Will Travel For Words: Disconnected Traveling by Karen A. Chase
I had it all planned out. I was traveling to France and Italy after finishing a major draft of my latest novel, and was going to relish in writing blurbs from the road. Instead of traveling for research for writing a novel, I planned to write posts about the importance of travel for writers. So I wouldn’t have to haul a laptop on and off trains, I loaded up a cell phone with a global plan, and prepped a Kindle fire with my blog website, twitter and Facebook account access. I could take pictures with the phone and send them through the Kindle to post them. I hopped the plane, flew over the big blue ocean and promptly landed in an internet troublesome zone.
The global cell plan I had added never worked, despite my paying for it. So I had no way to transfer photos for my blog. Internet in France and Italy was spotty or expensive, rented by the hour, and only once was it free at a hotel. For the first few days we stayed at a friend’s house in Provence, and I attempted to contact my carrier about my coverage. I tried to log-on to my various networks, and finally just borrowed our friend’s laptop, and used their photos to make one little post to my blog. I checked, I fretted, I attempted a few more times and then it struck me. Shut. It. Off.
First, was I so narcissistic to think my readers were sitting at their computers awaiting posts from me? (If you were, I sincerely apologize, and will reward you with my own anxiety about hoping you are still there.) Second, after so many weeks and months of typing on the novel, and staying in touch through all my social media twitbookblogwebsites, maybe the connected universe was instructing me to disconnect for a couple of weeks. So I resigned myself and quit. Finished. Fini. Finito.
Instead of putting out words, I began to take them in. I read the book by Barbara Kingsolver, The Laguna, which I had neglected to finish for my book club. The protagonist in her story is a writer, struggling to find a voice with his historical fiction. I learned about Mexico’s history and about my own career from her characters, and I relished in allowing someone else’s words to touch my emotions as I cried through the ending. I read maps, read menus, read rental car agreements (not really), and read all kinds of tourist signs and brochures as we made our way through two countries and enough gelato to freeze an army.
I emptied my head of my own voice and listened to new ones speaking languages unfamiliar. Italian. French. Lyrical. Romantic. I let go of my own visions and pre-existing notions, and now I have to re-file all the visual information I keep stored in my mind (my internal attic). How attractive can a man be? Go to Milan, not Paris, to see. How does the color turquoise feel? Swim in the Mediterranean and your skin will let you know. How can one woman buy a famous $14,000 handbag, while a woman on the next block holds a sign in Italian that says “Ho Fame?” It means ‘I am hungry,’ and it is what both women suffer from. Do we suffer from jetlag because of the time change, or because travel requires us to change over time? I will go with the latter, and hope it will only serve to improve my writing. So on with the writing I go.
So now as I weed through over 500 emails, I will catch up on my blogs, and post a few extra starting Monday, October 21st to help showcase the trip for you readers who are thankfully still here. However most importantly, I will return with the words and try to remember the lesson. Sometimes it is by traveling in search of the words of others, that mine will best come. Ciao. À bientôt. See you soon.
Karen A. Chase is a regular contributor to Shelf Pleasure, sharing journeys near and far in the pursuit of stories and novels in her monthly feature, Will Travel for Words. She is the author of Bonjour 40: A Paris Travel Log, winner of seven Independent Book Publishing Awards for travel and design. She is currently working on an historical novel set during the American Revolution. Find Karen on Facebook, or on Twitter.
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