Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Friday, October 12, 2012

Writing as a Traveler? Or Traveling as a Writer?


Jo Carroll, writer and traveler, has written a fascinating guest post today about her experiences doing both. Welcome, Jo!

I didn’t set out to be a writer. When I trotted off on a Gap Year in my mid-50s all I wanted to do was have a great time and record it in a diary. But I did a creative writing course before I went – just to make sure I wrote the best diary I possibly could.
            I learned to write in strange places. Whenever I stopped for a meal, or a drink, I’d write. I wrote first thing in the morning, remembering the events of the previous evening. I wrote in bus stations, on trains. I was with a tour group for a couple of weeks in India and wrote about them – much to their chagrin I never showed them.
            It became an interesting dialogue, this interface of writing and travelling.
I noticed things differently, because I knew I would write them down – so the sting of incense in the temples in India, the tiny orange centipede in the jungle of Malaysia (very poisonous), the pristine streets of Singapore – they all had more significance because they would be written down. And I have remembered things I’m sure I’d have forgotten if they hadn’t made their way into the pages of my diary. For instance, I saw is just one piece of graffiti in the whole of Singapore: PUNK IS RESISTANCE – it gave me hope that there was someone else on the island who didn’t quite get the fixation with conformity.
           
Even buying the diaries became a challenge. I left home with a couple of exercise books; it was easy to buy more in Australia and New Zealand. But in Nepal? The less-affluent corners of India? I spent an entire afternoon traipsing round a small town in Kerala trying to find the single street stall selling school books. Even then I had to buy one with little squares and not lines. 
So what made me disentangle the diaries and write a book? Because someone said, ‘Why don’t you write a book about it?’ It was bit more complicated than that, obviously, but that was where it started. Over the Hill and Far Away came out early last year – what’s been particularly gratifying are the private emails from people I’ve never met who have been inspired by my travels. (I know someone for whom a trip to France was an adventure who is about to set off for India!)
           
And why, now, another one? And just a little book this time? Because I have the travel bug now (that’s just how it is, I’ve given up trying to understand it), and my recent trip to Nepal was particularly exciting. Well, my daughters would say exciting is maybe the wrong word. I hadn’t expected serious tropical weather (I was in a cyclone in the mountains). Nor was I really prepared for the tiger. I’ve come home older and wiser – but with some great stories to tell. They are now in an ebook: Hidden Tiger Raging Mountain.
            Now, while you’re reading that, I’ll be working out where to go next. Where do you suggest?

All these pictures were taken on my last trip to Nepal. You can find some more, including plenty from the long trip, on my website: http://jocarroll.co.uk
You can find OVER THE HILL AND FAR AWAY on Amazon in the US here, and in the UK here.
HIDDEN TIGER RAGING MOUNTAIN is here in the US, and here in the UK.

30 comments:

  1. Thank you for this opportunity, Karen - it's been fun working with you.

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  2. Write about travels? Crap, I need to go somewhere!
    Like to know more about that tiger...

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    1. You can find out more about my tiger in Hidden Tiger Raging Mountain - it was quite an adventure!

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  3. It's interesting that you didn't plan to become a writer, Jo. Having written a lot of my recent WIP 'out and about' I can see how different places, people and landscapes can inspire. Hope your travel bug brings lots of new inspiration for you!

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    1. It's interesting what happens by mistake, Abi - enjoy your exploring.

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  4. What an amazing trip! I'm so glad you shared some of it here. You definitely should write about it, even if it's just journaling.

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    1. Links to my books are at the bottom of this blog, Emily - I had almost as much fun writing them as doing the trips in the first place!

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  5. 'Traveling as a writer' is what I do. I take journals with me to write in, take photos with intent to use them later and write my notes every evening. I sketch during downtime. It's fun to hear what someone else does.

    I kept lots of detail in my notes, and we enjoy just reading them sometimes. I was able to mine my notes for blogposts. A book is another way to share a great trip and more profitable.

    Good luck, Jo, and thanks, Karen for sharing this info.

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    1. Thank you, DG - good to meet someone else who 'gets it'!

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  6. Have you been to Morocco? And have you read "The Sheltering Sky?" Notes do help, even a sentence fragment can stir the creative juices later.

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    1. I went to Morocco nearly 40 years ago (help - was it really that long ...) - and no, I haven't read The Sheltering Sky, but will order it this evening!

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  7. Gosh - well you've been East so what about even further east - towards the Pacific?!!? Amazing!!

    Nice meeting you Jo! Take care
    x

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    1. Good to meet you, too, Kitty - my daughters would echo your advice to take care!

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  8. It sounds like you've had some amazing experiences!

    And "the tiger"?! Guess I'll have to check out the book. :)

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    1. Would love you to check out the book. (And there was a cyclone, if you need more tempting!)

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  9. Jo and Karen, thank you both for the time and effort involved in this post. In about 8 weeks I'll be traveling to Ireland again and I plan to put Jo's advice to work.

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    1. You'll be amazed how much more you notice when you write it down. Have a great trip.

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  10. That's what I love about journal keeping. My diaries are packed with small events that I'd have forgotten about but that are worth holding on to. Mostly my memories took place at home in the UK though! I think you're amazing, Jo. I've decided you must continue travelling so I can experience the excitement without battling through the cyclones.

    Can't wait for your visit to my blog next week, Jo :-)

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    1. Ros - seems like I'll just have to keep travelling, then ...

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  11. I've done a lot of travel writing for my blog and at some point I'd like to consolidate them into a book or several books. That's interesting that you found it hard to find a book for your diary in Nepal. They make the best handmade paper in the world! I book tons of it while I was out there but then I did by it from Kathmandu, not from one of the villages.

    Jai

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    1. Jai - there is wonderful handmade paper in Kathmandu, plus the ordinary (though thin) paper that children use at school. But even exercise books for children are precious in the villages.

      Do write that book - then, if you ask Karen very nicely, she might let you come back here and talk about it!

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  12. Dear Jo and Karen.
    First, thank you, Karen, for inviting Jo to guest post on your blog. I found her posting not only informative but also interesting and entertaining.

    Second, Jo, I so wish that I'd kept diaries of my life just as you kept journals for your travels. The details you've added to this posting show how much you observed. I've never before thought that keeping a journal would make me into a better observer and writer. But your posting has convinced me of that. Thank you. Peace.

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  13. Dee - I'm glad I entertained you. And if you've gleaned a new idea from my ramblings - all the better. Thank YOU!

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  14. Thanks for this fabulous post, JO!

    I've been gone all weekend on my own travels-- to Minneapolis, Minnesota for a family wedding-- and I appreciate everyone's comments for Jo. Her story is truly inspiring.

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  15. I think it's wonderful that you kept diaries while you traveled; it gives you the chance to relive your experiences and remember things you might otherwise have forgotten. And I think it's wonderful that you traveled to so many interesting places. I'm envious. :)

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  16. Thank you, Karen, for giving me this opportunity to meet so many wonderful people - and to all those who have taken the trouble to comment. It's been such fun!

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  17. Great post, Jo. It's fascinating to read how your travels helped you become a writer. My parents always kept 'holiday diaries' when I was a child (although we never went anywhere as exotic as you did!), and it's lovely to re-read them and relive the memories they contain.

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  18. Traveling is a precious gift to a writer. Thanks for sharing your experience. I enjoyed the virtual trip.

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  19. Thank you for sharing this about your writing journey, and your travels. I love the mix of the two, and how they've borne fruit in your life! Blessings for all your adventures!

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  20. Hi Karen - what a fun read Jo has produced for us .. on travels and life away from home - both books look fascinating .. and I'll definitely add them to my TBR list - loved the post and pictures ... and am so pleased you've turned it into a book or two, or three .. I can feel another one coming ...

    Well done - and what an excellent header photo Jessica has produced - we keep seeing your clever children around the blogosphere - cheers to you all - Hilary

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