Last week I traveled to Virginia to attend my grandmother’s funeral. It was a difficult day for my family and as the traditions and tears that are inherent with putting a loved one to rest rolled out, I found myself writing the narrative of the experience in my head. I’m not sure if this is a strange way to register emotions, but its always worked that way for me.
As a writer, I guess it can’t be that strange. Whether you’re a fan of fiction or non, it’s safe to assume that the brain behind the written words you enjoy are drawn from some level of personal reality. My brain just likes to write the first drafts as I go.
I write constantly and I enjoy sharing what I write with the world. My creative outlet for my writing also happens to be a travel blog.
Now a travel blog obviously isn’t appropriate for just ANY string of thoughts I write down — but there were several noteworthy moments over the weekend of my grandmother’s funeral when I was asked, “So, you gonna write about that?” Each time I considered it, but this really wasn’t the type of “travel” one finds in a travel blog. There was plenty going on around me that I felt a strong desire to write about, but this was a trip of mourning. Also, the New Jersey Turnpike (which we took to get from Connecticut to Virginia) didn’t offer the most inspiring photo-ops.
Our family’s trip to Virginia wasn’t exclusively filled with sadness. There were dinners with loved ones from out of town, a night full of home videos, and lots wine-infused scrapbook browsing and story sharing. I looked through pictures of my Grandma at the Grand Canyon and watched video of her in Bermuda. She too, loved to travel. Maybe I could write about that…
That weekend played out as an extreme version of a predicament I’ve stumbled across often lately. Too much “navel gazing” has become a popular criticism to make of travel bloggers. As I inherently write about my own experiences, I feel myself flush with guilt at having it pointed out and ridiculed. Sometimes I feel the need to actively avoid the type of writing that comes most naturally to me. Calling it “navel gazing” just makes me feel so dirty.
So I wonder — do readers wanting to know about destinations and food and culture also want to fall down a rabbit hole into the dark corners of thoughts and emotions? Are we (bloggers) losing legitimacy for tying ourselves in too closely with the places we go? Are blogs too flippant or amateur for deeply personal stories? (Should we leave that to the travel “writers” because apparently there’s a big difference?) Or maybe you just need at least 2,000 Twitter followers before your platform is deemed sound enough to sustain the weight of what’s really going on in that head of yours…
I often find myself reigning in my words, fearful of allowing my voice to sound too “Dear Diary”. I possess a very clear memory of looking over a friend’s shoulder as a college freshman, reading a lengthy blog post from a boy she liked – one that included more than one Dashboard Confessional quote and went on to wax poetic about unrequited love and the anguish of being misunderstood.
My friend had heaved with melodramatic irritation, exclaiming, “He’s such a loser! This is all because I didn’t call him last night. Seriously. Suck a fucking loser.”
The horror of someone reading into anything I write in such a manner is enough to keep me up at night…
But other writers expose their inner most thoughts. We read memoirs of those who throw their ex-lovers under the bus with intimate accounts of lovemaking and violent break-ups. We praise recovered drug-addicts for sharing their plight through prose. So when and where is it appropriate to tell you that my ex-lover and I did mountains of cocaine together until he checked himself into rehab and I coped by starting this travel blog…?! teehee…
There were a lot of things I wanted to write about as a lived through last weekend. I wanted to write about looking at a hole in the ground and deeply regretting not knowing the stories behind all the pictures I had thumbed through that morning. I wanted to write about the fact that one of the last blips of comprehensible words I received from my grandmother was, “I loved France.” I wanted to express the reinforced certainty I felt about my future travel plans when faced with the truth that our time on this Earth is temporary. But can this platform do that narrative justice? Does it matter?
Sometimes I agree with claims that travel blogs should focus on the facts of the destination and less on the subjective reaction of the writer. I did go to school for journalism…
But I hated journalism school. And my own favorite works are those fueled by intense emotion and personal experience. I also just began two sentences with conjunctions – so fuck it.
I’m going to give you travel advice and inspiration and nice pictures of destinations and recommendations on where and how to go here and there. I’m also going to give you my story.
Maybe as I wade through the sea of bigger and better(?) travel blogs and try to locate an uninhabited island for this one to live on, that will be my thing, my niche – my story.
I hope you like it, because quite honestly, my story is all I really know.