Fiona Weston, an Iowa horsewoman in trousers, sails to India in 1906 to discover her journey is not the quest for which she had yearned, nor the escape from those who ridicule her unconventional ways.
Her uncle offers Fiona and her brother a chance for adventure, to sell the quarter horses to the British Indian army to breed with their Manipuri for polo. The San Francisco earthquake takes the life of her brother. Jacob, the shipping agent, hired to handle the horses, sale and quarantine, works alongside Fiona. Confined below deck to her quarters by the captain, the adventure of sailing evades her, but an attraction with Jacob smolders.
In India everything she encounters rubs against previous experiences. Her host and mentor, Ameera, introduces her to religions, castes, British Imperialism, and the ways of men and women. Fiona will choose between two men: the engaging shipping agent, and an intellectually intriguing missionary who needs a wife. More importantly, she will choose herself above all others.
In Song of Herself, Fiona experiences a journey fraught with obstacles that creates a sturdy sense of self in which she learns to accept irreconcilable differences and still sing her song of self.
ENDINGS. Philip Lopate in To Show and To Tell talks about a typology of endings. Here are the kinds that he mentions. This is a summarized list and paraphrased in some cases by me. My travel writing group that meets every two weeks, discussed this list in our last Zoom time together. We are eager to use this list and see where it takes us in add the power and punch of a satisfying ending. Join us in discussing these through this blog post.
Step #1: Identify the type of ending you have used in one of your last stories.
An image (metaphorical or real)
A pithy saying in a clever or humorous way
A line of dialogue
A joke (use this one with care)
An ellipsis (…)
A return of a refrain or a different spin on the phrase
A new insight
A sigh, a shrug, a sudden mood change
A platitude, ONLY IF it is humorous or non-preachy
A summary in the form of a series of semicolons
Restating conflicting elements (ideas, images, thoughts, etc.) and how to live with them
Step 2: Develop multiple endings to your next story by trying several of these types of endings.
Step 3: Choose three of your favorite endings you have written. Think through those and select the most impactful for your story.
Step 4: Add to these types of endings overtime from your own experience and from your reading of others work.
Which ones have you used? Which ones would you like to use in the future? Which ones have you added to this list? I’m curious to learn what you think about the types of endings to our stories.
At the end of a travel day, journal about the events, people, and places you encountered.
In “Launch Your Travels” blog, the independent traveler Jen made several suggestions that a woman traveling alone can do in the evenings. It is rich with ideas for not only her niche audience, but for other travelers as well.
I had one thing to add to her suggestions, I’d like to share it with you here. If you do nothing else but this at the end of each day, you will have succeeded as being a thoughtful, purposeful, intentional traveler.
Journal about your travels. During dinner alone jot some notes while waiting for your meal to arrive. Make more full bodied reports of your travels that day after returning to your lodging. Here are some ideas to consider writing about.
Record a conversation you had with a child, stranger or tour guide.
Describe a place, person you met, or an experience you had, using all your senses.
Write your reactions (emotions, thoughts, challenged beliefs) to what you encountered during this day.
Reflect on a theme you set for your journey (i.e., as big as history or architecture, as small as slang or t-shirt sayings).
Report your progress on an intention you set for yourself before traveling (such as do something each day you’ve never done before or practice your second language with locals).
How do you define adventure, escapade, exploration, quest, or venture?
An adventure can be the outdoor, physically demanding kind. Like climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, mountain biking, or canoeing the North Woods. But not all of us are that physically fit or daring. Many of us travel for other kinds of adventures. One of mine is to learn to pay attention to what I experience.
How do you define travel adventure for yourself?
Chiapas from the back of a van
One year, at the invitation of two other women, I went along from Isla Mujeres to practice paying attention while seeing another part of Mexico, the southernmost state of Mexico, Chiapas. Once there we decided to take a tour to three different scenic and historical sites in a single day. What we did not calculate was the amount of time we would be in the van.
We left at 4:30 a.m., got home at midnight, spent 3 hours at three sites total, hurried through meals to ensure a potty stop, and bounced on the back axle of the van the rest of the trip.
My biggest surprise was not the beauty, or the history learned at the three sites, but what I gleaned from the back window of the bus about the way people lived in Chiapas.
Each household had cleared a spot in the tropical forest and built a house on an earthen plot with no vegetation. The houses, painted or not, sat enclosed by jungle. Most yards accommodated a large, non-specific breed of dog, some on a chain, others not. Yet they all barked at whatever passed by and barked with the children who played in the dusty yards. Even at a distance I could see happy kids in tattered clothing. Occasional goats, chickens, or other farm animals roamed free, well-fed and housed in an open shed or simply in the yard.
Because the houses were built close to the road and there was nowhere else to play, homeowners had laid massive nautical ropes in front of their homes. Much higher than most speed bumps and without the merging incline and leaving decline on each side, they made for a torturous journey. Therefore, our ride took the rhythm of down-shift, slow down, (first axle) up and over, then (back axle) up and over again, shift, and speed away. Parents and extended family settled on protecting their children’s safety over the convenience of tourists or even other locals.
As we returned in the fading sunlight, a single light bulb lit the interior of homes. We could tell because they left the doors and windows open for air—their native air conditioning. Inhabitants circled a table under that light bulb for dinner, reading and/or homework, sewing, or other life requirements.
I could see bare necessities were all they had, but they looked cheerful and well-fed to me. They seemed determined to make a life with little at hand.
Americans often feel denied if we don’t have the right brand of clothing, the best margarita on vacation, or a bonus at the end of the year. Often we find it tough to be happy with blessed lives.
From the back of the bus, I could see their poverty, joy, and ability to make the most of what they had.
Is your adventure to try using your rusty French or German, or your newly acquired Japanese; eat different foods than you normally would; or simply to write about your experiences in your journal to turn them into stories later? Any of these and many more can lead you to discoveries you would not have imagined before.
How do you define adventure for yourself? Please send an answer to that question so others can consider it, too.