Books (creative), books (travel), books (journal)

To continue on the path attributing the affect my father had on my life, I would be remiss to omit the two most major influences he had on me – reading and writing. I am lucky enough these days that I can travel on a regular basis, to see and experience all that our amazing world has to offer. But for most of my childhood years my travel came in the form of reading. The public library was my portal to destinations near and far, real and make-believe.

My father gave my daughter and I matching nightgowns for Christmas - "So many books, so little time"

My father gave my daughter and I matching nightgowns for Christmas – “So many books, so little time”

Reading wasn’t just about pretty illustrations, or interesting tales, or something to fill my hours. But a way to be transported to a different location, a new world, an enchanting culture. Reading brings the meaning of escapism to a whole new level – via creative travel writing. I think so often when people read, they may get so caught up in the story line they don’t appreciate the setting.

Think of Gone with the Wind – set in the deep south on beautiful plantations. Or The Thorn Birds set in the Australian outback. Or The Sound of Music set in the hills of Austria. Reading was the catalyst that in later years would entice me to a love of traveling the world around us. My father and I were/are not big chit-chatters. We would spend hours sitting together, not saying a word, our noses in our respective books. In my early years I climbed on to his lap with a book every chance I got. Initially so he could read to me; then when I got older I either read to him or we read our own books. It was just a very special bonding time.

The expansive veranda on the backside of the main house at Magnolia Plantation was built as one of the most modern homes of its time back in the late 1800's.

The expansive veranda on the backside of the main house at Magnolia Plantation was built as one of the most modern homes of its time back in the late 1800’s.

And then he carried that tradition on with his grandchildren, and even had the chance to do that with his great-granddaughter before he passed on. The pictures of he and my daughter sitting side by side reading are priceless. And her love of reading has undoubtedly lead to a deep love of travel for her. As I write this, she is off to Spain and Portugal for nine days – wondering how she was going to manage bringing all of her reading and writing materials. Most girls worry about managing their travel wardrobe.

Great-grandpa reading to his great-granddaughter.

Great-grandpa reading to his great-granddaughter.

Grandpa, once an English and History teacher, sharing with his granddaughter one of his favorite historical novels.

Grandpa, once an English and History teacher, sharing with his granddaughter one of his favorite historical novels.

Now before I go on a trip, I head to the closest book store and buy up every book I can on my intended destination. In the past that meant mainly guide books. But in the last decade or so, travel writing has taken off and now it is common to find a creative non-fiction account of so many of the major destinations. And with the success of these books are coming more books about the hidden gems of travel. Books are being lauded as much for their setting as their thematic content – and not just being cast into a certain genre. I find it rare that I pick up a book that doesn’t create in me a desire to visit the area it is set in, and experience the culture, the people, the visuals that inspired the writer to create a story utilizing all of these aspects of a location.

Many of favorite travel books are:

Anything by Bill Bryson – A Walk in the Woods, Neither Here Nor There, At Home

Anything by Frances Mayes – Under the Tuscan Sun, Every Day in Tuscany, Bella Tuscany

Brad Newsham – Take Me With You

The Best American Travel Writing – an annual anthology of short travel stories, with guest editors

The other element of the influences my Dad had on me – is writing. My father journaled every day for nearly 40 years, and probably long before that at some level. But he saved his journals from his decades of writing in them, and bequeathed them to me in hopes of reading through them to either write his life story, or pick and choose from his experiences and memories to create a fictional depiction based on a certain part of his life. So looks like I’ll have plenty of writing material to work from in the coming decades – many from some amazing travel experiences he had while in the military and as an adult who had a similar love of culture and golf and all the amazing places both can take you. Now if I only I can decipher his writing!

Grandpa reading to Eli, while looking out of Lake Superior on a beautiful spring day - which he will journal about early the next day.

Grandpa reading to Eli, while looking out of Lake Superior on a beautiful spring day – which he will journal about early the next day.

I have not been the best at daily journaling, but where his influence on journaling has taken hold is journaling where I travel. I try to find a small chunk of time every day while traveling to jot down my experiences of the day – or using the long flights home to relive the whole travel experience. Utilizing the 5 senses to fill my journal with reminders of what stood out to me in what was special about the place I was visiting. Journaling captions to go along with the pictures I take has also become a big part of remembering a place so that when I am ready to write a post I am not lost looking at a picture with no recollection of why I took it.

Journaling sitting riverside in the Rocky Mountains of Big Sky, Montana.

Journaling sitting riverside in the Rocky Mountains of Big Sky, Montana.

So next time you are stuck as to where you want to travel to, pick up a book and see if that doesn’t get your travel juices flowing! Or better yet, take the book with you on your travels to enhance your existing travel experience.

My daughter reading on the steps of the Paris Opera House.

My daughter reading on the steps of the Paris Opera House.

Husband reading on the patio at the Charleston Inn on Martha's Vineyard.

Husband reading on the patio at the Charleston Inn on Martha’s Vineyard.

My daughter reading while waiting for a massage at the Glenmere Mansion in New York.

My daughter reading while waiting for a massage at the Glenmere Mansion in New York.

"Don't bother us, Eli and I are reading!"

“Don’t bother us, Eli and I are reading!”

My daughter reading on the steps of the Paris Opera House.

My daughter reading on the steps of the Paris Opera House.

My husband reading while looking out over the 18th green at Pebble Beach.

My husband reading while looking out over the 18th green at Pebble Beach.

My daughter reading at the base of Low Library on the Columbia University campus.

My daughter reading at the base of Low Library steps on the Columbia University campus.

My daughter reading in a Parisian cafe' - oh there's that glass of wine!

My daughter reading in a Parisian cafe’ – oh there’s that glass of wine!

Travel is about the journey, not just the destination…

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” For me, learning to enjoy the journey enroute to my point of destination is becoming the part of travel I want to focus on more. For years I have traveled to some amazing locals, but the getting there has always been a bit of a blur.

When I research where I am going, the how of getting there gets lost in transition. If I’m flying, I do not allot extra time to watch the sun set over Camelback Mountain or check out the Indian burial grounds along the Papago Mountains, because I’m in a hurry to get to the airport to get to my destination. Once on the plane, I always take the aisle seat to have easy access to the bathroom instead of taking a window seat so I can take in the breathtaking birds-eye view of the depths of the Grand Canyon or experience the vastness of the Rocky Mountains.

Trying to enjoy the sunset on the way to the airport, in AZ

Trying to enjoy the sunset on the way to the airport, in AZ

If I am driving, I tend to take the most direct main routes so that I can get to my destination as fast as I can. Even though there are so many destinations along the way that I pass by without much of a thought. I marvel at pictures of the amazing land formations that dot the far-reaching corners of Arizona, but in fact are only a few hours off the beaten path. If I would add one more day to my drive I could stop and see these places in person and take my own pictures.

Snow covered Rocky Mountains in Utah in the middle of summer, enroute from Phoenix to Calgary.

Snow covered Rocky Mountains in Utah in the middle of summer, enroute from Phoenix to Calgary.

For almost 50 years I have traveled at great length, throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico, throughout Europe and to the Middle East. As I relive some of this travel, I realize that the journey to so many of these places are the memories that are beginning to come to the forefront. It is amazing what the mind remembers when you don’t think you are paying attention. So even though I may not have made a concerted effort to make note of the highlights that played out on these journeys, the highlights are there nonetheless.

Like the car ride in the back of a station wagon with my three brothers, playing games and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches through the golden wheat fields of Kansas, and the majestic Colorado Rocky Mountains, on our way to Disneyland. A train ride across the northern US to Holden Village in Washington state, cutting through the badlands of the Dakotas and the Big Sky country of Montana, coming out into the lush green hillsides of the Cascade Mountains.

The ferry-boat from the white shores of the Dover Coast of England, across the English Channel to the shores of France. And back on the Euro-train running under the English Channel, where our train was detained for 5 hours because of a train derailment on the England side of the channel, giving me time to wonder about the engineering marvel we were enveloped in. The train from Geneva to Bern, covering some of the pristine Swiss countryside and showcasing the unique changes in architecture from the French to the German sectors of the country.

Going through one of many European train stations, with the landscape often dotted with a beautiful cathedral.

Going through one of many European train stations, with the landscape often dotted with a beautiful cathedral.

The drive from the Dead Sea to Petra to Wadi Rum and back to Amman, Jordan, through the rugged landscape, mostly desolate of people and plant material was surreal to realize people have lived in these regions for centuries and in many places the lifestyle has not changed dramatically in all those centuries. The Bedouin Tribes still live off the land, even though living a desert existence has gotten no easier over the centuries. People still use camels to transport themselves and their goods. And the call to prayer is as much of a daily ritual as it was centuries ago.

The rugged landscape of Jordan along one side of the road that has the Dead Sea flanking the other side of the road. What history in that one square mile of land.

The rugged landscape of Jordan along one side of the road that has the Dead Sea flanking the other side of the road. What history in that one square mile of land.

The engineering marvels that make it possible to reach all of these amazing destinations in a much safer and more direct fashion often go by with not much more than a “that was cool” notice. Like the mile long Eisenhower Tunnel in cut through the Rocky Mountain pass in Loveland, Colorado. Or the “Going to the Sun “road in Glacier National Park, a two lane road winding up to the pinnacle of the park, dotted with billy goats along the route. Or the four underwater tunnels running under the Hudson and East Rivers to get you in and out of New York City.

In recent years, when going to Europe, I have made a concerted effort to pick a fly in and fly out destination, but to take the train to all points in between. What a great way to see some amazing countryside versus just the major highlighted cities dotted throughout the region. The writer in me wonders what are the stories behind all these people and places we fly by on the way to our destination. I plan to make more time to find out!

So next time you travel, take a little extra time to enjoy the journey! You will be rewarded with an extra special highlight reel to add to your destination portfolio.

Learning to love poetry

I was one of the students who struggled through the poetry section of high school English classes. Finding the hidden meaning in a line-up of words that seemed to have no more connection to each other than oil and water, just wasn’t clicking for me. Not until I came across the poetry of a young writer, Allison Malecha.

Yes, Allison is my daughter, and yes by the laws of unconditional parenthood I am obligated to read her writings AND to LOVE them – all! The amazing part is I do, love them all – but not because she is my daughter, but because the writings resonate with me. Now I get how one is supposed to feel after reading poetry – moved by the element of combining simple every day words into a compilation of moods, emotions, adventures, scenery.

Allison is first on my list of ‘Favorite Writers’ to showcase another genre’ of writing and that is different from my style of writing. But yet shows another way of transporting a reader through words. Allison takes you on journey after journey to travel through time, through fairy tale lands and through some of the most beautiful scenic settings.

A recent graduate of Columbia University with a BA in Comparative Literature, Allison now works at a publishing house in NYC. She has had multiple poems published in her young career, with her first poem published at the age of 9. I have attached several of her poems and links to other poems. I hope you will enjoy them as I have.