Why I write
I BECAME A WRITER THE FIRST TIME I BOARDED AN AIRPLANE.
I was ten-years-old and had jetted off with my grandfather to visit my cousins more than a thousand miles away. By the end of the trip I was spellbound at how captivatingly different New Orleans was from my hometown in upstate New York. Rainstorms left warm shallow pools in the streets deep enough to wade in. The dead were buried in marble boxes above the ground. Lizards, not squirrels, slinked across my cousins’ backyard, and words sounded slow and slurred together, like “y’all.”
When my aunt called out one evening asking if we wanted “po-boys,” I turned to my cousin Donna and said, “Is your mom asking if we want to have dinner with some poor boys?” She fell back on her bed giggling. “It’s a big sandwich! Y’all call it a submarine I think.”
That trip changed the way I saw the world. I was hooked—hooked on how travel wakes up your senses and ignites that heady rush that comes from discovering something new. I scribbled my epiphanies in a little red notebook, along with: “sneakers=tennis shoes, even if you don’t play.”
Several more trips and a college degree in marketing and psychology later, I was working on travel’s business side for Sonesta International Hotels in Boston, followed by a stint at Royal Caribbean. All the while I kept writing, and I discovered that bringing people and places to life on a page was as enticing as travel itself.
I moved to the Washington D.C. area in 2000 and immersed myself in writing workshops. I’ve been a contributor for national magazines and newspapers ever since, my love for two industries spurred on at a conference where I heard Arthur Frommer wax philosophic on seven important lessons that travel teaches us—7: “Travel teaches humility. You become a quieter American as a result of travel…and, in my opinion, perhaps a more thoughtful one.”
I witnessed that mantra made manifest when I ran a 5k with barefoot Barbadians on a Cruise to Run, met fellow mothers while distributing shoes in remote Peruvian villages on a Soles 4 Souls trip, and most especially in Italy and Spain with my sons. They noticed similarities as much as differences, and I saw how much travel can teach when my ten-year-old son stood amid Roman ruins and remarked: “Wow, America is really young.”
In recent years, I’ve written about internal journeys as well and discovered how much writing is its own form of navigation, one that offers the same things I’ve always loved about travel, which Pico Iyer captures beautifully in his essay Why We Travel:
“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate . . . And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again-to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.”
I think those words hold true whether we travel through stories or out into the world. When not writing or traveling, I enjoy running, trying new sports with my sons, and dancing. The latter is part of a crazy wish. If Dancing with the Stars ever launches a “Dancing with the Unknown Writers” season, I’ll be prepared.