Travel writing sounds, on the surface, like one of the most appealing jobs out there.
And I chose a life that would not be amenable to doing it. Not in the least! Likely because the amount of planning, flexibility, and uncertainty involved in traveling is something that I balk at when faced with in reality. Trust me, my job has plenty of gray area, but I don’t have to rely on flights to get home, I speak the same language as most people around me and I generally know what is in my food. I have different challenges.
My best friend is a regular globetrotter. He rents cars and drives on the other side of the road, eats anything, and actually leaves the airport during long layovers to get drunk in the classiest way possible before checking back in to continue on his travels. The country he was in did get bombed on my birthday this year but Mark Zuckerberg let me know he was safe almost simultaneously. His personality is so vastly different from mine. Not so different that we cannot successfully travel together, which we have, but he is much better able to roll with all the game changers and loss of predictability and comfort that is endemic to seeing the world. I call him my Travel Xanax.
We did take a mirror selfie before it was cool in Versailles back in 1999 in the hall of mirrors with a sweet disposable camera during our senior year of high school. His idea.
The other piece I am missing to write a travel memoir is that I am thankfully not battling a serious team of demons at the moment.
The two memoirs I talk about in this post are both authored by women who travel in part to see the world but also to pull themselves back together. I am not going places to collect the pieces of myself that have gone missing or dark. That’s my excuse. I am not working toward one of my dream jobs because I am just too put together.
Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube, Blair Braverman
A foreign exchange stay goes wrong for Blair and then is compounded by an abusive relationship when she is traveling back to the North for the unique adventure and experience of driving sled dogs for tourists. This book is about the extreme regions of Alaska and her finding a home with some people in Norway and making friends. There are educative pieces for the reader about how these people live, which thankfully de-idealizes their democratic state as a utopia where no one ever starves because the social support system is just that good. I am all about social support systems but I have often thought they are presented as too good to be true, which they are, and Blair absolutely points that out in her memoir. Blair moves in places where she is one of the only young and unattached women and discusses the complications of being so in this man’s world.
This book is about the north, but it is a lot about Blair discovering and owning her personal power. If you want a book that is more about the sport of driving sled dogs, there is that, but it is more about Blair’s evolution as a person, which is probably why I didn’t have trouble hanging in there with this one. I like her friend Arild who ends up hosting her multiple times and healing some of her feelings about herself, I liked how balls she is with her sled dogging and making it in places that I don’t think that I could.
I think that people expecting more of the survival stories or technical piece will not enjoy it as much.
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Okay, yea, this could have been lumped into my last post of things I should have read long ago. That’s out of the way now.
Sometimes I could worship at the church of Elizabeth Gilbert. She says such beautiful and true things about spirituality and growth and the nature of loving others and oneself. Some of my favorite passages I want tattooed into my brain forever. A book that I thought when it came out was more floofy and fun actually had real spiritual substance. I was pleasantly surprised about the depth of this journey on which she embarks. I know I will return to it.
And then in other parts she is whiny and self centered and kind of an irritating mess. She does not try to hide that she can be a needy clingy mess, and she puts the best words to it about how she sets herself up to be a needy, clingy, self centered mess, and I give her props for that, but in some parts I am like, seriously? I am conflicted about even the times that I judge her, like her thing about never wanting kids. Having a child is so impossibly difficult, especially when you are used to and very much enjoy a life of freedom and entertaining yourself (like me) and I think if someone really does not want one then they should not have one and there is nothing wrong with that. A lot of my favorite people probably won’t ever be parents and I don’t love them any less for that (like Mr Globetrotter and when he takes selfies with pizzas because they are his true love).
But sometimes I think she needs something to focus on other than herself. Her reluctance to focus on someone other than herself may be why she starts the novel sobbing on the floor of a gorgeous suburban home because she does not want to fill it with children after all. I alternate between admiring her ability to just fly off for a year of self discovery and joining the ranks of other women who cast a bit of shade her way because many women have to pull themselves back together with a lot fewer resources at their disposal. Another time I felt that way was when she admitted that she throws herself big expensive birthday parties on the regular for non milestone birthdays, in like, Manhattan. I think the last adult birthday party I attended was six years ago. I was like really, you don’t just go out to dinner with your current guy and have a drink and call it a day like the regular people? You have the emotional and financial resources to do this and subject your friends to it? Nice. I took my birthday off from work but not from parenting.
It also does not help that when I picked up this book I also knew that she recently used the attention from her friend’s terminal cancer announcement to announce that she was in romantic love with the woman and left her current husband for her. Like, we couldn’t just focus on the friend, ol Liz had to pop up for her piece of the pie. Because there is no other time to confess your love to someone.
But I loved the things she said in this and in Big Magic. I want to read her Signature of All Things because I am curious now about how she uses, if she uses it, in her fiction and what her themes are in her stories. She is an artist and she speaks all the spiritual things I know to be true in my heart. I want her words while she also annoys me.
I don’t want to be broken in the way that necessitated these books so maybe travel writing shouldn’t even be a pipe dream for this old mom.
Holiday week! I hope everyone is enjoying the summer love with the people whom they love 🙂