Frayed Passport Quarterly Journal April – The Sustainable Travel Issue (Front matter:) Published by Frayed Passport at Smashwords Copyright 2013 Frayed Passport Smashwords Edition, License NotesThis ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.Table of ContentsVoluntourism HurtsTheory and Practice: A First-Time Volunteer Visits Costa RicaIndonesia: The Orangutans of Bukit LawangEmbracing Adversity: Why Miserable Moments Make for Your Best Travel WritingSeven Ways to Overcome the Pitfalls of Self-EditingTravel Writing Tip: Begin Your Essays in Medias ResA Good Writer is a Good ObserverVOLUNTOURISM HURTSBy Mark Denega“I think Mark is going to cry.”Lacie Michaelson, a student leader of our Stonehill College alternative spring break group,chided me three months before we left for San Juan de Lurigancho, Peru—the most populous,and one of the poorest districts of Lima. I sat cross-legged on the floor surrounded by a circle ofdesks, eagerly waving my camcorder at twenty students who were unsure why some strangerwanted to film their service trip. It was understandable, then, that few felt compelled to discussthe emotional effects of coming face-to-face with abject poverty for the first time.
I let down the camera. Moments earlier, to ease the tension, I had promised the room that ifanyone cried on camera, I would remove it from the film upon request. Now, after Lacie’sdeclaration, it seemed like a good opportunity to further close the divide between them and me.I turned to Lacie and agreed with her, unequivocally.“Oh yeah, you’re probably right,” I said. “I’m a crier.”It was the first day filming my documentary H.O.P.E. Was Here, which follows these students toPeru in an attempt to discover whether trips like theirs are actually a force for good. It’s a debatethat still rages as voluntourism continues to boom.First-TimerAt the time, I had never volunteered or even really traveled abroad (neither Puerto Rico nor theCanadian side of Niagara Falls count). In my research, though, I read all about “the experience”that people have while working overseas in impoverished places. I read about the culture shockand the newfound appreciation for life, family, and everyday luxuries like running water and aroof to sleep under. All of these things, as I understood, added up to an eye-opening week thattransforms people, and sometimes has them watery-eyed before the plane ride home.While, admittedly, I do cry more than most men, I wondered if my statement to Lacie wouldprove true.FILMING REAL LIFEDocumentary filmmaking is, in part, a guessing game; you prepare as well as you can and hopeto be there with the camera rolling when incredible things happen. With just six days to film inPeru, I over-planned my shoots. Using insight from Peace of Me, the memoir by Travis Kumphthat inspired the film, I made a blueprint for the trip. I mapped out a narrative trajectory of theweek and noted every important moment I could possibly predict. I was ready to make a movie,and felt both confident and empowered.
EgoThese feelings inflated when the trip began. At the Atlanta airport, when the overhead luggagespace filled up before our flight to Lima, other passengers’ belongings were tagged and thrownunder the plane, but not my camera equipment. The flight crew wielded my bag through thecabin with purpose, determined to get me and my things where they needed to go.“We have to make space for this,” said one attendant. “He’s filming their mission!”That’s right, I thought, I’m an important man doing important work. Please accommodate.On the bus from the airport to the Peyton Center, the multi-story community center where westayed, there was more of the same. The students chatted loudly and gazed out the windows, andI sat behind my camera with the same kind of excitement. There I was, young and traveling andgetting my big film career off the ground. I was living my dream.Stick To The PlanFor the next week, I followed the students as they moved between the volunteer sites—a gradeschool called Fe y Alegria and a rehabilitation center called Yancana Huasy—and then back tothe Peyton Center where we retreated to comfortable beds, modern showers, and elaborate mealsprepared by the professional cooking staff. Each day brought new adventure and more boxeschecked off my shot list.My pre-planning worked well, and I was satisfied with the footage. I caught some great things oncamera, some anticipated and others not. I also spent quality time with the students, who became
more than just movie characters, but peers who I admired and respected. For the most part,though, I hid safely behind the camera, using it to guard myself when I didn’t have the courageto speak Spanish to a local or do anything else that seemed too uncomfortable.PRODUCTION WINDING DOWNOur last day was for good-byes. We brought thank-you offerings to the staff at Fe y Alegria,Yancana Huasy, and the Peyton Center. Before hitting the road, half of us made one last stop.We visited Jhonny, a happy-go-lucky security guard at the Peyton Center, who was everyone’sfavorite new friend. He’d invited us into his two-room house with an aluminum roof, nestledamong the overcrowded slums that sprawl across big, dirt mountains around the wealthier,central part of Lima. He wanted us to see and touch the reality of living in poverty, which, as itturns out, is much different than the first-world amenities we enjoyed at Peyton.Please, Come InWhen we arrived at the door we caught Jhonny straightening up for us. He’d been sweeping thedusty cement floor and collecting half-deflated balloons scattered about the room, left over fromhis daughter’s fourth birthday party. He greeted us with great warmth, hugging every person andremembering every name. He asked us to sit, then stood before us and thanked us all from thebottom of his heart. He explained how happy we’d made him and his daughter, Minerva, bycoming from the U.S. to spend time with them, albeit briefly. He told us that we were welcometo stay at his home any time.We Are The WorldFor the next two hours, we passed around a guitar, sang songs, laughed, and drank Inca Cola.Minerva came home from school, at first terrified to see ten gringos and a camera when she ranthrough the door. But soon enough she joined in the fun, handing out pieces of her birthday cakeand apologizing for its small size, then bouncing from lap to lap to take pictures with all thestudents.
This was one of those worldly, we-are-all-one experiences that I imagined happened on trips likethese. It was truly special, and likely something that is still called “life-affirming” to this day.But just as quickly as it began, it ended.THAT’S A WRAPIt was time to go home. Everyone said their farewells at the front door, where more hugs andthank-yous were exchanged. Thinking film-first, I ran across the street to grab one last shot.Freeze FrameAs I knelt down on the dirt road to get settled, I saw the group starting to trickle off the doorstepand march toward the main intersection. I did some shifting to make sure my composition wasjust right, then peered into my viewfinder. Through my little digital window I saw Jhonny andMinerva, now alone, standing hand-in-hand in front of their home. They were watching theirnew friends walk away with a wistful, yet familiar stare. They’d been here before.My jaw dropped, and I stopped filming. With little time to process thoughts I ran back to Jhonnyand thanked him for everything. He refused to say goodbye, only “Hasta luego.”I ran to catch up with the group.LEAVING SETHours later, we piled our backpacks onto the bus and took off for the airport. As we left town, Ipointed my camera out the rear windows to get one last look at the place I thought I had come toknow, if only a little bit, during our short stay. And as we passed people wandering through thebattered dark streets, lit only by the occasional working streetlamp, I remembered Jhonny. Then,I started to weep.MeltdownFor the first time, I was confronted with the reality of the trip; I was returning to the privilege ofmy educated, white middle-class American existence after a brush with poverty, which, nodoubt, would impress my family and friends over some dinner table conversation.
But Jhonny wasn’t going anywhere, and I would never genuinely know his struggle. Whatbothered me more was wondering if I’d ever want to. I felt guilt. The $25,000 our group spent onairfare could’ve bought stock rooms of therapy equipment at Yancana Huasy, or paid for moreteachers at Fe y Alegria. I felt shame. I came to town, sucked these people’s lives into mycamera, and now, I was retreating back home to my editing bay to stamp my name on it and useit to help me make it in the movies. I felt empty. I didn’t know why I’d come here, and I waslooking for answers.I turned around, and there was Lacie, who happened to be sitting at the back of the bus. In thatmoment, she was the only one I wanted to go heart-to-heart with. I told her exactly how I felt,and she consoled me. She reminded me that I was doing a good thing, but I wondered if thepeople here really stood to benefit from a documentary film made by a twenty-somethingAmerican nobody.Is this it?I dried my tears, and then, I felt like a cliché. Is this what volunteering abroad was all about—theopportunity for me to feel something outside of my nine-to-five routine? Did I really need to beflown to an underdeveloped community to learn to live with more humility, awareness, andcompassion? Part of me thinks that I did, and that made me sad all over again.LESSON LEARNEDI cried that day because in my effort to understand the ethics behind volunteering abroad, Ibecame the worst kind of participant. I came only to see what I wanted to see, and took what Ineeded. I failed to recognize what seems obvious in theory, but harder in practice: there are realpeople on both ends of these exchanges, and because we are guests, the host communities’opinions of our presence there matter more than ours.Another Shot
I’m returning to Peru in two weeks to connect with the people I should have the first timearound. I’m returning to ask these Peruvians what they think of American college studentsdropping in for a week, and how it affects them. I’m returning because I want to find out underwhat circumstances, if at all, it’s worthwhile for people like me to engage in this kind of travel.While I’m there, I’ll finish shooting a movie, too.Back to topTHEORY AND PRACTICE: A FIRST-TIME VOLUNTEER VISITSCOSTA RICABy Sarah VandenbergFive of us made our way through the jungle single-file, led by a teenage guide. It was just pastmidnight, and whether the sky was clear or cloudy, none of us could tell—the thick rainforestcanopy blocked all light. Insects chirped, buzzed, and hissed as our small group clumsily pushedpast overgrown brush and vines, holding one another’s t-shirts and elbows to stay on track.Two days before, I’d arrived to San Jose, Costa Rica—my first trip outside of the United States.It was my sophomore year of college, and I’d saved all of my internship paychecks to embark ona volunteer project in Gandoca that summer. Not only could I start exploring the world, but Icould also start actively getting out and doing some good.NERDING IT UPThat June I would embark on a three-month conservation volunteer project on the Caribbean sideof Costa Rica. The program’s goals were to monitor nesting sea turtles, protect their eggs, andrelease the hatchlings into the ocean. Sea turtles are at risk of extinction due to poachers,pollution, and degradation of their natural environment—the project I’d signed up for workedmainly with leatherbacks, but also monitored green and hawksbill turtles, which occasionallynested in the area.
For months I read about marine biology and conservation, even joining a forum dedicated toturtle research and care. I posted a thread asking for advice and stories about volunteering withleatherbacks; while the conversation moved slowly, I learned a great deal.The largest reptiles in the world, the leatherback sea turtle’s carapace grows anywhere fromabout three-and-a-half feet to nearly six feet long. It has the biggest flippers compared to its bodysize of any sea turtle, and its back is soft and somewhat leathery and oily—hence the name—rather than bony, like most other turtles.Leatherbacks can spend more than an hour underwater, reaching depths of 4,200 feet—comparedto the deepest known scuba dive of 1,082 feet. They can swim faster than any other turtle at a topspeed of 22 miles per hour. Different species of leatherback sea turtles are incredibly widespread,having been found from Norway to Australia.These turtles cannot be successfully bred or held in captivity—leatherbacks swim almostceaselessly, with captive ones known to develop cuts, scrapes, and other wounds from treadingagainst the sides of any tank in which they’re kept. No leatherback has been able to thrive uponbeing released, and as a result, no turtle of this species has been studied in full. There is nodefinitive answer to how long they can live, or even a comprehensive agreement on theirmigration patterns.Despite their widespread distribution, leatherback sea turtles are critically endangered. Theirhatchlings—which oddly enough are comparable in size to other sea turtle hatchlings—immediately seek out and make their way toward the brightest spot they can view after emergingfrom their eggs. While this light source naturally would be the ocean with sunlight reflectingfrom it, hatchlings increasingly have been confused, and can head toward houses or, in oneunfortunate case, paper lanterns left by a celebrating, newly engaged couple.During the trip from the nest to the water, hatchlings fall prey to seagulls and other animals, withonly a small percentage making it to the ocean. It’s estimated that only one of every 1,000survive to sexual maturity—as sightings of juvenile leatherbacks are exceedingly rare,researchers still are unsure about what happens during this period between hatching andbreeding.Female leatherbacks nest every two to three years. Atlantic leatherbacks nest between March andJuly, while Pacific ones return to the beach between September and March. This is the only timethey make their way to land, with many turtles returning to their original hatching spot. Mostleatherbacks lay about 60 to 90 eggs in a large hole that they dig near the surf with their hindflippers—when finished, they cover the nest back up and move along to the ocean, not returninguntil they’re ready to lay more eggs.Knowing facts like these before flying to Costa Rica made me confident I could become a stellarvolunteer—and perhaps even a research assistant. If I knew more about the animal we wereworking with, I wouldn’t have to scramble to learn the basics while being trained for activeconservation work.AN INCREDIBLE COMMUNITY
The community in Gandoca Beach, Costa Rica is comprised entirely of volunteers, researchassistants, and local men and women employed by the conservation program—they trained us,housed us, and fed us. A clearing had been made in the jungle where we lived, with a few housesand cabins, a campsite, a bar, and canteen. A quick jaunt down a small rainforest path led us to abeautiful stretch of black sand beach.The general orientation covered house rules, chores, and schedules. For the next couple of dayswe learned about our two main projects: beach patrol and hatchery patrol.For the beach patrol, we would take three-hour shifts each night to hike four miles back and forthalong the surf to watch for nesting leatherbacks. If we came upon one, we would collect her eggsas she laid them, then transport them to one of the three hatcheries located along the shore. Whilethe turtle was still on land, we would tag her—or check for an existing tag—and note anydistinctive markings or scars, measure her carapace, and save this information for research andtracking.The hatchery patrol volunteers took three-hour shifts 24 hours per day to build protective nestsfor the transported eggs, guard the nests from poachers, and measure, weigh, and count the babyturtles as they hatched.On my second night in Gandoca, I was assigned to the midnight beach patrol. I pulled on a pairof black leggings and a long-sleeve gray t-shirt, slipped on a pair of water shoes, and wrappedmy flashlight in red cellophane. The other volunteers did the same; the goal was to be asunobtrusive as possible to any leatherbacks we might encounter. By washing off any deodorants,perfumes, or sprays, wearing dark colors, and using a soft red light—only as absolutelyneeded—we minimized our risk of scaring off a nesting turtle.
Four volunteers and one research assistant gathered at the entrance to the jungle path. Our 16-year-old guide led us through a black maze of creepers, vines, and branches. He moved silentlyand quickly while the rest of us lumbered along behind him. Under the humid, dark canopy, thejungle is a cacophony of invisible insects—screeches, hoots, and clicks surround you on allsides, sometimes reaching a deafening roar.As we stepped into the beach clearing, the noises of the jungle died down to give way to crashingwaves and a cool breeze from the ocean. Plants and vines closed behind us and we were in theopen. The sky was mostly clear, with occasional clouds passing in front of a bright half moon.Our guide headed back to his house while the research assistant led us onward down the beach.A SLAP IN THE FACEWithin the first hour, our group came to a stop—a few yards in front of us was a leatherback seaturtle making her way out of the ocean to find a nesting spot. She heaved herself slowly up thesand, making enormous grooves in the surf with her flippers. Each of the volunteers on thispatrol had been on the project for at least a month; they knew exactly what to do and movedquickly while I tried to follow along.I watched her for a moment, almost in shock—while I knew leatherbacks could grow to six feetlong, and knew they were the largest reptiles on earth, I hadn’t realized just what that meant. Shewas enormous—her shell was five-and-a-half feet in length, just slightly greater than I am tall.Her front flippers were half that size, and longer than my arms.As the turtle found a spot and began to scoop sand away with her powerful hind flippers, ourgroup quickly made our way toward her—the research assistant measured the leatherback’scarapace and flippers, and whispered directions while one volunteer put a red cellophane-covered flashlight between her teeth and jotted notes onto a clipboard.The turtle had been injured recently; as she tried digging the nest, her right flipper dug andshifted the sand aside quickly while the left one flapped about helplessly. Concerned that she
would head back into the water if we stayed too long, three of us dove in, furiously scoopingsand and patting down the sides of what became a three-foot-deep tunnel.Someone handed me a heavy-duty black garbage bag.“Can you collect the eggs?”“Sure!” I squatted over the hole just as the turtle started dropping eggs into it. I grabbed a coupleof them, thinking I would collect all the eggs when she was done and plunk them into the bag.As I leaned forward, two of the volunteers hooked their arms around my legs and shoved meface-first into the tunnel. I hadn’t gotten to this part of the training yet.“Get right in there—that’s it! Now wrap the bag around your elbows. She’ll lay a lot of eggs, soit’ll get heavy in a minute.”Oh gosh, I thought. Ok. We’re collecting them like, right now.I couldn’t get a grip quickly enough on the bag, frantically wrapping two sides of it around mywrists while the leatherback plopped egg after egg into it. The volunteers pushed me further intothe tunnel so that only my hips and legs were sticking out—I was buried up to my waist, upside-down, with my head directly under the turtle’s tail.While two people steadied me, another walked around the turtle, noting scars, markings, andanything else that could identify her. She’d been tagged by a previous group, so she alreadynested in that area before. Meanwhile, the leatherback grunted occasionally and continueddropping soft eggs the size of billiard balls into the bag. I had just enough time to wonderwhether I’d read anything about this on the turtle research forums.Within a few moments she slowed down, the eggs becoming smaller in size—some about as bigas a golf ball—and less frequent. The bag was incredibly heavy, with 82 eggs we later counted.The turtle grunted one more time and a shot of goo splashed into the nest, drenching the sand, thebag, and me. Her flippers slowly began shifting around, trying to bury the nest, and throwingsand and shells on my head and into the bag.SLAP!Her powerful right flipper smacked me upside the head.SPLUT! SMACK! SLAP!She clearly wanted me out of the way, hitting me repeatedly and grinding sand and egg juice intomy nose and hair.I felt a tug on my legs. Oh thank God.
“Don’t let go of the bag!” someone hissed just as it slipped from my hands. As two volunteersbegan pulling me by my ankles, I got a better grip on the garbage bag, trying not to let it dropand crush the eggs at the bottom.The research assistant wrapped his arms around my waist and the group heaved me up and out ofthe hole. The leatherback continued methodically filling the tunnel back up with wet sand.We watched for a few moments, and as the turtle finished burying her empty nest and headedback to the water, I thought about the months of research I’d done. None of it prepared me forthis, but it was all right. I’d traveled solo for the first time in my life, I lived in a jungle cabin,and I got slapped in the face by the largest reptile on the planet. What an unexpectedlymemorable experience.Back to topINDONESIA: THE ORANGUTANS OF BUKIT LAWANGBy Daniel van den Berg
In 2010 I visited the village of Bukit Lawang on Sumatra, Indonesia. Although it was not theonly site I visited during my trip, this was certainly a very special place, and I still have fondmemories from it.When we arrived in early February, we were dropped off at the edge of the village, about 200yards from the river Bohorok that flows through the center of Bukit Lawang. The village wascompletely dark—there was a power outage at that time. Though not very uncommon in thatarea, it took us by surprise—a pleasant surprise, because when you’re used to the light-floodedenvironment of the Netherlands, arriving in total darkness is a very special experience.Our guide led us to Nora’s Homestay, where we would bunk for the night. Nora, the owner ofthe guesthouse, had some candles set up in the dining area, where she served dinner and drinkseven though it was pitch black outside. It was a great experience; fireflies lit up around us, andthe air was filled with sounds from the jungle.
At dinner, my friends and I met one of the jungle guides, who made us a great offer for a trek—the main reason we were in Bukit Lawang. We decided to stay with them in Indra’s Inn, locatedalongside the river, while we would be preparing for the trek.You can feel how tourism is by far the main source of income in Bukit Lawang; for a village sosmall it has a relatively high number of tourist lodges, guesthouses and inns—and thecompetition grew even larger after a flash flood destroyed most of the local tourist resorts inNovember 2003.Ever since, the people of Bukit Lawang have rebuilt their homes, and—maybe as important astheir own—homes for tourists. The main attraction to the area is the Gunung Leuser NationalPark, with an orangutan sanctuary located inside the park. With 5,000 Sumatran orangutansliving in the area, the sanctuary is the largest of its sort.The day of the trek we woke up very early; it was just after sunrise. Our first destination was thesanctuary, which doubles as one of the entrances for the park. After we crossed the river in a tinyboat, we walked up the hill where the sanctuary was, to discover that they had just startedfeeding a mother orangutan and her child!
It was a great sight: the two primates that sat on a wooden platform taking food and water—in acup!—from one of the sanctuary employees. We were far away from the animals, but at somepoint I could see the mother looking at us, and then she brought the cup to her mouth and drankfrom it. Apes learning from humans, and vice versa.However, not all orangutans learned “good” behavior from the humans that want to take care ofthem. We learned about that halfway our jungle trek, a couple of hours later. The day before, weheard about a tourist who was bitten by an orangutan in the jungle, and the guides warned us thatif one would appear outside of the sanctuary, we would have to run while he distracted theanimal with some food.And only minutes after one of our guides went ahead of the group to scout for orangutans, ourother guide started shouting, “Run! Run!”
From the corner of my eye I saw the reddish fur of the ape move at an astonishing speed throughthe trees. We ran, and ran, until we met the other guide. He explained to us that this particularanimal had been kept in captivity for so long that every time she noticed that humans werearound, she would attack them because she expected food.The rest of the jungle trek was safe and enjoyable. At last we arrived at the river again, where afriend of our guides had already started a fire and was preparing dinner! We were exhausted, andafter a quick bath in the river—and an accompanying shower from the clouds above us—wesettled down and had the freshly prepared dinner, and we slept soundly in the jungle that night.The next morning we were woken by dozens of monkeys in the trees around us. They had comeafter the breakfast that our guides were preparing, and while we were eating, they didn’t stoptrying to snatch it from our hands. Apparently they were used to humans coming to this place—they weren’t afraid of us in the least.Then we headed back to the village—not by foot, but we let the Bohorok River take us back onour huge inflatable tubes—and we saw all of the jungle once again. Something we noticed thatmorning was that the river was rather wild, and later that night we saw with our own eyes how arelatively calm river could transform into a swirling water mass. Bukit Lawang was restless thatnight: the people remembered the flash flood of only a few years ago just too well.Back to topEMBRACING ADVERSITY: WHY MISERABLE MOMENTS MAKE FORYOUR BEST TRAVEL WRITINGBy Erick Widman“The word ‘adventure’ has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong, that’s whenadventure starts.” -Yvon Chouinard
We travelers like to view ourselves as an intrepid bunch. Planning our next trip, we’re hungry foradventure—as long as it’s the kind of adventure we had in mind. The prospect of ridingelephants in the jungles of Cambodia is invigorating, but getting stuck at the Siem Reap airportfor fourteen hours sounds downright terrible. We love the idea of traveling down the Nile on aboat with the locals. But who wants to stay up most of the night with the boat’s exhaust fumesseeping into your room?Remarkably enough, all travelers should embrace miserable moments like these. They are whatproduce enduring memories, tantalizing stories, and help us grow.A truly liberating travel truth—and a truth of life in general—is that the best experiences are theunexpected ones. The joy that comes from photographing a beautiful cafe you stumbled upon inParis is a hundred times greater than snapping a trophy shot of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. Andif the new Irish friends you made at the local pub will spend a day showing you around Dublin,you’ll have an infinitely better time than joining up with a pack of tourists.Of course, these are the unexpected, glorious, good experiences that typically accompany everytrip. We’ve also got to consider the unexpected, beastly, bad moments.How should we think of these? Eventually, we should be grateful for those times and often wecan look back on them with a smile.At first it might seem implausible to celebrate the frustrating, ridiculous, and painful experienceson a trip. After the fact, you’ll find the stories of getting pickpocketed in Budapest, food-poisoned in Cairo, and completely lost in St. Petersburg are much more compelling andimpactful than sunny tales with no adversity. Certainly, when you’re in the miserable moment,you’re often thinking, “What am I doing here—why did I come?” Thankfully, the bad timesinevitably lead to better times, and you usually receive a number of side benefits in the process.
Did you get a bit trampled while running with the bulls in Pamplona? You’ll also get toexperience the kindness of Spanish nurses and doctors and improve your medical vocabulary inanother language. Did you lose your passport while seeing the sights in Athens? During yourwait at the local embassy, redeem the time by listening to how earnest young men and womenare describing how they dream of studying abroad in your country if they could only receive avisa.The best stories in life are about confronting adversity, enduring it, and coming out a changedperson on the other side. Travel writing should be viewed in precisely the same way—in fact, it’sa the perfect laboratory to be challenged and changed in a condensed period of time. Rather thanhoping our travels will be filled with experiences that mirror our expectations, we should desirethe unexpected. And when apparent setbacks, obstacles, and failures arise, let’s try our best notto be disappointed. Instead, let’s recognize the real adventure is just beginning.Back to topSEVEN WAYS TO OVERCOME THE PITFALLS OF SELF-EDITINGBy Marci ClarkThere’s a meme that makes its way to my Facebook page from time to time. All the words arespelled wrong, yet it is still legible. That is because our brains are magnificent things. Somagnificent they recognize the big picture (the word) and skim right over the details (the letters).This is wonderful. Unless you are self-editing. Then it is an absolute nightmare.I am an editor by trade, so seeing errors in my work after it has been posted instantly sends mypalm crashing into my forehead—but even the most seasoned writer doesn’t always see errors inher work.After some embarrassing mistakes and painful palm plants, I’ve learned a few tricks to do justthat!1: WALK AWAYThe best thing you can do before editing is to walk away. Let your words leave your mind for awhile. When you return, you will see what is there instead of what your brain thinks is there.Trying to edit immediately allows what you thought you typed get in the way of what youactually typed.2: READ FIRST FOR CONTENT
Rather than focusing on the details of grammatical issues, make sure what you are saying makessense. It is easy to skip over important details that will be crucial for the reader to follow along.They can’t read your mind so it is up to you to connect all the dots for them.3: LOOK FOR PERSONAL TICSEvery writer has a personal tic that can easily become a distraction. Overuse of punctuation andcertain words or phrases can become a distraction for a reader. I tend to drop words because mythoughts are faster than my fingers. Learn to recognize your tics so you can edit for them.4: AVOID OVERSTUFFING YOUR POSTPeople are fickle. It is really easy to offer too much information and lose their attention. Thewaterfall may have been the most incredibly breathtakingly beautiful and magical display ofnature’s amazing ability to mesmerize with what started as a simple trickle of water…yeah, youcan share that in fewer words and still get your point across.5: READ FOR GRAMMARNow that the fat has been cut away from the meat of your story, you can sit back and lookspecifically at grammar. Delete any overused or improperly used punctuation. An exclamationpoint at the end of every sentence causes the punctuation to lose its meaning. Semi-colons areused to tie two closely connected sentences. Use them sparingly, as they can be a distraction.Colons are used to set aside a sentence from additional information, typically a list.6: DO NOT COUNT ON SPELLCHECKERSpellchecker is a wonderful thing. The red and green lines immediately grab your eye andscream at you to correct an error. But the program doesn’t know everything and while it catchesmany errors, it doesn’t catch them all. Many phrases or interchangeable words slip through. It’sup to you to catch those.7: PRINT ITIf time permits, walk away from the post one more time. Get it out of your head and then printthe document and read it again. For some reason, seeing it on paper makes a huge difference.This should allow you to catch any content or grammar issues missed in prior reads. A third andfinal read-through is usually enough to give you a clean copy, ready for posting.Though I’ve implemented these into my regular working schedule, this doesn’t mean thingsdon’t still slip through from time to time. Mistakes are inevitable. We all make them, but thesethings have definitely helped me clean up my posts and saved my forehead from a slap or two—and hopefully they will save your forehead too.Back to topTRAVEL WRITING TIP: BEGIN YOUR ESSAYS IN MEDIAS RESBy Sarah VandenbergEach time I write an essay or story, I save the beginning for last. As the outline builds into prose,I pay careful attention to the climax—or at least to one of the more entertaining parts of thestory—and more often than not, find a way to build an introduction from there.
Writing in medias res is a form of nonlinear storytelling that begins your text in the middle,rather than starting from the top. You’ll describe a scene or event to pull your readers in, thencircle back to it at another point in your narrative.My favorite example is from the film The Prestige. The first scene shows us dozens of black tophats cast away in a forest. The narrator asks, “Are you watching closely?” and as we progressthrough the film, the purpose of the top hats is explained.EXAMPLES FROM TRAVEL WRITINGFive of us made our way through the jungle single-file, led by a teenage guide. It was just pastmidnight, and whether the sky was clear or cloudy, none of us could tell—the thick rainforestcanopy blocked all light. Insects chirped, buzzed, and hissed as our small group clumsily pushedpast overgrown brush and vines, holding one another’s t-shirts and elbows to stay on track.This story chronicles my adventure in preparing for a volunteer trip abroad, and how all of myresearch and studying had little bearing on what I actually encountered. The opening drops youalongside me and my fellow volunteers midway through the essay.She was brushing her teeth as I noticed her tattoo. I asked her what kind it was, and if I couldtake a closer look. She turned her shoulder toward me as I sat on the top bunk bed in theAdelaide Hostel, bending down to read what was written on this strangely familiar girl’s arm. Inodded to acknowledge I understood the words in French, and we looked each other in the eyes.This was it, I thought. I want to know her better.In this essay, Daniel writes about how a three-week road trip across the United States changedhis perception and indeed his life. His introduction pulls you into a hostel, the final stop on histravels, and introduces you to someone who piqued his curiosity—with the intention of piquingyours as well.EXERCISEThink about the best vacation you’ve taken. Write five things about that vacation thatimmediately pop into your mind. These can be smells, sights, a delicious food, a new activity, awonderful person you met—anything that jumps out at you.Now take one of those elements and write a 200- to 400-word description of it. Try to convey theatmosphere for your reader so he’ll feel he’s standing right next to you: what did you see? Hear?Smell? Taste? Feel?This alone may work for an introduction to your story. If you don’t think you’ve quite hit themark, outline the rest of your essay and determine whether another event naturally catches youreye instead.On the other hand, you may have found one memory sticks out in particular even before youbegin writing your five points—try writing your introduction from there. If you find it makes theperfect beginning, you’re on your way!Back to topA GOOD WRITER IS A GOOD OBSERVERBy Robin Van Auken
If you’re a writer and you’re hoping to turn out an interesting travel article, then you had betterbe paying attention. Not to this article—although it contains helpful advice for gathering intelduring your next trip.You need to pay attention to everything and everyone and everywhere while you’re abroadbecause you never know what, who, or where will become fodder for a feature. Don’t make themistake of deciding what you’re going to write about beforehand; instead, take your time. Lookaround. Use your senses.Your trip may not be an exciting expedition to Mt. Everest, or a stunning safari of the AfricanSavannah, but that’s okay. Some of the best feature articles come from ordinary situations andthe most ordinary questions.One of the biggest favors you can do for your writing is to think like a child: look around inwonder. Ask “Why?” and listen to the answer. If something strikes you as interesting, others willfeel the same way. Your task is to convey the excitement you felt at your discovery to the reader.As Margaret Davidson notes in A Guide for Newspaper Stringers, the difference between being agood writer and an average one is keen observation.“A good writer is a good observer—of people, surroundings, ideas and trends, and the generalflotsam and jetsam of the world around,” she writes.What makes a good observer, you ask?Davidson explains, “Some people seem to go through life with blinders on. They are so wrappedup in their own comings and goings they are unaware of the ebb and flow around them. Butothers observe the world in sharp detail with the vision to see everything in perspective,appreciating its true value.”
So, are you wearing blinders? And if so, what can you do to prevent being an oblivious, averagewriter? Here are some tips to help sharpen your focus:PLACESBefore you travel, research the minute details about your destination. Find out the unusual andinteresting before you begin your journey. Then when you get there, take time to absorb andappreciate it. Stand in awe before the landmark, proud in the knowledge that you could be itstour guide. If you know the place in and out, your senses will be free to explore.An excellent tool that works well at connecting reams of information with locations is Wikipediaand the app Wikihood. By using the geolocation ability of Google Maps, this is a traveler’svalued resource.
Create a digital scrapbook of your intended destination and cram it with Wiki articles, photos,links to videos, and even podcasts. Make a Google Map and place pins on your planned points ofinterest, and then add photos and links to these pins. Each time you add data to your scrapbook,you learn—and retain—a bit more. Keeping it simple and on a mobile device such as asmartphone or a tablet means you can take it with you on the journey.PEOPLEMeeting new people can be the best part of traveling. As a writer, you may want to feature thoseyou meet in an article or essay—Bruce Garrison advises in Professional Feature Writing that you“think about him or her from a writer’s professional point of view. Is this person worthy of afeature story? What makes him or her interesting to readers? What has the person done thatothers would like to know?”Remember, if you liked this person, then you must have something interesting to share about himor her. Shed the blinders and study the person, memorizing details about his physical traits andpersonality. Jot down notes before you forget and snap a photograph, if you can.Keep in mind, you’re not writing a biography—you’re capturing a moment, a memoir, a briefaccount of how they touched your life and enhanced it.THINGS
We’ve surrounded ourselves with “things”—the artifacts of civilization. We’re inundated withitems to the point they often fade into the background. If you’re interested in writing about some“thing,” then you need to bring it to the forefront. Make the reader care enough to notice it.Do this by harnessing your natural curiosity. Put on your X-ray goggles and study the item.When writing about things, answer the standard questions: Who, What, When, Where, Why, andHow. By incorporating these elements, you’ll fulfill most readers’ needs.If you’re writing a product review, you’ll want to ask additional questions. The generaldescription of the product will contain the five Ws, including size, weight, price, installation,packaging, difficulty of use and unusual features. You’ll want to describe the type of buyer thatwould find the product useful—who’s the intended customer? If you’re reviewing a product thatisn’t waterproof, then tell the audience it isn’t intended for underwater use. Also, demonstratepersonal experience with the product. You can accomplish this with photos or video, or with a
detailed description of your use of the product. Finally, resist being a fanboy or fangirl. Productshave pros and cons, so help the buyer make an informed decision.Writing isn’t difficult. Writing something interesting? Well, that’s a different story. Whetheryou’re writing about a person, a place, or a thing, if you don’t include your own sense of wonder,your sense of curiosity, then you cannot ask the same of the reader.Be a child first. Ask why. Listen, and then share the answer.Back to top ### Check out our website: http://www.frayedpassport.com