Traveling Without Editing: New Year’s Resolution

Last month I spent 19 days driving around Germany, Austria, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia.

Earlier in 2012 I spent 21 days driving around Spain and Portugal.

Neuschwanstein

Driving through Bavaria, checking out Neuschwanstein.

I think most people enjoy traveling, but as a writer traveling is much more than a vacation for me. I crave learning new cultures. I could spend hours learning the history of where I am traveling (even the minutiae, like in Zagreb, Croatia where I read all about a spat over a small bridge in the middle ages). I am wide eyed and try to soak it all in.

I just finished reading The Enigma of Arrival by V.S. Naipaul. A Nobel-winning author, Naipaul’s novel is part memoir/part fiction about a writer finding himself.

Naipaul talks at length about his youth and how he was always looking in the wrong places for writing material, especially during his travels. His naivete led him to write about rather banal or trivial things.

That was material for me: I could show the world – writing like this, observing things like that – that I knew the world. I can say in effect: “I, too, have seen this. And I, too, can write about it.”

If there’s one thing that I always look forward to when my trip is nearing its end (aside from sleeping in my own bed!) is the time that I will spend in an armchair with a notebook recording and writing about my experiences. Perhaps this is why I paused when I read this:

So that, though traveling to write, concentrating on my experience, eager for experience, I was shutting myself off from it, editing it out of my memory. Editing out the airport taxi driver who had overcharged me – the humiliation had been too great.

I can think of many times when either my husband or I would say that we wish something really interesting would happen to us while we are traveling so that we would have a great story to tell. And while we have had some stories, the majority of our trips are made up of these little tales that we are most likely editing out of our memories.

I finished the book right before the New Year and now that I have had a few days to reflect on it, I realize that Naipaul’s story has helped me form one of my resolutions for 2013. I need to stop being so hungry for writing material or exceptional stories, and instead just experience every day as the story it already is. And then tell that story. Perhaps to you?

Happy New Year!

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About Stephanie Y.

I'm a professional news writer in Frederick, Maryland. I blog at S.Y. Ciphers.

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