Tag Archives: travel

Feel Like Writing

I recently got back from a dream vacation to Ireland. I’ve always wanted to go. For me, Ireland represented heritage, mystery, beauty, and fantasy.

And it pretty well lived up to my expectations. It was like heaven; everywhere I looked, there was great beauty.

It was at one such stunning vista that my friend traveling with my husband and I said, “Doesn’t it just make you want to write?”

And it did–it was the kind of place that made me seriously consider never returning home. 

But her words troubled me. Sure, Ireland’s gorgeous rolling green hills and crashing ocean waves inspired a poetic heart, but you shouldn’t need that in order to want to write. You ought to want to write just because it’s Tuesday, or because you had an idea in the checkout line at the grocery store, or just because that is what you do.
I’m not as wedded to the idea of a writing schedule as some people (or perhaps as much as I ought to be), but I do feel strongly that if you just sit around and wait to be inspired you won’t accomplish much at all.

“To write” is a verb–it’s something you have to do. It can’t be just something that happens. You have to seize that time and throw yourself into it.


Leave a comment

Filed under writing

A Family In Isolation

I found this incredible article on April 1 and assumed it was an April Fool’s joke. But it’s real; the Smithsonian isn’t really known for pulling legs, and besides, the article was originally published in January.

In 1978, a team of geologists discovered a family of 5 that had been living in complete isolation more than 150 miles from any civilization for 40 years. Here’s the article. Read it, it’s fantastic.

It’s hard to imagine what that would be like. This is not “Little House on the Prairie” isolation: this is “if you can’t grow it or make it, you don’t have it” isolation. This is “our best entertainment is telling each other our dreams” isolation.

I found it very inspiring and enlightening. What does all that isolation do to a person? I think it’s fascinating the way each of the family m

embers responded to their discovery of other people. Fear, initially. Gradual acceptance. Then variations: stubborn refusal; stoic interest; awe.

The discussions of the differences in language were really interesting, too. The daughters had invented a singsong way of speaking that the geologists found difficult to understand; they didn’t really need anyone but their parents and brother to understand them anyway, so they never adopted a “grown-up” tone.

I think these kinds of amazing true stories are important to read because they can inform so much of our writing. For example, I think it would have helped Hugh Howey write his descriptions of feral children or the man alone in the silo. In short, they wouldn’t be speaking with the strangers, or maybe at all. Maybe they’d have their own languages. There’d be a lot more fear. There would be more unusual ways of coping.

The Point Cabrillo Lighthouse. Image from KelleyHouseMuseum.org

I’ve found stories of isolation compelling since I visited the Cabrillo National Monument and lighthouse in San Diego a few years ago. The museum there explained what lighthouse work was like at the time: a family lived in the lighthouse, visiting the small city of San Diego only every few weeks for supplies, a long two-day journey. They were otherwise alone, and had to rely on their ability to collect rainwater and provide their own entertainment. (Clearly they were often bored; so many things in that house were “decorated” with seashells!)

Even more interesting? The lighthouse assistant–often a woman–lived alone, in a small house nearby. While she was in training to take over the lighthouse in an emergency or possibly in the future, she did not eat or interact with the family. Her isolation was even greater than that of the lighthouse keeper, a man who could at least rely on his family to be there for him.

What inspires you?

Leave a comment

Filed under writing

The Doctor and Zaphod Beeblebrox

Apparently aliens are all about picking up chicks from Earth. Our planet must be like a Greyhound bus station for these weirdos: they just drop in, pick out a lady they fancy, and they’ve got a Companion. Hurray!

It makes for great stories, it really does, but–hell to the no.

 Why I Won’t Be Traveling Around Space/Time With an Alien I Just Met

  1. Seriously? You want to go *anywhere* with this guy?!

    Stranger Danger
    With both the Doctor and Zaphod, you have a sort of good guy who just walks up to a woman he doesn’t really know and is all like “hey, wanna see my spaceship?” Honestly, that’s the best/worst pickup line I’ve ever heard. And yet it seems to work pretty well. But that’s a terrible idea. I mean, really. It’s just a bad idea to board any UFO with someone you don’t know. Because then you end up with someone who has two heads and a split personality. We have anti-psychotic drugs for crap like that. (Despite his dapper ties and whatever, the Doctor isn’t much better; at any point he could have to regenerate and become someone with a completely different personality? Yeahhhh….I’ll pass).

  2. No Way Home
    Alright, so maybe you are a sucker for cheesy pick-up lines and you go with him. Well, then what, honey? When I first started dating, my mom taught me to always have what she called “Mad Money.” Basically, it’s enough money to a) use a payphone to call for a ride (back before folks had cell phones) or b) get a taxi home in case you get stranded somewhere. How are you gonna follow that advice when you’re traveling through space and/or time? Congratulations, you just got taken for a ride by a maniac and you’re now stuck somewhere with no way back. If you’re lucky, you could probably flag one of the Earth-crushing bulldozers for a ride, but that seems like a pretty bad situation all around.
  3. Itty Bitty Living Space

    Hope you enjoy spending ALL of your time in this weirdly-lit room.

    It’s a little hard to tell on the Tardis (with that whole bigger-on-the-inside thing), but both it and the Heart of Gold are a bit tiny. Not only are you going to be stuck with this creep because you didn’t plan far enough ahead to have your Mad Money at the ready, but you’re stuck in a pretty small place. Anybody who has been on a road trip for more than 5 hours can tell you things get cramped when you’re stuck in close quarters for a period of time. And most of the time with these guys, it’ll be just the two of you (and maybe a robot or two). It’s gonna get testy.

  4. They’re Trying to Kill You
    Look, no matter how “neat” these guys seem at first, you should probably eventually realize they don’t have “safety” on the top of their list. Everywhere you go, you’re nearly eaten, blasted to death, turned into a poppet by the improbability drive, or otherwise harmed by creatures bent solely on your destruction. How many near-death situations does it take before it stops being fun? Honey, if you’re sticking around, you’re both an adrenaline junky and a masochist.
  5. More Than One Way to Explore Exotic Locals
    The supposed appeal of these guys is the promise of seeing the galaxy and all its wonders, but if you fall for that, I’m just sorry for you. There’s so much incredible stuff to see here, on earth! Our planet is absolutely amazing, and you can get around it all by yourself. Or, if that’s too expensive or scary or whatever, turn on the TV or, better yet, grab a book. The limits are really in your imagination.

I’ll read about your adventures when you get back. (But you probably won’t make it back anyway.)


Filed under Uncategorized

Verbal Migration: UK English and its American Cousin

I had the excellent fortune a few years ago to make a friend in England (the marvels of the internet!) who, after listening to me whine about wanting to go abroad long enough, invited me over.

And wonder of wonders, he actually meant it.

Much to my mother’s chagrin, I went. Yes, I spent 12 days in a foreign country with a stranger I met online. And it was the best thing I’ve ever done.

I hadn’t been able to study abroad in college because of time (and money) restrictions, but, having spoken to a lot of people who have, I think my experience was even better, because I was able to hang out with people just going about their daily lives, giving me a very real and personal welcome to their country. (Okay, those lucky folks who can spend months abroad maybe have it better, but still!)

I kept a journal of my trip (I highly recommend it!), and one day while on the Tube to London I made a list of all the English-y words I was learning that I would never get to use at home in Texas.

This week I found this lovely Wikipedia page—List of American Words not Widely Used in the United Kingdom—and was reminded of my little list of British Words Not Widely Used in the United States. (Maybe it’ll be of some use to Doctor Who, Downton Abby, and Harry Potter fans.)

Englishisms (and my understanding of their meanings**)

  • biscuit > cookie
  • black pudding > not pudding, best not to ask; doesn’t taste bad, though
  • blimey > an exclamation, mostly of surprise
  • Bubble & squeak > dish made with leftovers, potato, cabbage, and onion (also peas and carrots); like a hash brown potato
  • cashpoint > ATM
  • chips > fries (but thicker)
  • chuffed > pleased, thrilled, excited
  • city > a populated place that has a cathedral
  • cream tea > hot tea served with scones, butter, jam and clotted cream
  • crisps > chips
  • cuppa > a cup of (hot) tea (correct use: “do-ya wanna cuppa?”)
  • curry > all Indian food
  • downs > hills, an old English deriviation
  • dual/single carriageway > highway
  • feck (Irish) > shockingly not a curse word, but used for mild frustration…used liberally
  • fings > Welsh accent for “things”
  • footpath > trail/path
  • hamlet > a small village without a church
  • half-seven (ie. time) > “half” and a number indicates it is half-PAST the following number; ex. Half-seven = 7:30 (note: they’ll also tell time in either 12-hour or 24-hour increments without any trouble at all)
  • holiday  > vacation
  • HP sauce > A-1 steak sauce, served with a full English breakfast
  • innit/indidn’t > “isn’t it,” particularly heard in the West London accent
  • knackered > tired/tuckered out
  • Lockets > a brand of lozenge, only available at a candy store (rather than at a pharmacy as in America)
  • mate > friend/pal/chum
  • mental (gone mental) > crazy
  • moor > upland hilly area with acidic soil
  • myself (Irish) > dropped frequently instead of I or me or my
  • pavement > sidewalk
  • petrol > gasoline
  • (feeling) poorly > to be sick, ill
  • posh > fancy
  • queue > line you wait in
  • quid > pound (like “buck” for dollar) whether in paper notes or coins
  • Rock > hard stick candy found in Brighton; has words inside
  • roundabout > circular road switch point in which is recommended you pray for the right exit
  • scone/scon > deliciousness in breaded form, eaten with butter, jam, and clotted cream
  • spend a penny > to go potty/use the restroom. Comes from penny-pay public bathrooms
  • Sunday roast > roasted meat (beef, lamb, chicken, or pork) served with peas, carrots, broccoli/cabbage, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, and gravy
  • scrumping > old word for stealing apples
  • tat > cheap crap
  • tings > Irish accent for “things”
  • toilet/loo > restroom/bathroom
  • Tube/Underground > subway
  • twee > over-the-top whimsy, so overdone and fake it loses any real charm
  • village > populated place that has a church
  • weald > a certain flat plain in the middle of hills
  • Yorkshire pudding > not at all like pudding, actually; resembles a bread bowl
**Any mistakes are either my own doing…or because my host willfully misled me. But they’re probably right. He’s a good bloke.
Yes, it’s true; I mostly ate my way through South England. Can you tell?

What words have you picked up in your travels?

Leave a comment

Filed under writing