If you've followed this blog, you probably know at least two things about me — that I love to travel and that I love to write. It may be why people often ask me what I write "about," quickly followed by some version of, "for example, are you a travel writer?" I never to know how to answer that "about" question. As for the "for example" question, I think a safe response would be "I don't think so." Of course, my recent essay about Tabo, perhaps the older "featured post" about Tepoztlan, and the "India Untravelled Guest Blogger" badge on this blog, would seem to claim otherwise.
Here's the (quickly blurring, even in my head) distinction I make: I like to tell stories. Sometimes those stories are about pottery because it's one of the things I love. Sometimes they are about education because it's another of the things I love. And sometimes those stories are about travel because I love that too. But just as I don't think of myself as a pottery blogger or an education writer, I don't think of myself as a travel writer. Writer, period.
(if you've known me longer than a year, you know how long it took me even to acknowledge the "writer" part! Give me time, I'll come around to the rest! :P)
Over the next year or so, though, if I do manage to keep up with my personal post-a-week challenge, you probably will hear more travel stories. Partly because I intend to travel quite a bit between now and next August — details as they unfold! ;) — and mostly because I'm starting to realize I love telling travel stories because they are, in some ways, most the stories of who I am as I walk through the world. I am most alive in new and unexpected places and situations, and I am most myself while talking (really talking) to strangers who belong in a context that is different from mine. Those stories are, therefore, stories I love to tell and stories that I think tell you more about me and about my world than most others would. More importantly, though, those stories become how I remember a place. They become the frame in which I understand my time there.
And speaking of frames, I am starting to think more seriously about travel photography. I used to not like taking photos when I traveled — feel it made me too conspicuous, too tourist like. That changed on my 4 day solo mountain jaunt this March. As I went on long, solitary mountain walks, photo taking became a way of pausing, noticing. Needing to create a frame around one little part of the natural world, I was able to really look at that part, to focus in. And regardless of the quality of the photo that came out of it, I had a richer trip because of all the times I paused to look really closely at this rock or that hut or that crease in that old woman's pattu.
I realized I don't know how to look at the world in general half as well as I know how to look at a particular fragment in it. My friend Pamela talks about that all the time in her writing workshops — about finding a moment that tells a story, about extracting everything possible from that moment. She talks about it as taking a small slice out of a life and examining that slice carefully. I'm realizing that that is exactly how I feel about photo-taking. A chance to look at a slice. I am now getting ready to invest in a good camera and learn more about manual photography... if these photos are going to become slices of my life and moments of the days when I feel most alive, then I need to be able to control them and create them as I choose, not as the auto-focus chooses.
You do know what this means, don't you? You may be seeing more travel stories and travel photos on this blog in months to come. But, no matter what you think of them, don't ask me if I'm a travel writer or a travel photographer. I don't think so.