I’m writing a book.
There, I admitted it.
In fact, I’d go further than that; I’ve almost written a book.
People have written about their travels for thousands of years and perhaps more people are now than ever have before. After all, not only is it easier to travel now but it’s also easier to write and be read (although I am by no means implying an improvement of quality).
Writing to understand, to remember, to untangle
I would never say I’m not writing to be read. Any author who says that is either lying or a diarist. But the need to write about what I spent the last three years doing is far more to me than just wanting you, the reader, to see what happened. To see what I saw.
There is a depth to experiences that cannot be fathomed in the moment. The moment is a rich and jumbled orgy of smells, colours, sights, touches and sounds. It’s often overwhelming and to unravel it then and there would be catastrophic for the moment, that second, that experience.
But it does need unravelling, for me at least. All the information is there, imprinted in my memory and in cases of coral, sometimes even etched on my skin.
I can see now, how experiences I never imagined I would have, have changed the way I think and act and live. I feel the need to trace it from start to finish, to explore how the limitations of my expectations were proved wrong again and again.
To somehow explain how the person I think of as me, did all the things I thought I couldn’t do.
The bias of retrospect
In all memoir and travel writing exists the bias of retrospect. The only way you could escape it is through video but how could you possibly be somewhere if you’re always thinking about the camera?
It’s the bias of retrospect that truly makes travel writing readable though. It’s taking a flurry of objects and putting creating a mosaic from them that will pull others out of their worries and allow them to stop for a moment. It’s a page of random notes arranged to be played by an orchestra.
Most of all though, the bias of retrospect is a savaging of the soul. It’s a sharp claw raking over and over until the writer exposes a truth of her character, the reality of her experiences and the connection between the two.
From the ocean to the page
I wrote extensively through the years I was sailing and often it was the only way I could really express how I was feeling. The ocean is a big place and it has the capability to be harmonious one moment and terrifying the next.
As I near the end of this book, I’m clawing my way deeper and deeper into the reflection of that voyage, each truth making the subsequent truths easier to write.
Honestly though? Writing this book is harder than sailing for 28 days straight with only 3 hours of sleep at a time.
But I’m almost there. I can smell the forests and the birds have reappeared. I’m preparing for landfall.