Tell a story to a friends and each will hear something different. Eight people listening to one person’s story about an unrequited romance may hear nobility, stupidity, innocence, bad timing, glaring blind spots, social commentary, humor, or hope. And, that’s from a crowd that knows the story teller. I told a story about Scotland, and as an author I know I tell it to people who’ve never met me, aren’t aware of my other books, and who live lives with completely different perspectives. The range of stories expands and amazes. With five other books out in the world, I’ve had a lot of practice storing my expectations to better listen to what they read. The e-book has been selling for six months. The paperback has been available for three months. I’m hearing lots of stories.
I walked Scotland for one main reason. I needed a vacation. I purposely wrote Walking Thinking Drinking Across Scotland with two themes: innovative travel and personal transformation. Every story can be layered into an overwhelming epic, but I’ll leave such ventures to Homer and Virgil. How did they do that without a word processor? The two themes became two genres: Travel and Personal Transformation. I’m not surprised that most readers are buying it because of the Travel hook. Amazon tells me so. The reviews, however, are revealing that readers are reading the transformation thread. People are buying the book about drinking in Scotland, and talking about the thinking I did there. They came for the Guinness. They talk about the joy.
It is gratifying to see both themes recognized. Such a dualism is what I had in mind.
But, the unexpected is equally entertaining.
My style of travel is based on my independence. The less I have to carry, the simpler the means of transportation, the easier it is for me to relax. In some ways, I consider it more of an accomplishment to fly eight hours, arrive jet lagged, rent a car with the controls on the wrong side, and then drive out of the airport and into traffic. A shiver just ran across my shoulders. People talk about traveling to Paris and scurrying around here and there. My ideal Paris trip would be to find a nice cafe that would let me sip and nibble and write and read for days while watching the people. I wouldn’t see most of the sites.
Traveling without a guidebook is an adventure for many, and they say so. For me, traveling without a guidebook is traveling without preconceived notions. I miss a lot, but I also am more likely to see what is there and real, not what someone else expects me to see that may have vanished years or decades ago.
I’m not surprised to find folks who read my story as the outsider Yank trying to understand the indigenous Scottish culture. To me, that’s one of the reasons to travel. The differences define the trip. I particularly like the fact that the “stranger in a strange land” is a theme that works for each homeland and everyone else, too.
Others have focussed on the loneliness, which I admit to some of, but that is an eventual side effect of aloneness. Aloneness is just another way of allowing introspection. The trip would have been different if my friends had been along. I would’ve laughed more. Personal transformation versus laughing until my sides hurt. That’s a choice. Sounds like an excuse for another trip. Maybe another book? I admit to an inspiration from Larry Niven’s character, Louis Wu who “is best known among his friends for inventing the “Sabbatical”—going off alone in a spaceship outside the boundaries of known space until one can tolerate human company again.” I imagine doing that, though for me, it is turned around. I leave until I remember what I like about myself, and recognize what I can change.
Artists create art based on their intuition, impulses, and passions. But, after the art is born and released into the world, it grows into something defined by everyone else. Their perspectives, the artist’s subconscious voice, and the changing culture redefine the work. And that’s the way it should be. I wrote a story about walking and thinking and drinking across Scotland. Which story did you read?