I call myself a writer, but I haven’t written – really written – in two months. Since my last real musing, I traveled to three regions of Haiti, frequented my second Carnival celebration, had a random reunion with a travel friend in the middle of a street parade, hosted my best friend and travel gal for a week in New York City, and traveled across the world to Thailand for production. I should have many a post on my site by now regarding all the previously mentioned events and experiences. Instead, I am a chicken sans head with too many things to say and not enough time to process them.
And you know what else is sad? I wrote the previous paragraph in the middle of March. I call this type of article a ‘Frankenstein’.
I’ve read others discussing this interesting phenomenon – the travel writer’s Catch 22 – and I know I’ve dealt with it using various methods in the past. Even though I’ve been based out of home between these escapades, there is still the delicate balance between experience and reflection, one that I usually miss due to overindulgence of one.
Sadly, my mind is a sieve. Without documentation and over-processing of real-life experiences, I tend to forget or reconstruct my life. Therefore, the neglect of noting certain meaningful experiences seems dangerous and irresponsible for someone mortal wanting simply to thrive on memories in the end.
Why Write About Travel?
It began as a way to inform my family I was still alive. Once they gained this comfort, the detailed accounts were meant to illuminate a black hole on the world map of one’s understanding. Soon after, it became a job and then a way of life through which I felt fulfillment. While documentary photo and video work easily allow for simultaneous experience, I write the way the Social Network dudes code: plugged in with total concentration and all-consuming fervor. After the arc of adrenaline subsides in a travel day, it’s all I can do to charge up the batteries and coordinate logistics for the next day. Writing in the moment hasn’t been a real possibility since my 7-month discovery tour.
Upon returning home, the act of processing begins involuntarily through dreams – brutally honest reactions that make for sturdy foundations later. Of course, errands to the laundromat, outings with friends, job applications, and other life logistics eventually take precedence over mental fermentation and readiness. And so, what’s left from a life-changing “away game” is a brain of floating and incomplete thoughts like a bowl of Alpha-bits.
In January, my friend Jazmine departed on a two month journey throughout Southeast Asia. Aside from recommending the occasional splurge during her budget initiative, my one adamant piece of advice was to write. Especially on a whirlwind adventure, sometimes it’s only in the observation of a blinking cursor on a word document that we realize the confusion of our interior. And alternately, scribbled sentences on mounting scraps of paper are the necessary mastication of the experiential piece of gum. In my opinion, there’s no better way for anyone to savor that flavor, and this isn’t just for those who consider themselves capable crafters of written word.
The Bottleneck Effect
I’m passionate about writing relevant and satirical travel narratives, and these such stories are exactly what have been lacking in my recent blogging pursuits. Instead, when people inevitably ask about Haiti or Thailand, I have to use words like “amazing” or “incredible,” as though that really demystifies the destination for them. Writers should have distinct voices, based on objective truths, unique observation, and subjective viewpoints on humanity. To call Haiti an incredible experience is like saying Mariah Carey is a good singer. Thailand is a beautiful country with kind people. Earth is a planet with land and water. That’s all hot air. I’m looking to add insight to the sea of declarative sentences born and syndicated every day.
The goal: document experiences uniquely and dynamically
The reality: confusion, sloppy schedules, and a mere 24 hours taunting me in the day
The problem: time brings new experiences whether or not I’m ready
The solution: force thoughts to make a single file line outward, all with purpose
Imagine the wiggly line as my pool of thoughts, the fish-eyed text as concepts to ponder, and the bottleneck as my avenues of expression restricted by time, ability, and external factors. This isn’t adult swim when the kids are back at school; this is noon at the public watering hole on July 4th. These thoughts aren’t conscientious swimmers. They all need to get out of the pool safely or else they start pruning and eventually peeing in this uncertain limbo.
The Token Freudian Analysis
I hope by now the irony of this post has hit you. Am I not still treading water with this time and energy to vocalize the fact that I haven’t vocalized my thoughts in a while? Why share this when I could obviously be sharing what I aim to produce? And why has this venue of blogging to the world wide web become so darn important to the sanity of man?
Even though life is a constant linear chain of experiences, the mind doesn’t necessarily process them as such. And even though traveling seems like an itinerary of visits, challenges, and conversations, the entire concept of ‘travel’ is far more existential an arena of thought than it is a modification of geography. If I don’t dedicate time and energy to sorting through what transpires in my life – big or small – I run the risk of disconnecting unconscious interpretations of superego standards from conscious actions of the ego. Translate the previous sentence with a couple of Freud’s favorites:
Ego: the part of the personality which maintains a balance between our impulses (id) and our conscience (superego)
Unconscious: the area of the psyche where unknown wishes and needs are kept that play a significant role in our conscious behavior
Subconscious: that which exists in the mind but not immediately available to consciousness*
It’s like stepping over the question repeatedly, multiple times a day, every day, “What is this life I lead?” Are we – dare I say – robots that power forward with the sequence or humans that react to the varied stimuli we encounter daily, especially on the road. I say leave your robot on the dance floor. Experiences are had to be felt and purposefully utilized to make a person better.
The Selfish Act of Not Sharing
The liquid inside a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino doesn’t motivate or fulfill a person’s palate. Once it passes through the aerator and clashes with fresh oxygen, that sweet nectar becomes something of value. A book in Hungarian means nothing to me until it is translated into something Latin-based I can recognize. Unless an experience runs through the necessary steps to become useable to a person, it is a waste, a missed opportunity, a neglected tool for burrowing efficiently and successfully through time. It is only in this translation through the sieve of human standards and emotion that an understanding can pass through the nonconscience to the subconscience to reach the active, living conscience.
In non-Freudian terms, going somewhere or doing something means nothing if you don’t understand how it affected you.
So when I say I haven’t really written in months, it means I haven’t actively processed that which has the great capacity to improve my being, including:
• traveling through Haiti’s Port-au-Prince, the Central Plateau, and cultural Jacmel.
• meeting President-elect Michel Martelly (candidate at the time).
• attending my second Carnival celebration in a country pent up after a year of recovery.
• randomly running into a woman that saved me years before around the world.
• hosting my best travel comrade, Alexis Reller, in New York City.
• spending three weeks in Thailand on production for another travel series.
• reliving my first third-world solo trip in Vietnam.
• finding peace and creativity in Luang Prabang, Laos.
…all experiences that drip with the tantalizing prospect of organic value, not just for me but through the informative and experiential butterfly effect. It’s why we read books and talk to our friends. Sharing stories, especially via such a mobile force like the web, makes for an even greater learning experience across international and industry borders. And if we don’t analyze why this process isn’t happening, it threatens to repeat until we come to.
Action Plan for the Neglected
Thus ends my soliloquy of why I’m thinking too much of how I can’t think enough. And of course, one cannot ramble without a conclusive caboose. I plan to revive the elicited emotions from said unprocessed experiences and craft some posts that remain relevant to what’s going on today. For instance, May 14th marks the presidential inauguration of Haiti’s Michel Martelly, the wake of which provides a perfect moment for reflection of our meeting. Expect ‘Lost’-esque flashbacks to experiences in Thailand that dictate my present endeavors. And as always, it’s not my intention to provide a static, one-time commentary but instead evoke an elongated discussion through comments beneath. I hope you’re on board with that.
Surely there are others that have too much to recall or process and are grappling with this feeling of neglect. What have you neglected to process, and in your opinion, is there only a small window of opportunity for intake?
*Definitions provided by AllPsych Online and Merriam-Webster.