Book review of Globejotting by Dave Fox

Globejotting: How to Write Extraordinary Travel Journals (and still have time to enjoy your trip!)

Interestingly, I read half of this book before my big UK trip last year, and half of it afterwards.  My thoughts on travel journalling changed significantly after my trip.

Here are my thoughts from before my trip:

This is less of a book review, and more a practice at speed journalling.  I am familiar with this concept. I actually find it fairly easy to turn off my brain and just write.  We call it a brain-dump, although that sounds weird now that I’ve written it out. It’s also a technique used when doing National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  With NaNoWriMo, you’re trying to write 50,000 words in a month, and in order to do that, you have to turn off your inner editor. You can’t be constantly deleting and re-writing paragraphs or pages, because if you do, you’ll never write 50,000 words in a month.  While I find it easy to just blurt out the words in my head onto the page, turning off my inner editor is crazy hard. I really struggle with it. I can definitely see that it would speed up my journalling and allow me to get more of my day down on the page, thus allowing me to a) enjoy more of the day ‘in the moment’ and b) encourage me to keep up with my journalling and not fall behind.

He recommends that instead of writing about your day from start to finish, just choose 1-4 highlights from the day and write about those.  I actually love being able to see the teeny tiny details like what I ate on the plane, as it makes the experience seem more real to me, but I get what he’s saying.  When you write down the chronological facts, you do sometimes tend to leave out the emotions, thoughts and impressions. I know I do this. In my everyday journalling, if I write about something as it happens or immediately after, my writing is far more emotive.  I might write about how my husband being in the hospital with possible appendicitis makes me feel scared and lost, even while I understand that it’s a routine procedure and everything is going to be fine. I am reminded of how much he means to me, and how absolutely broken I’d be if anything happened to him.  I think about how much my happiness depends on him, and I worry about what kind of person I’d be if I lost him. I start thinking about the way relationships can work and whether co-dependency is a good thing or a bad thing. I start creating wild fantasies about how I’d react to grief and what we’d need to do to sell the house and how long I’d have to be off work.  And I’d write about how quiet the house is, and how I miss listen to his breathing as I fall asleep, and how tempting it is to find his aftershave and just smell it, like some creepy stalker person. But if I write about it after the fact, several days later or maybe weeks or months, I’m more factual. He went into the hospital at this time. I went and saw him, we chatted.  The op kept getting pushed back and he was hungry and sore. He nearly passed out in the bathroom at one point. The op went well, and I took him home the next day. Boring. And so different. I need those little details to make it seem real.

I’ve kind of gone off track here.  See, Dave isn’t recommending the latter version, the mere basic facts.  He actually wants something more like the former emotional rambling. Yet, my babble above kind of indicates the opposite.  I suppose I was doing that whole brain-dump thing, and not clarifying what I was writing as I was writing it.

So I guess I’m saying that if I catch those little details, like an actual quote from the day (maybe something he said when he was groggy on anaesthetic) or the crappy meal he got when they finally decided he wasn’t having the op that day but he’d already missed the proper meal, then it feels more real.  Like, those are the tiny details that you forget when you leave the journalling for a while and try to capture the experience at a later date. I remember the big things, like that he went for an op and I was scared. In a travel journalling context, I remember going to the Tower of London and the awe I felt at being surrounded by history. It’s the little details that fade, and so those are what I feel like I need to capture immediately.

I do see Dave’s point about capturing the highlights though.  It’s a good suggestion. I think it’s particularly important if you’re short on time.  I tend to do my journalling in the evening, before bed, when I travel. But if I was tired and wanting to get to sleep, I’d definitely consider just touching on the highlights instead of recapping the whole day.

Dave reminds us to take the advice that works for us, and leave what doesn’t, which is frankly the best advice ever.  I give the same advice to new parents. Take what works, discard what doesn’t. It’s different for everyone. So yep, must remember to practice what I preach.

He talks about choosing one interesting person each day of your trip and jotting down a character description.  I love this idea. Not sure if I’d be able to do it every day, but it sounds like such a fun thing to read back over.  He says to capture a quote they said that shows the way they talk, share their physical description, their mannerisms, their attitude and expressions.  I’m not very good at including this kind of detail in my journalling, so I like this. I actually have a terrible memory for faces. Like, I’d be a terrible witness.  I bet I couldn’t even describe my own or my husband’s face in sufficient detail for a police artist to draw them. I’d struggle to tell you what needed changing on the picture to make it more correct.  I just…I have a terrible visual memory. I think this is why I love photography. Words are fine, and I think I’d be fine with remembering a quote to write down at the end of the day (especially if I was actually aware of the need to note it), but physical descriptions are hard for me.  If you’ve read my short stories, you’ll know this too. One of the most common remarks that reviewers on Writing.com make when reading my stories is that I don’t describe characters or surroundings. Sometimes I’ll write a short story about a guy and a reviewer will comment on ‘her’ and I’ll realise I’ve put in so little description that the reader doesn’t even know if they’re male or female.  Actually, I have multiple stories like that, where the character is gender-neutral. It’s not deliberate though, it’s just a lack of description. Sometimes I use a name that gives it away, and that’s the only clue my reader has. Anyway, back to this book. I love this idea. It’s certainly not my strong point, and I’m going to find this a really tough challenge, but I’d like to give it a go. I think my husband and kids would have fun with it too. Like, I could choose a character from the day that we came across and ask them to give me details over dinner or while we’re on the train or in the car.  Could be a fun family exercise!

Another thing was the idea of a theme to tie multiple places or multiple days together.  Like, one day you could just write about foods you’ve tried on your travels. Or even more specifically, just desserts you’ve tried.  Or whatever. Like when I go back to Scotland I could do a journal entry about haggis, and the various ways we’ve tried it (including in a Cornish pasty!) and how the kids liked it (they’re fully expecting to, even though all they’ve tried to date is the canned stuff) and how I liked it (I did, but I really wasn’t expecting to), etc.  That could be a journal entry on its own, not specific to a particular day. I think these kinds of posts (or journal pages) are in addition to daily writing. For me, at least. But fun to do.

And here are my thoughts after my trip:

I did everything Dave told me not to do.

If you travel intending from the start to share your journals with others, you’re likely to hold back certain details.

I started off trying to write a recap of the day either that evening or the following day, and posting it to my blog.  It meant I didn’t turn off my inner editor and just write.  In fact, the opposite.  I was trying to create perfect blog posts on the go.  Ugh.  So stupid.

So guess what happened.  Go on, guess.  Right, I fell behind.  Then I gave up.

You know all those trips you’ve taken in the past where you wish you had kept a better journal? Well, it’s not too late. People assume if they don’t write their journals while they’re traveling, they can’t do it later. But journaling has no deadlines. There are no late fees, no penalties if you forget to file for an extension. You can write about a trip years after it’s finished.

So here I am with this major family holiday (first overseas trip for the kids, my sister got married, etc.) and I only have journal entries (or blog posts, call them what you will) for the first couple of days.  Dave says you can blog about a trip retrospectively, but that leaves me with one major issue – I don’t remember what we did every day.

Mediocre writing is better than no writing.

See, this is where Dave’s ‘highlights’ technique would be invaluable.  I should have jotted down a couple of bullet points from each day, and then I’d at least have those memory joggers.

What’s the biggest challenge in journaling about a trip that happened long ago? Remembering. Many people think post-journaling about a long-ago journey is impossible because so many details have left them. Speed journaling can bring those details back. Often there’s a snowball effect. One tiny memory triggers a bigger memory, and so on, until suddenly, your mind is fully immersed in your long-ago-and-far-away journey.

I think I can start by going back and looking at the photos and the tickets, etc., what we did on most days.  Perhaps even check the bank statements to see where we spent money.  That would give me a rough timeline.  The days we just spent at my sister’s house playing with her kids, those are probably lost.  But I think Dave’s right, if I start writing based on the photos and a brief timeline, I’ll get a good proportion of the trip written down.

So ultimately, bullet pointing a couple of highlights from each trip is my biggest takeaway from this book.  It’s so fucking obvious, I know, but I didn’t do it, and now some of the days on that trip are gone forever.  And that sucks.

Beyond that one tip though, I was constantly inspired by Dave as I read this book.  He made me realise that I have a unique view to share, even if I’m blogging about a place that has been often blogged about.

Each of us has a set of personal cultures, based on a wide array of factors:
• Where we live
• Where we have lived before
• Language(s)
• Accents or dialects
• Race
• Religion
• Gender
• Sexual orientation
• Education
• Career
• Body size
• Family size and structure
• Marital or relationship status
• Whether or not we have or want children
• Age
• Income level
• Political views or affiliations
• Medical conditions
• Clubs, hobbies, sports, or other activities we participate in

These are just a few of them. What are your subcultures? Using the preceding list of defining elements as a guide, make a list of your different subcultures. After you make your list, ask yourself the following questions:
• How many of your subcultures are cultures you were born into?
• How many are cultures you have adopted or stumbled upon later in life?
• Which ones are your core cultures – those you feel fully connected with – and which ones are cultures you understand to an extent, but are not fully immersed in?

Now, make a list of at least ten subcultures that do not make up a part of who you are. Among your list of subcultures that you don’t feel you belong in or understand, are there any you would like to experience? What could you do to make that happen? Are there others you choose to avoid? If so, why?

This was just one of many exercises Dave urged the reader to try, and I found this one particularly fascinating.  It gives you a greater awareness of the uniqueness of yourself, because your history, background and experiences are different to those of your spouse, your parents, your siblings and your children.. Not to mention all the other people visiting the same place as you.  And then it expands on that and urges you to consider subcultures that you don’t relate to, which can only lead to greater tolerance while travelling and that’s awesome.

So, here’s what I’m going to do now.  I’m going to make a timeline of my trip (bullet points!) based on the photos, tickets, etc.  Then I’m going to turn off my inner editor and just brain-dump as much as I can about each day.  I’m not going to forbid myself from overviews or themes (I usually do because I blog chronologically), and in fact I’m going to challenge myself to make theme headings and write as much as I can for each.  Then I’m going to see how much I can write about as many ‘characters’ from the trip as I can.  I know there was the guy from Struy Inn who did falconry with us, and also the falconer at Dunrobin Castle, both distinct (and different) characters.  There was the guide at Tomatin Distillery too.

I loved this book.  I found it inspiring and educational.  It’s definitely going to change how I journal on my next trip.  Bullet points for the win!  And bonus bullet points under characters.  Ha ha!  But seriously, there was so much in this book that I can’t capture it in a simple blog post.  Definitely read it for yourself.

 

An interview with author Adrienne Lilley

You have a particular interest in non-fiction, including reading medical writing. What is it about these that interests you? Do you utilise the knowledge you gain in your own writing?
Oh, you know, when you find something you’re good at, you often tend to embrace it. I lost my amazing ability to multitask in a stressful environment that earned me my income, so nowadays, I have a near perfect memory for dates, doctors, diagnoses, and just about anything medical– once I’ve learned it, I rarely forget it. In fact, if I were well today, I would likely be a Pharmacologist. It’s a weird thing to admit, but we all have our talents! I do of course take many medicines but I can tell you what each one looks like, what writing it has on it, if any, and their color and purpose.

When I was a young child, I read every single ingredient from every single shampoo bottle, food product, anything with writing in the house– I devoured the written word. I repeatedly read the same products and words over, and over, until at last I could at least recognize their phonetic breakdown, spell them, YES even if I didn’t know what they meant. Certainly I was teased and called ‘wordy’, which is a nice compliment now. Ha!

I remember going to the public libraries and researching my kidney symptoms when I was only 14-16 years old. My mother and I spent many weekend days there, because the doctors didn’t believe my pain was serious, and because I kept insisting something was seriously wrong. I was six when it began, and seventeen when the kidney and gland were removed. It was in these old physician’s only medical texts that I first learned some medical jargon, and gained a rudimentary understanding of the urological system. It saved my life, just not my kidney nor my adrenal gland.

Once high school was over, I had no need for medical knowledge, and I tossed it all away. However, in just a few short years at the age of twenty-two or so, I got hit with the adrenal crapola from hell! Then, I was too sick to really go to the libraries, and the internet wasn’t even around for anything other than gaming. We’re talking 1993 here. I was working 80-90 hour weeks and had no time for research. Seriously.

Once I was back in the ‘system’ (the medical system) in my home state of S.California, it was a matter of picking up the lingo and information as I went along. I had so many tests, not just the normal x-rays, blood tests, but also MRI’s, IVPs, just nuclear medicine tests at the cost of thousands of dollars. Once I learned this adrenal failure happened because of corticosteroids I was given to help me breathe, I became nearly obsessed with not allowing my ignorance to ‘bite’ me in the ass again. Had I of known, been told, read the package leaflet… maybe, just maybe I wouldn’t have become so ill. So, essentially, I either understand everything they are DOING to MY BODY, and I make intelligent suggestions along the way thus becoming an active participant in my OWN healthcare, or— I die. It became as simple as that. I was close, there were mistakes in medication, diagnoses, and malpractice and an amazing amount of pure negligence along the road these past twenty-five years. There’s friends who have died. People younger than my nearly 47 years. BUT, it IS a choice: you either buck up and do THEIR job WITH them or FOR them, or you could easily die. And not peacefully usually!

By the way… I have no issues with dying really, but I’ll be damned if it’s going to be from neglecting myself. I do the best I can to be a compliant patient, but I am nobody’s fool. Now. So why DO I really write about it? Because I feel very alone in it. Nobody has all the circumstances and quirks and diagnoses that I do, I mean, my body’s its own Whata Wreck. But. . . surely there are others that can benefit from my experiences? There is no one protocol for much of this adrenal / endocrine system failure. And I am NOT afraid to give some pretty strong advice. Ha! But really, I write about it also because the physical act of typing it all out makes it clearer in my mind what needs to be done. I always have to have a plan or three, and I must constantly evaluate those to weave in the variables of my illness… nothing stays the same for too long. Writing usually makes me feel like I am SPEAKING to someone, for once. That illusive someone who may read my hypotheses for recovery, or may at least agree with me on how little value life can be. I need no sugar coating– I like my reality with a double shot of ‘just the facts, ma’am’. I can come to my own ‘hopeful’ or ‘bleak’ conclusions. I did not put myself back together with glue and tears and medications just to be taken apart by their lies and indifference again. No sirree.

Tell me about a piece of writing that stayed with you or was particularly memorable.
Oh, I’d have to say Mannequined allowed me to express a feeling of why I used to consider myself to be stupid, in an interesting way. I stayed pretty quiet in my relationships because I had no basis for anything resembling normal. I hadn’t had time to develop yet; like a Polaroid photograph that is still developing, but I was so impatient with myself. I figured it out though. Eventually.

My inner child was just too
indelibly written within.
A life spent in survival mode
was still just… too raw.
My spine was too weak,
my tongue too flayed…
to speak my truth, then.

So I mannequined instead with other men.
Gave away my bits, one page at a time.
Such self destructive behavior.
Mannequined by Adrienne Lilley

But really i hate carnations because my dad was a hard person to get to know really deeply, kinda like myself. He just showed the shallow stuff, mostly, and waited for a person to be interested in more before revealing anything vulnerable about himself. And because I feel him closer to me when I read the poem about the day of his farcical funeral. Rather a comedy of errors and incidents that weren’t too funny, but then my dad and I shared our weird sense of humor, so….

Some of your writing is very personal. How important is it that you share your own story, or is sharing your work merely a byproduct of your need to write your experiences for yourself?
I figured out a while ago that if I don’t post my more intimate poetry for public consumption, then I just won’t write it. Then it all gets stuffed inside, and people are not supposed to be olives, right? We aren’t cannon that will one day just implode! Well, we aren’t supposed to be, I’m sure. I just kind of start to lose it if I cannot express a time in my life that was painful. Writing about it sucks—it hurts. There’s such indecision, and second-guessing going on. But once it’s completed, there’s a sense of satisfaction at having turned something ugly into. . . I dunno, perhaps something another person can relate to. Maybe there’s truly a few people who read it and feel better just knowing they aren’t alone in their experiences and / or feelings. I think cancer finds its way in when we refuse or cannot release these negative, pent-up emotions. I mean, I’m going out a different way, not cancer. A great example of how personal is too personal would be: Transient Murderer. There are not many who could share something like that, and I envy them because they likely don’t NEED to share it– but I really did. What I am NOT doing is airing my dirty laundry in some half-cocked contest of who’s had it worse. Everyone has their shit in life– I’m saying, this is mine.

How has writing changed your life?
Tres bien, ah de trop Madame! So, so very much. Before I found Writing.com, it was just me and my illness. I had within one month been put on permanent disability from the job of my dreams; I’d had to give up my swanky little apartment and move back in with my mother; I had to quit college– my life just was put on hold. About a year later, my mother got a home computer and I began to research my ‘Cushing’s Syndrome’ and umm etc. I’ll spare you ha ha! But finding WdC was fun. I was WhataWriter and it was a total joke! Whata did I ever write? Some, not much.

I can’t really socialize with my illness—it stresses me out too much. I’m the worst kind of friend, unreliable due to something that really wasn’t ever my fault. I know that now, but I still must be vigilant. And the older I get the worse it all gets so hey, lots of material to write about eh! So separating my medical ‘crapola’ as I refer to it and my writing endeavors is pretty difficult—which came first, the chicken or the egg? Who knows. But writing helps me cope.

Do you listen to music when you’re writing? Do you have a favourite ‘soundtrack’ for writing?
Oh aye, of course, I simply must! Anything will do, but it goes with the theme of my writing. If it’s sad, then sad songs; if it’s angry or fun it could be heavy metal to Imagine Dragons to Scorps to… I do so love music. In fact, a phrase in a song might playback all manner of memories; it is often the beginning of some dark poem. If I’m really into something deep, something as yet intangible (or even a punctuation or structural nightmare) I’ll switch to instrumental only music. I love the ‘Lost Christmas Eve’ album from Trans-Siberian Orchestra. And Archangel, a newer one. I like Andrea Bocelli. My friend Bobby is always great for some music referrals if needed! This poem was like that, and I’m still contemplating a few edits on it: Archivist of. . .. I wrote it to mimic four movements, but the subject is how to fill the hours. My favorite movie as well, ‘The Hours’.

Do you have a favourite author?
Definitely. I hearken back to my first favorite author, because it’s kinda like a first love, even though I’ve quite a few more favorites since: Diana Gabaldon. She writes the voluminous ‘Outlander’ series which I think there’s nearly twenty of them now? Not slight, modest books are these—they’re like 800-1000 pages. Hardback. Anyways, I used to work (for years) in bookstores. I found ‘Outlander’ before it was an international bestseller. Yeah, I like to say I made her rich ha ha ha. But it’s just that great a series. The TV Show has been amazingly true to the books as well. She made me want to BE a writer. I just haven’t found the time away from my emotions to get serious about writing fiction! But I want to. I have a little something-something in the works….

Or perhaps an author you view as an inspiration?
My favorite fantasy series are on Amazon by Robert Anton. It’s an enchanting world, wonderfully written. Amazing talent. But he is also my favorite non-fiction author on Writing.com, I can get so engrossed in his philosophical and scientific articles! Yeah, I just love to learn new things… ancient civilizations are kewl too. Yup, Bobby is a huge inspiration– and one of my biggest fans. Not to mention my editor when he isn’t TOO busy and I have tough enough skin to take it. He’s a rare, excellent quality gem.

What’s your favourite piece of your own writing?
Well, it’s actually my epic 4600 or so word biography, Just Another Walk in the Rain. I began writing it when I first joined Writing.com, waaay back in 2002. When I came back as simply ‘whata’ two years ago, I thought what absolute shite! I had to rewrite it. It took months. It was most difficult because the medical events were mostly so long ago, I couldn’t get the timeline cohesive enough. I do so loathe structural issues. So when it was completed, I really did feel such a sense of accomplishment. It isn’t the easiest material to write about. However, in reading it over once again this morning, I vow to make a part II. What more could I possibly add? I was more optimistic when I rewrote it just two years ago; I’d like to infuse some of my dark charm into it. Because I’m neither happy-go-lucky-Whata, nor down-in-the-dumps-Adrie. I’m kinda stuck right now, somewhere in between. I mean, I am, after all, a realist. I used to be such a dreamer….

We are all born into this world as innocents, right? To me, life is not so easily defined. After years of obsessive research, I’ve concluded that we are sent to this earth as a lesson. This lesson teaches us to be kind, to persevere, to help our fellow man, to love and be loved in return. Most of all, life is a lesson to never, ever, give up. We must keep fighting, not merely to survive, but in order for us to thrive. I surmise these are the lessons we are meant to learn before our corporeal selves die, and we are released into the spirit world.

No, I am not a Shaman, nor am I a wiseass: I speak in earnest. I am a person who has seriously visited a kind of hell, one on this earth, and have learned many lessons from my unhappiness. Now, at the age of forty-four, I am quite set on my path of righteousness. Not that everyone will, or should, follow my path, as it is for me. I have earned it, you could say. However, I do stumble, but I’ll continue to drag myself up, dust my bum off, and try in earnest to learn from my life’s lessons. It is this knowledge, and my secret hope that propels me to seek a more fulfilling life.
Just Another Walk in the Rain by Adrienne Lilley

Yes, this is me. Longwinded. Irreverent. But hopefully always as truthful as I can be (according to how much denial I’m in at the time, of course).

You can read more of Adrienne’s work at her Writing.com portfolio.