A Journal to Remember

Travel writing for pleasure, not profit


| July / August 2006


We were seven travel writers crowded behind a large wooden table piled high with our words-travel books, magazine articles, travel anthologies, and, in the very middle of the table, a beige clothbound notebook filled with my scribbled notes and several rough watercolors from this year's wanderings.

The evening had been advertised by the neighborhood's travel bookstore as a panel discussion about travel writing for profit, pleasure, or both. As I listened to the other six writers talk of the books they'd researched, the newspaper columns they'd penned, and the commissions and royalties they'd earned, I realized that I was the evening's sole nod to the joys of travel writing purely for pleasure.

I was pretty sure that the standing-room-only crowd had not packed the bookstore's aisles to hear me talk about why I've been keeping travel journals since I was 12. And so, as the next-to-last speaker began to describe his series of books and magazine articles on travel to Italy, I cast a furtive eye at the crowd. What were the chances that I might escape without speaking-disappear into the crowd and run home without anyone noticing?

It was then that I spied the white-haired man sitting in the front row. He had a small book in his hands. How rude, I thought, to be reading a book while the delightful Italian travel writer was still speaking.

Then I saw that the book the old man was holding was my travel journal. This was much, much worse than rude. I watched in horror as he turned the pages and then passed the book to the young woman sitting next to him. How could I leave the bookstore now while my travel journal was in the hands of strangers?

The speaker finished his talk about Italy and turned to smile encouragingly at me. It was my time to speak. Shaken and shaking, I stepped forward to face the crowd.