, Elizabeth Marsh and Paul Theroux and chef Lydia. Thanks to everyone who explores our world, entertaining and enlightening all they meet.