There are times in life when we all just need to get away, get away from the frenzy of everyday life, get away from our troubles or sorrows, or just perhaps get away so that we can go and experience something new. Whatever the reason is, sometimes, no matter how much we fight it, we all must get away from the familiar, so that we may return home with a fresh perspective
For some, this means trekking to the outer most reaches of world, traveling to a far off place or perhaps something even more exciting like jumping out of an airplane or getting a tattoo. For my part, given that I have 4 young children and neither the means nor bravery to do many of the things I just mentioned, I usually escape into my imagination. I day dream, write, or tell myself stories, or barring that, I borrow from another’s imagination and escape into the pages of a novel.
But when I really want to get away, or as it was pointed out to me not so long ago, need to get away, I usually end up going to the book store or perhaps a museum. These are kind of my go-to activities. However, what I really enjoy most is when I go to a place with a really great story. Something that makes the place come alive or makes in unique. For me, a great story can make even the most banal of places endlessly fascinating or exciting. Stories of love, of life, of the common everyday experiences that both define us and bind us together. Stories that make the past come to life, or the fictional seem earnest. Stories that you connect with and take home with you, or even stories that come to be simply because you happened to have take the time to travel and make them so.
I really enjoyed, as a young woman, finally seeing where my mum went to school, where my parents met, and the church my parents were married in. To do so I had to travel half way across the world, which was awesome by the way, but to go and see and smell this piece of my personal story was somehow even more so. Likewise, when I think of New Orleans, Louisiana, I think of the beautiful buildings, the great food, and the truly amazing people that live there, but it is the stories that make it magical: The legend of Marie Laveau, the heartbreak of the yellow fever epidemic, and the strange man with the saxophone that we met only moments before my (now) husband proposed to me and how his strange little tale finally gave my husband the words he had been searching for to make his proposal.
Personal experience and history aside there in the “Big Easy”, I discovered a new way to experience stories, something I had never done, or even really thought of before; I was able to go and see places that I had only ever read about in a novel. I was able to go and see the graveyards, houses, alley ways, and churches that Anne Rice had mentioned in her novels, and the real life experience made the books come to life. It made the stories seem almost real for a moment, and for a person who doesn’t just like to read a book, but rather prefers to curl up and take residence within them, this was as close to magical as I can possibly imagine! However, to say that I realized this in so many words at the time would be a wild over-statement. Sometimes, like a fine wine, ideas need to ferment before they are ready.
Over the years I have traveled to see many places written about in stories and books, yes even Forks (even though the author had not visited said location before writing the books), and as a result I discovered one of the most amazing beaches to which I have ever seen (First Beach, on the Quilleuet reservation). Likewise, we discovered the single best museum dedicated to Northwest Native Culture I have ever seen not far from there on the Makah reservation.
Unfortunately, more often than not finances and geography make physically trekking to a book’s locations impossible. In these cases I tend to scower the internet for images, maps, or videos that help bring that story to life, none more than Deborah Harkness’s amazing All Souls Trilogy. These novels kept me busily entertained for hours both with the story, and then later with the visual scavenger hunt all over the globe as well as throughout hundreds of years of history. One day, I hope to trek to all of the places mentioned in those pages, but until then I shall have to suffice with the images I have collected and the experiences I have as yet only imagined.
It was around the time I started re-reading one of these novels for the perhaps the third or even fourth time that I began to actively wish that there were a site one could visit when a real life brick and mortar experience were not possible….and not just for this book, for other books as well. A light bulb moment? Perhaps. But unfortunately light bulbs only work if you turn them on, and this was not that moment; not yet.
Months later, as the youngest of my brood of four children prepared to start kindergarten, people began asking me what I was going to do with all of the “free-time” I would suddenly have on my hands. I would laugh, and tell them that I was going to catch up on 12 years of house work and deflect the question away from the truth, which was that I planned to write, and write, and write, and read. I was finally going to take the risk of not just scribbling in my journal, or making up silly stories to keep the children entertained. Instead, I was going to try my hand at actually writing something other people might actually see. Perhaps I would try my hand at some free-lance writing, starting a blog. Or, perhaps, just perhaps, I might just get up the gumption to finish writing and editing the novel I have been secretly writing for the last 3 years and ask someone other than my long suffering husband for critical feedback. Whatever the form it took, the key was that I was going to make time to do the thing I had always wanted to do, but had always shied away from out of fear. I was going to write.
It was at this moment that all of these un-illuminated light bulb moments, that the idea for this Web site was finally fully realized. A Web site dedicated to these very book treks that I had enjoyed so much. I immediately decided, there and then, that the first book that I would trek, would be a Study in Scarlet, By Sir Arthur Conan Doyal. Dutiful I re-read this wonderful introduction to one of my greatest childhood heroes: Sherlock Holmes, and began mapping out all of the various locations and destinations. I even began researching photos of said locations from Doyal’s time, and drafted a letter to my uncle who lives in London, asking if he would be willing to take the photographs of the same places today.
And then the whole project got shelved.
I would like to say that it was all because of my mom’s cancer, or the drama of modern existence, but the truth is that while both of those things were definitely factors in this project having been put on ice, along with sick children, 12 years of backlogged house work, a side project for a friend making a choose your own adventure type app/story called Player One: Adventure, not to mention continuing to slog though the editing process of a first novel, mostly I stopped because I was scared and I was tired. The tired part I attribute to all of the above and then some. But the scared part I really had to own myself. I was, as many writers are, afraid that no one would like what I had to say, that it would not be good enough to publish and therefore not worth putting out there into the world. But then, in a brief moment of what I think can be called clarity, I realized something… SO WHAT!? And while I would like to tell you that that was it, and I was off to the races, it was still not quite enough.
It really wasn’t until my husband handed me a guilt sandwich with a side of irony thrown in unknowingly by one of his sisters, that I finally committed myself to doing so. And what was it you ask that could possibly pull this reticent turtle from the depths of her protective shell of non-doing?
- The guilt: My husband cunningly (and carefully) asked me how we could expect the children to be brave enough to take risks and follow their dreams if I wasn’t willing to follow my own advice, or my own dreams. Ouch!
- The side of irony: A well meaning, and even more well timed email containing only a link to Leo Babauta’s article: How to Overcome the Fear of Sharing Your Writing in Public.
So here I sit, typing this out, still worried that it is going to fall short of what I would like it to be, but pleased to finally say that at least I tried, and that hopefully, in time, I will improve and this will eventually become what I hoped it could be. Perhaps, in time, I will even be brave enough to show it to someone else. But for now, sending it into the anonymous void of the Internet will suffice.