I am having a beautiful Monday. That is extremely rare because Mondays are usually annoying, having to come to work after weekends, getting up early in cold and usually grey weather. But today is special because I woke up to a snowy landscape.
Just before I went to bed yesterday, the snow was already settled and thick, fat snowflakes were still falling, so this morning, I walked out in the bright, white snow - making my own trail at least for a little while on the residential streets where the snow was still undisturbed.
Bristol isn't exactly known for getting snow in the winter, but last year we had some snow that settled for about 3 days, and this year is looking promising. So hurray for that :-)
Of course England is not equipped to handle snow so traffic becomes a nightmare, buses stop running, trains don't work ---but what the hell....it's gorgeous.
Ten more days and then I will be in Arkansas. Granted, at first, I wasn’t too excited about it, because in USA, I prefer East Coast. Having lived in America, it’s also not on the top of my places to visit list. But since my parents have moved to Arkansas, I had to go.
However, a new place is a new place, and as the time for departure gets closer, I find myself getting excited about it anyway. I have looked up things I can do in the area. With family visit, I don’t know how much of sightseeing I will actually accomplish, but it’s always good to have a list handy, just in case there is an opportunity.
But most importantly, at least I should be able to snow during Christmas period, since here in Bristol that’s a rarity.
So forget about Christmas Day…it’s the 27th that I am looking forward to.
Sorry, haven't blogged regularly lately. But currently, I am focusing on outlining my book for NaNo challenge that begins in November. For those of you who may not know, it's National November Novel Writing Month. Thousands of crazy people, like me, sign up to write 50000 words from November 1 to November 30.
The rules are simple You have to start a new project. You can't work on a half completed book, because the idea is to let your creativity flow, and not get bogged down by editing.
You can outline, but not writing anything before November. And that's it.
I am hoping to complete 80000 which would be a full length of a novel, so let's see how it goes. So blogging might be bit slow until end of November.
This is the beautiful central library. In Bristol almost every area has a local library, and even though these do provide good selection of books to borrow, they are not very good for sitting around. They are quite small and feel like one open room. I prefer libraries to be big, with lots of little rows to roam through, and tons of books all around me. That's what the central library is good for. And it's in one of the old buildings, so the architecture is gorgeous.
A cop on the horse in Bristol city centre. Is there a purpose to it? If someone does commit a crime, what are they going to do? A horse chase in middle of busy traffic? I see hollywood cameras rolling! Still, adds a bit of character I suppose to the city look.
Do you know people who have been to far flung countries in the world, but hardly visited different parts of their own cities? People who could tell you exotic details and histories of other culture, but might not know if anything significant happened where they live? I am one of those people. It’s only since the last few years that I’ve realised it.
When you live somewhere, you think you’ve got plenty of time to go around and see things. There is no urgency to do something right now, because there is always tomorrow. It’s home. You will be there forever. No need to hurry. While for a lot of people that is true, in my case it’s not. Home is not a fixed place, or even a fixed country. So far I have lived in 3 countries, and no doubt there will be more in the future. So getting complacent about it means that when I do move away, I probably wouldn’t know much about where I live now.
From a superficial point of view, I am not really a big fan of Bristol. It’s not big enough or cityish enough to suit my definition of a city (think London, NYC, Berlin), public transportation is dreadful to say the least, and historical background doesn’t include the type and events of history that I am interested in. So I haven’t bothered exploring much.
But lately it has occurred to me that there maybe plenty I would like if only I see it as a traveller, and not as a resident. There maybe unexplored gems in the city somewhere, or fascinating stories that I have missed out on, by going only to my regular haunts and routes and nowhere else.
So a new goal then for the next year is to Explore Bristol. I don’t intend to get obsessive about it, but every once in a while, I will make the effort to go out and visit new places that I haven’t been to, and see how that effects my perspective of Bristol.
Autumn has arrived at least in some parts of Bristol. I am no gardener, but it must be some parts only because a lot of the streets I pass by, shows no sign of these wonderful colours. I went to the South-East last week, and strangely enough, the trees were much more colourful over there. But this gorgeous autumn vision picture was taken just outside my regular bus-stop, coming back from work.
I have been thinking of writing travel articles for a while. The thought occurred to me several years ago, then it got pushed aside somewhere, but since February this year, the thought has been in my mind more or less consistently. If I am going to try my hand at freelance writing, it makes sense to write something that I am passionate about, and one of them is travel. But it’s not been so easy.
It’s not that I am not capable of writing articles, because over time, I have written a lot of blog posts, emails etc. explaining things, how-to type things, and generally a detailed consolidation of material that would result in a good article. And yet, I can’t say I have got many completed articles. Why is that?
One possibility I consider is because writing an article is more formal than writing a blog post or an email. Though there are all kinds of formats in an article, including first person narratives, the aim still is to reach a target auidence and deliver what they would like to read. For attempting to publish an article, there are guidelines, and one has to meet them. Whereas writing a blog post or emails comes from within one’s self. It’s more or less like talking. I start typing and the words flow, because all I have to do is be myself, write in my own way, and voíla it’s done. So it is perhaps fear or lack of confidence? After all, a good writer should be using her voice, her personality in the article she writes. Despite uniform guidelines for travel magazines or websites, each writer’s material is different. So a part of me feels as if I wouldn’t be able to convey my voice in an article.
A logical part of me is aware that it’s not true. It knows that I am capable of producing an article, in my own style. But an irrational part of me suppresses that confidence. But I have got a message for that irrational part. Sooner or later (sooner, I hope) I am going to break through its barriers to have scraps of writings and thoughts turned into proper articles. And guess what will happen once I have done that? There will be no point for that irrational part to argue, because I’ll have proof that I can do it. Nearly there, now just need to cross the finish line.
Whether you are a travel writer, or just a traveller who likes to record memories in a way more in-depth than photographs, travel journals are invaluable.
"But I don't keep journals" you complain. Not to worry, anyone can keep a journal. A travel journal is for you. It's not supposed to be a piece of great art or a published book. It's personal, and so what you put in it and what it looks like, is also about what you like.
Selecting a Journal While you can select any journal you like, durable and able to lie flat are the two key requirements.
You'll be using it in your travels, which means you might end up writing at the airport, in the train, in a cafe, outside on a bench - just about anywhere, so you need a journal that will handle the travelling well. A delicate little thing will fall apart in two days. For the same reasons, you need a journal that lie flat, so you can use it anywhere, even on your lap.
Try to choose one with acid-free pages, as they last longer. Also, if you are anything like me - a stationary freak - then you might have favourite pens you like to use. In my case, it's my fountain pens, which don't work well on really smooth pages, so I have to take that into consideration as well.
But really, it's no big deal. You can buy a simple notebook, or you can buy an expensive leather journal. It's up to you, and your budget. I have used a variety of things, but my current favourite is moleskine.
Preparating before your trip Decide what you want to put in the journal, and make sure to pack supplies accordingly. If you just like orderly, uniform journal then all you may need is a black pen. But you might enjoy writing in coloured pens, or drawing things. Take some time to think about what you'll need. You don't need to take tons of supplies, but a little preparation will not leave you frustrated when you are inspired on your trip.
Finally...what to put in the journal? Remember the five senses. Most of the time, our main focus goes on the visual sense. We write what we see. But you don't just see things. You feel the searing heat on your skin. You smell the stench of sewers or aroma of spices. You taste things. You hear things. If you use all your senses when you write in your journal, those recorded memories will be all the more richer.
Make the best use of your time, but don't let the journal take over your trip. I've often been on trips where there is a lot to see, a lot to learn, and therefore a lot to write. But if I were to start writing then and there, I would most likely miss exciting parts of the trip. So I generally carry a post-it pad with me, and make notes along the way. Just few phrases, facts and lists. They are usually enough to jog my memory when I want to elaborate on them later on.
Collect mementos along the way: ticket stubs, napkin from a restaurant you love or hate, hotel cards. Pasting those things in your journal, alongside the written text, would add another layer.
If you enjoy drawings - and you don't have to be an expert - then try to make your sketches or even doodles. Otherwise, try writing your text in different layouts. Sometimes horizontal, sometimes in a circle. All this may sound rather silly, but your aim is to make your travel journal interesting enough that you would want to read it in the future.
In conclusion If you are travel writer, a journal is a must. It is a place to collect your impressions and notes, as well as material you gather along the way, so that you can expand them into articles. If you are travelling just for pleasure, then it's up to you to decide it's importance, but in my experience, travel journals make most precious souveniers than anything you can buy.
No one has ever claimed that becoming a published writer is easy, but if you persist and if you are good enough, there are plenty of places that would open their doors to you. Here is a list of 20 travel markets to get you started:
Yesterday, I read in the newspaper about Keiichi Iwasaki - a guy who has been travelling around the world on his bicycle. Whenever I read about a story like it, it's amazing and inspiring, and a part of me feels that I would love to do that. But I know I would never do something like that, because there is another, cautious voice in my head. A voice that prefers secure, safe travel.
I realised, while thinking about this that all the stories that I have read about adventerous travellers, setting out alone with little or no money and vague plans, are men. That is not to say that no women ever do it, just that all the ones I seem to read about it in paper or hear on the news, concern men. Logically, it makes sense.
I love equality of gender as much as the next person, but I do feel that it is easier to just strike out on such adventures if you are a man. While there are always dangers of being robbed or attacked, one of the feared dangers for women is that of uninvited male attention. I think few men face that particular danger. That one aspect makes a lot of difference, regards to where you can stay, with whom you can associate.
It is not to undermine good nature of humanity, because I know there are plenty of very kind, helpful people out in the world. But I suppose it's a question of how much of a risk it seems. In my opinion, the risk is slightly higher for women.
Wroxton Abbey, Wroxton Village, Oxfordshire, England AKA: The place closest to my heart
This is where I lived for a semeseter. A beautiful manor near Banbury, now owned by my American University, as a study abroad campus for American students. This was an experience of a life time. I always fancied living in a castle anyway, surrounded by beautiful grounds. Wroxton grounds have the best of both worlds, with well-maintained landscaped lawn at the front, and a little taste of country with woods and ponds at the back.
Mere two miles away from the city bustle of Banbury, within Wroxton it was tranquility itself, except for the students of course. Then once when electricity got cut off at night, I sat in the great hall, next to the knight in armour, and insisted there was a ghost which resulted in couple of scared girls being spooked totally. ;)
As a child, I wasn't hungry for travel. In 1980s Ahmedabad (India), most people I knew took few vacations, just as we did. Now and again in school holidays, or trips to religious destinations. More often, there were day trips, either from school or with family. I enjoyed those trips immensely, but they were just fun outing. I didn't appreciate their importance then. Growing up I used to say, "Oh I would love to travel the world one day" and that was just so I could say "I have been there and done that."
But then I went on a study abroad program for one semester, and everything changed. It was then, being away on my own for the first time, going through a personal soul-searching journey as well as studying that I understood what travelling really meant to me. It wasn't just about seeing the sights, or bragging about how much of the world I'd seen. Travelling was a way to experience life. It was to go somewhere I had never been before, and see how well I coped with it. It was to find myself in strange surrounding, and through the journey, know myself better.
Over the years, my belief that travelling is not only important in my life but essential has steadily grown. Each place I have lived in or visited, has contributed a little bit to my growth as a person.
I have actually lived in 3 countries (India, USA and UK), and it has been quite an experience. Now, I feel myself to be either a global citizen who belongs everywhere, or a wanderer who doesn't belong in any nation. Most of the time it's half-way between the two. And I wouldn't have it any other way. :)
This blog is to combine my love of travel and writing. We live in an age where the world is truly open to all of us. It may not be easy, it may not be regularly affordable, and it may not be your cup of tea. But for anyone who truly wants to experience more of the world, it is possible. At the very least, you can be an armchair traveller. So I hope, you will buckle up and join me on this journey.
I love travelling. I wish I could do more of it, and I hope to eventually get my life to a stage where I can. But for now, I travel as much as I can. Even if it is one new destination per year, it's something more than I had seen before. And every place I go to, I try to make the best of it.
For last several trips, I have regularly kept travel journals, and with each trip my aim is to improve my journal keeping skills. Now, being dedicated to my writing, I wish to work on travel writing too. It is something I have aspired to try, and so now is as good a time as any.
I hope this blog will offer something to both travellers and writers.