Vietnam to Quebec, Via Colorado

I cut it close getting to the airport this afternoon. My baked potato took longer to cook than I thought and I left late and I was driving faster than usual.

My mom called while I was on my way and said she had discovered how to make calls over the Internet. I could call her while I was out of the country, she said, without service, if I was connected to the Internet. She said it was easy, and that she was going to explain to me how to do it. Then she forgot how to do it and she asked me to hang on while she went upstairs and got her notes. All the while I was changing lanes and weaving in and out of traffic to get to the airport and not miss the flight.

There was a long silence while she tried to find her notes and finally I said, “Mom, I love ya. Don’t worry, I’m a writer – I’ll email you.”

She continued looking for the notes. “Just one second,” she said. “They were right here a minute ago.”

I basically had to hang up on her as I pulled into the parking lot, grabbed my pack, and jogged to the terminal.

Security was chill and I ended up getting to the gate with ten minutes to spare. It was not a full flight so there was plenty of overhead space for my backpack. But there were other disappointments. It was the second flight in a row where my seat-back television didn’t work. What the hell? I mean, what is today’s air traveler supposed to do if he cannot distract himself from the fact that he’s on a plane?

Two days ago, coming back from Colorado, the flight attendant offered me a drink as compensation for the broken television.

“Sure, a double gin and tonic,” I said. She gave me a look, but brought it over and I was happy.

It was because of the gin that I got into a conversation with the woman next to me. She was going to Hawaii for a month to rest. She had been going through a medical problem. I felt fortunate to be healthy as I drank the gin and tonic. She said she was a motivational speaker, typically for corporate audiences. I asked her for advice. “Believe in the power of belief,” she said.

I was believing a lot of things on that flight. Most notably that I had become a lazy traveler. I used to talk to everyone I sat next to, whether they liked it or not, so I could learn something. And when I wasn’t talking or listening, I was writing and working on something. Now I barely speak a word and for a long time I couldn’t write because my laptop battery was shot. I would say, regrettably, that my flights over the past three or four years have mostly been dedicated to romantic comedies and red wine. Maybe it’s made me soft. When did I become so timid?

With this in mind, when the television didn’t work again today, I cut to the chase and ordered a whiskey ginger. I was all set to talk to someone. But no one looked that interesting. There were two empty seats next to me, and the man at the end of the row had his headphones on. There were two possibilities across the aisle, but the one in front was working on an excel spreadsheet and the one behind was sleeping with his mouth open. So I’ve decided to talk to you instead.

It’s been a nice start to the new year. Vietnam for two weeks, Colorado for a week, and now Quebec City for a few days. In between I’ve had stopovers at home in Hawaii to do laundry, during which I have balanced catching up on sleep from the previous trip and preparing for the next.

Here’s how it goes: Put in a load of laundry, lay down on the couch, set my alarm for 55 minutes, fall asleep listening to the rain, hear the alarm, wake up, check the load, move it to the dryer, put a new load in the washer, go back to the couch, reset the alarm, and so on, for three loads. Can you get any more lazy, and can you get any more productive?

In Vietnam, I had the chance to explore the highlands and hike through the flooded rice terraces. In Colorado, I skied Powderhorn and Winter Park. Now in Quebec City I will do a ride along at the ice canoe races, which should be a nice illustration of insanity.

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Hiking through rice terraces in Northern Vietnam. 

Right now, despite all the travel opportunities, the concept of travel writing as an artistic endeavor is on life support. Most of my mentors seem content to lament its death and move on to other things. I am trying my best to hang in there, financially and creatively. I feel like when I started travel writing, almost ten years ago, I was constantly sharing stories I wrote. Now I share almost nothing, because nearly everything I write is overly formatted or list oriented and quiet honestly has nothing to do with me or my personality.

But I am still trying to find my way and keep working on my voice. My book, Swim Bike Bonk, about my undercover jaunt into the world of the Ironman triathlon, is now scheduled for release on November 1st, 2019. I would take this release date with a very large grain of salt considering it was supposed to come out a year ago, but fingers crossed.

On a better note I found out yesterday that my long-form, creative nonfiction piece about my trip to Patagonia will be published as a serial over the course of four or five weeks in Cargo Lit Mag in May. It’s about my trek in Torres del Paine National Park. It will be my first publication of that kind. I’m looking to expand beyond the world of travel magazines this year and get published in a few literature-based outlets where I can write more creatively. This particular piece has the goal of being a travel story that actually talks about the travel, not just the highlights and the payoffs but what the trip was actually like and what it felt like from start to finish. I am excited to share it with you and to see whether I am successful in making so-called ordinary events interesting because they are perhaps the truest part of a travel story.

I’m hoping to go to Austria and Switzerland at the end of February but I’m not quite sure about my schedule yet. Possibly Mexico. In March I am leading a couple of tours in Hawaii and maybe checking out Southern Utah. I hope to write more stories on this site but every time I promise that I seem to slack, so I’m not going to promise that. I will try to share more of what I’m working on though and I will try to write more because that’s what I’m supposed to be doing, because if I am not writing and creating then I am just back to being a journalist.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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