Why (and How) I Write: A Blog Hop Post
Recently I was invited to participate in a Blog Hop about one of my favorite subjects (Writing), by two of my favorite bloggers, Bret Love and Mary Gabbett of Green Global Travel. They are both very kind people with a high interest in Ecotourism, nature/wildlife conservation and cultural preservation. They are both truly unique individuals with a perspective on “pouring every ounce of their passion, energy, love and dreams for their family into the site on a daily basis”. Just a few facts about each of them before I answer the four obligatory questions.
1) Mary was born in Staten Island, New York and lived there until she was 14.
2) Because her family had a French graduate student who worked as her au pair, her first language was French and she remembers none of it now, even though she studied it in high school!
3) Her parents would take off work every Wednesday during the summer, for family vacation and they would visit museums, art galleries, theatre and amazing ethnic restaurants in New York City.
4) Her first big trip as an adult was a month-long vacation in India, where 5 friends and her stayed with one of the girls’ extended family. That’s when she discovered she was a die-hard travel-lover.
4) She has a degree in Pyschology, and worked for 10 years doing personality assessments for corporate clients. She gave Bret an informal assessment of himself on their 5th date.
5) Bret and her met at a Universalist Unitarian Church Christmas party she threw at her house in 2008. She was just coming off a painful separation, and had only been dating for 5 days when they met.
6) She moved in with Bret 14 months later, after her mother was hospitalized (she’s OK now), a tree fell on her house (it’s OK now), and a wanted rapist was arrested in her front yard. Clearly, the Universe was trying to tell her something. Now she might just plan to get the stump removal done for the remaining part. The reason is the stump might cause severe accidents. And she might not be in a mood to encounter any more mishappenings.
1) Bret was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and has never lived more than 30 miles away from the hospital in which he was born.
2) His first trip abroad was a 3-week tour of Italy with the Atlanta Boy Choir when he was 11. It included 15 cities in 21 days, and performances for the President of Italy and Pope John Paul II (in the Vatican).
3) He grew up in an urban neighborhood that was 98% black by the time he got to high school. When he was 15, they moved to 32 acres in the country, with a majority-white school. Talk about culture shock! His GPA that year dropped from 3.6 to 2.5 due to constant bullying.
4) Bret got his first tattoo– of a Native American shaman, from the cover of National Geographic– when he was 23. He originally got it primarily to cover self-inflicted scars from his late-teen depression. But the more tattoos he got, the more he liked them. He now has 6, all of Native American or Celtic art.
5) He’s a big fan of hip-hop, and had his own hip-hop/noise-rock band, The White Aphros, in the ‘90s. In 2000, he was hired by Sprite to put together a compilation of Atlanta hip-hop for a web-based project. They bought two of his songs, which were released under his rap pseudonym, B. Love.
6) All his life, he’s had a policy not to date someone he works with. So its ironic that Mary and him now live, work and play together 24/7/365… especially because they rarely argue. She has definitely changed forever his definition of the word “partnership.”
Green Global Travel Mission Statement
In 2000, Bret traveled to South Africa’s Kruger National Park on safari. The immense power of the experiences he had there– seeing cheetah cubs frolicking on the open plain, watching wild dogs digging under a fence to get back into the park, having a massive bull elephant coming so close to his Jeep that he could feel the breath on his face– changed his life forever.
It wasn’t just the beauty of seeing these magnificent animals in their natural habitat that moved him. It was the passion with which the park rangers and guides spoke of preserving this incredible gift for generations to come, and the way locals spoke of ecotourism as their hope for a better and brighter economic future. Ever since then he has dreamed of using his abilities as a freelance writer and photographer to help make the world a better place, not just for he and Mary, but for their children and their children’s children. Mary and him have launched Green Global Travel to do just that.
They launched Green Global Travel because they are insatiably curious about new people, new places, new experiences and new ideas, and love sharing those things with other people in a way that will hopefully inform and inspire.
They launched Green Global Travel because they are passionate about ecotourism, and believe in its potential to help save the world’s precious nature and wildlife by encouraging sustainable practices that both benefit and respect local indigenous cultures.
They launched Green Global Travel because they truly believe that the words, photos and videos they capture along their journeys will both entertain you and help draw attention to the importance of environmental conservation.
They launched Green Global Travel because it is their dream to save the world, one story at a time.
1) What am I working on/writing?
I just finished a series on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Mobile Bay during the Civil War. It was very educational and I learned that there is a huge circuit of reenactments, involving a large population of Civil War buffs. These people make the rounds dressing in period costume, which are by no means inexpensive. I was literally astounded by the number of people following the various events and the amount of money they freely invest in items that replicate the period, or happen to be authentic pieces from the various battles. Its amazing to me that at almost 65 I had no idea of this segment existed in our society.
I am taking a trip to Japan for six weeks, beginning the Friday after Thanksgiving and I am sure this will spark or generate a ton of photographs and blog posts. I’ll probably share the photographs on Instagram as well. It’s sure to get a lot of likes. Even if they don’t, it shouldn’t be difficult to get the traffic I need for my posts since it is possible to buy IG followers. I will be in one of my favorite countries in the world and have a great deal of spare time, given I will be staying with my oldest son and he will come back to Austin for a week. He also must do that “Job” thing and work daily. This should allow me a freedom to explore and walk the streets trying to gather stories on the fabulous culture, the people and obviously the fantastic foods of Japan. I am drooling over this prospect and can’t wait for the trip to materialize.
One of my first stops will be at a chain of sushi and sashimi restaurants that carry the dishes via a conveyor belt. In 2012 when I last visited it was one of two restaurants that we ate at twice. I love the different items and luckily my son has a deep passion for these foods. So I see a blog post for sure on this experience. Then we can begin discussing the Ramen places, the Udon Noodle places (OMG I love Udon noodles), Soba noodles, Yakitori (skewered chicken cooked over a flaming grill) and anything to do with seafood. I might even do a Tempura meal this time and will have to probably do a great deal of these during the day, or when my son is absent. He gets rather embarrassed when I take photos of my food (if I can remember, as I forget half the time, until there is nothing left and it dawns on me I never took a photo and all my food is gone). I think that this discussion might just lead me to search for some online ramen store to get my fix of Udon noodles after this conversation!
2) How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?
I am not sure I truly have a niche or a genre as many more experienced travel and food bloggers are constantly telling me, “I need to find a specific niche and generate my writing in that area”. I can’t tell you how many travel bloggers have stated this. I find this too difficult at almost 65 years old and absolutely love all aspects of travel and food. I love to cook and try to take cooking classes in every country I visit and maybe that is a difference, as I am not positive if others go out of their way to take cooking classes in every country. What better way to get to know a culture than through the foods they consume and the methods they use to prepare the dishes?
I also am a fan of architectural structures like cathedrals, temples, and shrines which SE Asia has a plethora of and one can turn any corner and stumble upon a new and different religious artifact or building and be drawn into the design and layout. In addition I am attracted to doors, windows and balconies. Specifically those with intricate layouts and impressions.
3) Why do I write what I do?
One area that is very special to me is volunteerism. This past year I helped an organization build a home in Tijuana Mexico over Memorial Day weekend, with my two youngest sons. It was a very emotional and gut wrenching process. I also walked away know that my sons had seemingly overnight turned into young men with purpose and were driven to help others. The biggest impact though, was when I asked the Mother of the two young children what she would like best about the new house we were building. She answered very quickly and very honestly. She loved that when it rained going forward, she would never have to worry about their dirt floors in the old home turning into mud again. I cried like a baby and had to walk away before I completely fell apart. It was one of the most humbling moments in my life!
I also write to help others learn about the countries that they will never ever have a chance to visit, or an experience that I think is unusual and will be appreciated by my subscribers and followers. What has come painfully apparent to me, is that an extensive portion of our society for one reason or another, has not, nor will they ever, venture outside of a 50 mile radius of where the grew up. I feel an obligation to share my experiences with these individuals and hopefully allow them to live vicariously through my travels and adventures.
I also have started spending time in Texas towns and writing a series on this experience. I am a huge history buff and love to write, photograph and experience anything to do with the Lone Star State. I wish that someday I can also publish a book of my own that highlights my love for history. However, I know how the journey of writing could need a lot of external aid: hiring professionals like ny book editors, or proofreaders, or even getting in touch with publishers. Though I wish to have a book published, I have not yet given book writing a serious thought. Maybe I will, in the future!
Anyway, let us come back to the topic of writing blog posts. I have only done Palestine thus far and walked away with eight posts (from the three days spent in this magnificent Pearl of East Texas). I also have written several posts on my hometown and the city I was actually born in, Austin. This coming spring I have been invited to perform the same function in the towns of Tyler for their Azalea fest weekend in March I believe and in Nacogdoches, both located in East Texas. It has been difficult to have the Convention and Tourism Boards in the mid-size to small towns around Texas understand the true value of social media as a Marketing concept or tool, but the walls are slowly receding and coming down in some cases.
Lately, after meeting online and getting to know Bret and Mary I have started looking into environmental processes and what can be done to help us save our planet for future generations, especially since I have three sons that will experience what we leave them. It all started with the movie “Blackfish” and I was so enthralled and captivated by the Killer Whale’s story, that I began to look more closely ate specific stories and posts involving this area, like the recent debacle over swimming with the dolphins at TBEX in Cancun. I had no idea how they were trained or given preparation for the swims. It breaks your heart to see the actual process. Not to mention what happens with Elephants in their training for humans to ride them, or the pain associated with a massive weight on their backs from the saddle.
I also have a vested interest in the war against GMO’s and the obvious damage they present to the human body. Thank God each time I venture outside of the US, I am reminded of what actual organic food tastes and looks like. Not to mention the fact that in the two weeks to a month in county, I always lose ten to fifteen pounds. There is no comparison and the taste is 180 degrees from the bland GMO structured “foods” we consume in my home country the USA. All supposedly in the name of furnishing cheap and healthy foods to the populations of the world without sufficient supply. I am sorry, but that is a load of horse manure and these people will eventually obtain the attributes that our society has taken on like Diabetes and obesity. I will argue all day long if your position is of the opposite side and will never, never settle with you!
My last tidbit in this area is in regards to healthcare and the continual plundering of our population, by big medicine and all the participants. Try getting sick in let’s say Ecuador and see what a real Doctor that is truly concerned with your health and not taking a CYA approach from fear of a lawsuit involving malpractice. Not only will you be shocked at the genuine care given, but the costs will place an arrow directly between your eyes, as it more than likely will only be about 5% to 10% of what you would have paid in the US. And my apologies, but you cannot come back on me and say the Doctors here are so much better qualified. They are of equal value and trained mostly in the US. They practice exactly what you would expect from an American Doctor and have the same abilities.
4) How does my writing process work?
My writing usually revolves around placing selected photos in chronological order on my draft page and then I fill in the gaps so to say by reliving my experience visually with the aid of the photos. Every time I place a photo on the draft page it brings memories back, as they cascade across my brain and flood my gray matter with flashbacks of, or perceptions and involvement in guided tours, spa events, cooking classes and restaurants that make me drool from the recollection of the flavors associated with the countries and meals I have tried. I have been very fortuitous in my travels and been able to cultivate a wide array of trips and recollections of my travels.
Most of the time I schedule a time after morning coffee and surfing the Internet to devote strictly to my writing. That way there are no distractions and the words flow freely most of the time, given the photos ability to open up my thoughts. Just like others though there are times when mental issues or stress associated with life come between me and my writing. When this happens I get up and try to do other functions like eating (Ha!) or a minimum of house work. I have washing the whites down real good as I wear mostly white undershirts and white socks. Sorry Fashion patrol, but it is a fact! Usually it only takes a few minutes away to get my thoughts straightened out and then come back and finish.
The hard part and probably the area I dislike the most is editing and viewing my grammar, punctuation and run on sentences. I hate this necessary function sometimes! It too bad I can’t just blink my eyes and my draft be checked and repaired of all the errors.
And now I’d like to introduce you to my Blog Hop invitees!
Brianna Jellerson Simmons of the Casual Travelist.
Hi there, my name is Brianna and I’d like to welcome you to the Casual Travelist. I am a travel writer and blogger balancing my love of travel with a full time career. I prefer laid back luxury where the focus is on the experience and in particular culinary, city and nature travel. This blog is dedicated to having great travel experiences and making the most of your limited time to travel.
Welcome to the Casual Travelist! This blog focuses on experiential travel and in particular culinary, city and nature travel. I’m just a regular person with a full time career, friends and family that I love and a cat I adore; trying to balance my home life with my passion for travel. I aim to show that you can have great travel experiences whether it’s for 2 days or 2 weeks.
I’ve always loved exploring new places. I had a fairly nomadic childhood as a result of my father’s job living throughout the United States and stayed on the move after I joined the US Navy where I got my first taste of traveling abroad. After my stint in the Navy I got married, earned my doctoral degree and began a rewarding career as a physical therapist. I love my home life but the drive to explore remains. My travels have brought me to Europe, the Middle East, Central America, Canada and throughout the US including Alaska. I’m a big fan of traveling locally, you’ll often me exploring around my home state of Virginia as well as the Mid Atlantic.
Alison Abbott of the Green With Renvy blog.
Founder and writer Alison Abbott has been a multi discipline designer for all of her adult life. She is a serious design advocate, content creator and small business strategist, who is enthusiastic about keeping it local whether at home or abroad.
A passion for travel took hold early in her career, after production trips to the Far East for the fashion and design company she established in 1978. Twenty five successful years later, she segued into the world of renovating houses with an eco-friendly twist. A desire to combine that passion for travel with her growing knowledge in the world of sustainability led her to the launch of Green With Renvy. You’ll find the blog is an enjoyable riff on the concept of renovating your travel and lifestyle in sustainable shades of green. Reducing your carbon footprint can come in many forms, and even small steps can have a significant impact. Sharing these ideas and discoveries with her readers is what Green With Renvy is all about. When not searching for the best of artisans, growers and locales that make a destination unique, Alison shares her time between Boston and Nantucket.
Alison is a brand ambassador and Boston Local Expert with Afar Media. Recent work has been featured on Westin™ Finds from Afar, Stonyfield and Trip Advisor B2B. She has provided content creation and photography for both Chase Bank and Afar Media as they relaunch their web site. Alison’s coverage of The Flower Markets of India was featured in Leaf Magazine. Visit Philly and Visit Aruba have partnered with the site, and she has reviewed hotels around the world. Her self guided walking tour of Nantucket – A Faraway Isle was published by Visual Travel Tours and is available for download.
As a writer, she explains, “Nothing could make me happier than hearing from a reader who has changed her travel plans for her son’s graduation to stay in an eco-friendly hotel that I recently recommended. Having a subscriber and her husband take a page out of my itinerary in Kerala, India because it sounded like the perfect start to ease them into the chaos that can be India is very rewarding. Something as simple as trying one of my Meatless Monday recipes with great results can make my day. I firmly believe that as individuals become better traveled and more mindful, culturally aware citizens of the globe, the world will be a better place”. With that thought in mind, Alison shares the experience of eco-friendly travel and lifestyle through Green With Renvy.
Let’s make a difference together.
Jim O’Donnell from Around The World in Eighty Years.
I was born to a middle class white family in a small town in Southern Colorado. We lived in a modest 1920’s stuccoed Spanish colonial style house made of cinder blocks and painted solid white. The roof was peaked and shingled gray. There was a chimney, but the fire-place didn’t work. A great black American Elm grew in our front yard. I lived there from birth to eighteen years old. My mother is still there.
In the backyard she grew roses, lilacs and rhubarb for pie. She made my younger brother mow the grass. My father had a plum tree for homemade jam and the lady across the wire fence held a massive wounded crow captive in an oversized cage.
On weekends we went to the mountains. In the Huajatollas we crashed up old mining roads in our International Harvester Scout. In the Greenhorns we ate fresh trout from Lake Isabel and picnicked on the grass next to Ophir Creek. In the San Juans we perused places like Rico, Dunton and Sawpit and climbed steep paths dappled in aspen.
At Monarch we skied, in the Arkansas we rafted, and in the mountain ghost town of Victor my dad bought a miniature, tumble-down miner’s cabin, from which we explored Long Hungry Gulch, Wilson Creek, Little Pisgah and Grouse Mountain. To the cabin we brought the things we found scattered over the nearby hills and mountains. It was Victor’s past: giant star shaped drill bits, amethyst colored bottles, blue and white Lenox porcelain chunks, milk-glass, pewter cups and rusted open-top cans.
I also brought to the cabin a curiosity for the mountain bluebirds, vireos and hummingbirds I saw, the elk that cut our path, the mountain lion we hoped to see, the bear tracks in the mud, the butterscotch ponderosas, the fescue, the Columbine and the way the wind blew rain from the West onto my face in August.
Yet, I failed to understand the pits the rain dug where the cows had eaten all the grass. The streams I wasn’t allowed to touch that flowed from the mine tailings. The hill sides that sloughed where all the trees had been cut.
The reason I couldn’t hear wolves howling at night, no matter how hard I tried. In the ruins of the ghost town there was a nutty old woman with spiked white hair and breasts that sagged to her knees. Her name was Mary and she collected fossils and miner’s lamps. She said the wolves had been massacred in the 20’s and 30’s and that they would never come back.
At some point along the way, I decided that I had to see the world.