Writing Honestly from the Road

April 9, 2012

It’s difficult to wear so many hats on the road (or on the open seas, as the case may be). This outpost of stories on the internet, this collection from two best friends off to see the world, feels wildly schizophrenic at times.

We’re foodies. We’re fans of great design. I love taking pictures. Ted loves drinking coffee. We play the tourist part, signing up for guided treks, sailing the seas on a cruise ship, and snapping cliched shots at guidebook hotspots.

Beyond that, though, we’re thoughtful, introspective people with a heart for people living below the radar. Our experience of deeper truth leaves us hungry for reality.

Ted and I talk often about what we’re observing, and how our observations impact what we think about life in this world, for us and for others, both in far flung countries and in Portland, Oregon.

At the conclusion of those experiences and conversations, I’m left writing…processing thoughts for my own satisfaction and sanity, and also writing in effort to ponder out loud so others may share in the discoveries and wrestlings, both.

But in truth, writing about what we see and hear is a joy and a burden all at once.

Some days, this travelogue is a home to first hand reports of struggles around the world: socio-economic, ecological, etc., etc.

Some days, of course, life on the road is rosy! Deep, beautiful shades of red. And we share stories of eating cake and shopping for clothes and visiting parks and spending luxurious time with each other and with new friends…

Other days, though, the world presents troubles, and this tired mind doesn’t feel like wrestling. I freeze up and don’t know what to share or how to write honestly.

It would be easier to gloss over the full range of facts and relish the sweet memories alone. It would be easier to paint only the rosy pictures.

I could.

It would be fun to slap up the glamor shots of travel and convince you all that every day is peachy and the world is our oyster. But traveling with open eyes means the compassion that rises up in our hearts cries for authentic acknowledgment.

I want to share it all with you. I don’t want to skip the truth.

But I don’t want to spend needless hours obsessing over writing blog posts when life is ready to be lived alongside Ted, my faithful traveling companion, who is often patiently waiting for my attention to lift from the computer screen toward him and the day’s adventures.

I don’t want to look back on this year and wonder why I bothered writing if I missed out on living.

I don’t want to censor out the cheery in a misguided effort to be sombre.

I don’t want to skip the uncomfortable if it holds the key to growth.

My feet feel held to the fire.

And so, I ramble on, and I write some times and pause at others.

I share the personal stories and the helpful traveler-tid-bits, too.

I try to be real, and I try, too, to be unapologetic. (And then I write posts like these to half-apologize.)

Sometimes I shoot from the hip. Sometimes I pour over words. Sometimes I wrestle and pray and wonder how to carry and then share the lessons we are just beginning to learn from this grand year’s experiment.

Sometimes I have a whole slew of pretty pictures and I just want to plaster them all over the screen to share my childlike joy – forget the text!

Sometimes, I want to write a post that simply says: Dad and Mom, Noah, Joel, Drew, Seth, Jesse, Dave and Barb, Josiah and Gabby and Carson, James (and Jessica!), Seth, Micah, Kaila, Grandmas and Grandpas, Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins – we love you all and miss you more than you know. A family dinner around a full table never sounded better! I want to say that Steak in Buenos Aires doesn’t really hold a candle to Dad’s skills at the grill. I want to say that crossing this ocean on a ship makes me think of Papou (my great-grandpa) and his voyage to America across the Atlantic at age 19; it makes me think of my own 19 year old brother (love you, Seth!) and how much I’m proud of him and sad to miss his upcoming graduation; it makes me think, as I sit alongside white-haired cruisers, of my grandpa no longer living on this earth and the way that he would be the great storytelling life of the party during these on-board afternoon teas…

I want to write a post that says Darian and Bekah, Sara and Ryan, Jenna and Evan, Heather and Micah, Emily and Paul, Kat and Caleb, Alan and Billie Jo, Brian and Miranda, the Albina Literary Society, Stepping Stone Apartments, the whole Bensola gang and family at Clear Creek, Clark and Cathy, Alyssa and Bryan, Heather and Mike, Rosalie and John, Spencer and Ursula, Jay and Holly, Gavin and Jim, Sam and Amber, Katryn, Tom, Jane, Lucy (and so, so many more — please don’t feel slighted in the least if I missed including you on the list during this midnight typing session) we miss you so and your names are always on our lips as we break bread and long for time with people who know and love us well. We are always remarking to each other about which of you would most like x, y, or z in our daily adventures, whether gardens or thought-provoking books, delicious meals or terrible jokes, cheap bottles of wine (you know who you are!), or all-out Tourist vs. Wild challenges.

And so, I sit here, on a cruise ship couch, balancing my laptop on my knees and trying to balance my words. Watching the battery charge drain lower and wondering whether or not these sentences make sense.

I think about the un-posted stories buzzing in my mind, inspirations and memories scratched out in random jots on the pages of my notebook. I wonder if I’ll have time to tell you about the slums in Rio and the World Cup/Olympic re-development efforts that pique the curiosity of this young landscape architect. I wonder if it makes sense to write a single word more about cafes in Buenos Aires when we’re already a hundred cups of coffee into following weeks.

I chide myself for writing posts out of order – gasp! Posting from Spain when I’m not done writing about Brazil or Morocco or the islands in between.

I bring this post to a close with my own reminder to myself: Oh, little obsessive-compulsive mind. Put your fears to rest. Write and share in freedom. This is your life. These are your words. It was never asked of you to be perfect. It was asked of you to be real. And those who appreciate honesty from the road will be happy to read along…

This post, written on a ship, published from land, comes at a crossroads on our travels. We’ve jumped continents. We’ve left the boat, and we’re spending time with friends Mike and Tracy who have traveled from Oregon to spend the next two weeks exploring the coast of Spain with us. We have more stories than can possibly fit here; keep an eye out for the highlights as they are published, stay in touch on Twitter and Facebook and send us a hello, and click over to our Daily Travel Journal for nutshell versions that are posted as wifi-access allows.

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  • Reply Andi of My Beautiful Adventures April 9, 2012 at 5:54 am

    Best blog best ever! Much love for your honesty and words that I could have truly written myself!!! Bravo!

  • Reply Kent April 9, 2012 at 7:09 am

    So many things you write here resonate.

    We always feel as though the way we write from the road doesn’t fit the travel blogging mold. At times, it feels… clunky, out of order, too serious, too pointless. It all depends on how we (the writers) are feeling on a particular day. We focus on our experience/feeling and not so much on what we think readers want to read.

    Most would say that’s a bad approach. We’ve come to terms with it and have actually learned to love it (most of the time!).

  • Reply Kim April 9, 2012 at 7:10 am

    I was going to say the same thing you said to yourself at the end. Just tell the truth, which is your truth, and forget all the rest. There is no one way to do this thing- no right or wrong. It matters that you are sharing your stories with us!

  • Reply Judy Loucks April 9, 2012 at 7:26 am

    I think most of us know it is not always a bed of roses, even when living out the dream doing what you and Ted have opted to do. I love your words and I love the realism. Don’t change anything. In fact, being real brings me back to earth. And write for the right reasons.

  • Reply heidi April 9, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    so beautiful, Bethany. I remember feeling much of these same feelings during my year living in Germany. Keep being honest, and write what’s on your heart to share no matter what the order is!

  • Reply Geri Monroe April 9, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Wow – Ted & Bethany, I am truly enjoying this trek around the world with you! What an adventure! What great photos! What a great blog! I so appreciate your “honesty from the road”! Bethany, you are a fantastic writer. Enjoying your time and getting it recorded (so important because you will otherwise forget so much) is certainly a balancing act. Keep up the great work and have FUN!!

  • Reply Stephanie - The Travel Chica April 12, 2012 at 7:13 am

    You have really captured the struggle to balance life and blogging. I had to check myself several months ago when I was spending too much time on the blog and social media and not enough time just living… what this whole travel sabbatical is supposed to be about!

    Wonderful writing.

  • Reply Andrea April 12, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Such a great post – I completely feel this way too. Travel can be as messy, ugly, frustrating and, frankly, frightening as it can be exhilarating and wonderful and magic. I try to write about all of it, often feel guilty after posting a rant and love reading about everyone else’s varied experiences as well. I think that’s what separates blogging from the stuff found in magazines, guides and newspapers =)

  • Reply dtravelsround April 12, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    I just came across this blog. Your writing is beautiful and this post is, too. Looking forward to becoming a reader.

  • Reply Amanda April 12, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    The main thing to remember is that “These are your words.” This is your site, your story. YOU get to choose what you write, and when!

    The good news is is that most people read blogs for the personalities – we want to read about the good, the bad, and everything in between!

  • Reply Angie Away April 13, 2012 at 12:40 am

    Lovely post! Really hits home right about now.

  • Reply Green Global Travel April 13, 2012 at 8:56 am

    Great post! Looking forward to reading more!

  • Reply Alexa Meisler April 13, 2012 at 11:10 am

    Beautiful. Writing is clearly therapeutic for you and there’s no better way to let your feelings out and sharing it with us. Keep up the great work!

  • Reply Kirsten April 14, 2012 at 12:36 am

    I’ve been told more than a few times that I write too honestly while traveling, or on my blog generally. But I find the longer I have a travel blog that honestly, is the only way I know how to write. And it’s not much for a niche, it isn’t particularly PR friendly all the time…it isn’t even safe perhaps. But it’s me. And one of the reasons I got into travel blogging was to grow and meet other people who I could learn from or grow alongside or help grow even. I have so so so enjoyed your travel blog (even if I don’t comment enough, please know every post is a great treasure) and your honesty is a big part of that.

    As to being too connected while traveling….that’s a razor thin line to walk that is never really easy. Be present when you travel or what’s the point of traveling. Sure. But be completely removed from the community of other travelers and from friends and family back home and one can begin to lose their ground. I wish I had answers for you since in some ways I have been at this full time longer. It’s simply a work in progress every day. Why do I think you’ll be fine? Because you’re wondering about the balance to begin with. You already are more grounded than most and have a sense of straight priorities.

    Cheers to many more great experiences and some in-person musing SOON in Italy!!!!! xoxo

  • Reply Susan Buck April 14, 2012 at 7:19 am

    “I laughed, I cried, it moved me.” *kiss&hug

  • Reply twoOregonians April 17, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    Thank you, all, so much. I’m really blessed by your words. Thanks for reading, and for sharing your stories, too, and for joining us on this journey. It’s such a gift to know there are caring friends on the other side of this computer screen… xx Bethany

  • Reply Tara Homola May 5, 2012 at 7:39 am

    your reminder to yourself was perfect! trust that we love to read as you write ,and that we are thrilled that you are having these adventures to write about. we miss you. thank you for the sweet little tribute to the Bensola group. we await your return….maybe. :)

  • Reply Mary @ Green Global Travel May 26, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    Great job capturing the difficult balance of life and travel writing. We have a home life, family life, romantic life, work life, and travel life- somehow those needs all have to fit together. I have to admit that some days we do it better than others. Beautiful read.

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