During this sabbatical year in Asia, my husband, George, has inspired me to follow the road less traveled. Over the last seven weeks from Kolkata (Calcutta) to Mumbai (Bombay), we have spent nearly 130 hours on buses and trains traversing and learning about parts of the East and West coasts of India. During the 10- to 20-hour rides, my companions were travel literature by incredibly creative authors.
Several of them offered to share personal encouragement and enlightenment, from Jennifer Steil‘s account of her year in Yemen, The Woman Who Fell From the Sky, to Halle Eavelyn‘s evolution in Egypt in Red Goddess Rising, and then a major shift to family travels with Bill Richards and E. Ashley Steel’s Family on the Loose: The Art of Traveling with Kids and Nancy Satre-Vogel’s Changing Gears: A Family Odyssey to the End of the World. We hope their books will inspire you to join in our Travel Writing Contest! Do it today! Entries are due by February 14th!
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...a memoir of the most difficult, thrilling, hilarious and surprising year of my life — the year I spent as the editor of the Yemen Observer newspaper in Sana’a, Yemen. It details the challenges of revolutionizing a newspaper in a wildly different culture, as well as the blossoming of my reporters. It is also the story of my own personal growth, and of the unexpected friendships — and a lifelong love — that flowered in the desert.
This book makes me want to travel in Yemen. The New York Times called it “a completely winning account of [Steil’s] adventures as a feminist mentor and boss… A riveting tale of a life’s journey that reads as if it will need a sequel.”
Steil writes about inspiration:
I think it would actually be harder for me not to write than to write. Writing reveals my own mind to me. But it is the people around me and the stories they tell that inspire me the most. It was the stories of my reporters in Yemen, especially the women that inspired me most when working on my first book.
One of the main reasons I travel is to gain perspective. It still astonishes me how different one’s life looks from another country. Every time I had my heart broken, I took a trip to somewhere exotic. It always, always helped. You just cannot wallow in your own self-pity when you get a good look at what goes on in the rest of the world.
Red Goddess Rising follows Halle Eavelyn’s transformation from reluctant spiritual tourist, through the staggering revelation of the truth of her soul, to her new life guiding other travelers though the mysteries of ancient spirituality. Halle’s experiences of Egypt are woven into her vignettes of spiritual realization and growth.
Eavelyn reveals that “Traveling inspires me to write for two reasons: I am able to see the world around me and draw on it for interesting characters, tales, even plots, and it takes me away from my everyday world, clearing a space in my mind that allows my creativity to come rushing in; this is an alchemical combination.
If you are thinking about writing your own travel book, or traveling to write, it’s important to carve out the time to do it. I wrote my first book five minutes at a time whenever I went to the bathroom, because that was all the time I felt I could spare! Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, make the time to write.”
Bill Richards and E. Ashley Steel, Family on the Loose: The Art of Traveling with Kids, talk about the partnership required as parents and travelers to share the wonders of the world with their children. The book’s jacket describes it as follows:
Wondering how to turn a journey with your kids into an enriching and rewarding adventure? This book is about how to travel anywhere successfully with kids: from planning and drumming up excitement to teaching kids to pack themselves, from enjoying a museum visit to journaling for fun, and finally, from making memories stick to finding opportunities for cultural exploration close to home.
Their favorite travel quotation is by Robert Louis Stevenson: “To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.” Steel told me that “Traveling hopefully” is inscribed in her wedding ring! People wonder how George and I can travel together 24/7 for so many months. Richards and Steel motivate me with their choices to voyage on long trips with multiple children and the way they create meaning for each member of their clan.
Nancy Satre-Vogel, author of Changing Gears: A Family Odyssey to the End of the World, asks all of us, “What would you do if you were not afraid?” Changing Gears is the true story of one woman asking herself that very question. What followed was a family journey of epic proportions — a journey of physical challenge, emotional endurance, teamwork, perseverance and tremendous learning opportunities. Would the journey be a dream come true — or a mother’s worst nightmare? Satre-Vogel’s insight from her experiences? “You might fail — in fact you might have a very good chance at failing — but you might not. If you don’t try, you are looking at a 100% chance of failure.”
Reading remarkable travel literature provokes me to contemplate my sabbatical year in Asia. I wonder what will happen next? Where will we go? Who will we meet? What will we learn? I am honored to share the skillful tales and vision from these vagabonds. Look for more inspiration in part 2!
A version of this article first appeared in the Huffington Post.
About the Author: During her sabbatical year in Asia, Lisa Niver Rajna, Huffington Post Blogger, was published in National Geographic and the Myanmar Times. She was recently on National Televison as a science teacher and is a nominee for the National Science Foundation 2012 Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching. Follow her trip at www.wesaidgotravel.com.