So I’m writing a book.
For those of you who are going, “Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard this before,” well, this time, I’m serious.
“Yeah, yeah, you’ve said that before” – Shut up, okay?!
This is actually a transcript of conversations in my own head, not with any real people, but what you should be getting out of this is that, yes, I’m actively writing my first travel memoir.
I’ve been trying to do this, in one way or another, since 2007. At the fringes of my mind was a vague recognition that I had a story here, and I’d like to write about it. And write I did. I’d write 15 pages, look at them later, and scrap them. I’d write 30, decide they were stupid, and hide them in a dark corner of my computer’s hard drive.
Only when I picked up my book in Buenos Aires, after nearly a year of ignoring it, did I realize why I never got anywhere: my story wasn’t finished. I hadn’t figured anything out and was plowing blindly through history, writing it down on virtual paper.
I thought my story was about a girl who wanted to see the world, now, no matter what the consequences were and whether or not she could afford it.
And it was about that, but when I originally started writing it, I hadn’t learned anything. I was still charging around the world without a fixed purpose, racking up debt, and letting myself off the hook. Now, things have changed. I have an ending, so it’s time to go back to the beginning.
To do this, I have to go back to being 22. Take a second and recall your 22-year-old self. If you’re like me, you might not like what you remember. I was hung up on really irrelevant things, like how my hair looked, celebrities, and what people thought of me. I know all of this is true because I kept a journal every single day I was overseas that first year. And eventually, I had to stop reading it because I didn’t even want to be friends with that girl, much less accept that she was me.
But when I thought about it, I was able to identify the common threads between who I was then and who I am now, and I’m glad that at least I had the sense to go after what I wanted, even if I was totally reckless about it. And got sidetracked. A lot.
I always assumed that I was bitten by the travel bug when I went to Paris in the 7th grade, but that’s not true. Before we left Indy, I sat at the kitchen table to help my dad book flights for the Deaflympics. They’re taking place in Bulgaria this July, and he’s going as a track and field coach.
My dad is going to Bulgaria and acts like it’s normal?
Although they would likely deny it, my parents are travelers. Both of them competed in the Deaflympics in Romania in the 70s. My mom got wretched food poisoning in Morocco. My dad went to Rome and Taiwan as a coach. In 1998, my parents applied for – and got – a Lily grant to study the origins of deaf education in France, and they took us along.
It appears that I was born with the travel bug. It’s in my genes.
My dad told me about an older cousin of his when he was young. “I remember that she married an Australian and they had a fruitcake at the wedding. I don’t know how they met, but she moved from Illinois to Australia, and I all I could think was how far away that seemed. Now, my daughter’s doing the same thing!”
This blew my mind. Sometimes, history repeats itself in surprising ways. Except when it comes to fruitcakes.
The more I travel, the more I realize that my story is not an isolated incident. There are people all over the world, from every generation, who are doing the same thing: searching for the unknown. Taking risks. Making mistakes.
Writing this book is a risk, but this time I’m not going to tear it up after 15, or even 30 pages (whether or not I think it sucks). Because even though I’m not the only one who’s ever left home and wrote a book about it, I’ve still got a story to tell. And nobody ever finished anything by quitting.
So by telling you about this book, I’m holding myself accountable. Because if my dad, at 58, can go gallivanting off to Bulgaria, surely I can find the discipline to put some words down on paper. (Okay, a bunch of words)
It appears that my 22-year-old self was on the right path after all, even if she didn’t know where she was going.