Since I began travel writing, people often ask me how it is traveling to all these places alone, without someone close to share it with. To this inquiry, I first give the “I am there for work” spiel, pointing out that visiting a tropical destination as a travel writer is more than Mojitos, tanning oil and a lounge chair by the pool. Then they ask me further questions about my trips and activities and my honest answers incite them to roll their eyes, wave their wrists.
Modesty aside, any travel writer who tells you they don’t have fun checking out the world is either lying or going about their job (not to mention life) all wrong. I certainly do my job well, and I certainly allow a place to overtake me. If I don’t, how could I ever recommend someone spend their hard-earned money to go?
To answer the original question, I like having the memories of traveling alone, completely open and facing the new worlds on my own, without the comfort of having someone I know near. I’ve had wonderful times traveling with friends – the cross-country trip from New Jersey to Santa Barbara with Levine sits at the top of the list – but they are a completely different experience and almost incomparable to traveling alone.
Honestly, I had the time of my life on that road trip, that exploration of youth and wonder – a celebration of friendship, if you will. But it’s clearly a different experience from that of traveling alone, especially to foreign countries. It’s not so much the language barrier as it is the cultural mindsets, the way people in other countries live their lives, what the women like to do for fun and what the men joke about.
I had been searching for the correct way to explain the difference, and last night after I ate I poured myself a glass of port and read a portion of Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, specifically about time spent with Scott Fitzgerald. Hemingway paints a very humorous picture of Fitzgerald, but it was his description of Fitzgerald’s villa in Juan-les-Pins that revealed to me the answer, as if I knew where to look all along, as if I had written the damn thing myself.
Fitzgerald moved to the villa with this wife and daughter in order to escape Paris and drink less, write more, etc. Of the villa Hemingway writes: There was going to be everything that a man needed to write except to be alone.
And I think that’s it – that’s the thing about traveling alone as a writer, it allows you the time to write. Not exactly rocket science, but often overlooked. When I was traveling across the country with Mr. Levine, I had time to take notes and such, but never enough to fully dedicate myself to the writing. When I am on these trips, it’s an opportunity to write. Plain and simple. All the things that inspire me are there, as well as what’s necessary.
Stories that have been written during my travels: The Ring, Here’s Your Receipt, Oh Kate (unreleased), In Another Country (unedited), and multiple other unfinished projects, including a potential sequel to The Girl From Last Night (either as a short story or a novella). And I suppose I cannot forget that The Girl From Last Night itself was inspired by the road trip (although I did not begin working on it for almost a year) and My Side of the Story was based on a short story I wrote after I returned from Hawaii.
I suppose I should keep traveling, solo or otherwise.