Books, Writing, History, and the Ritchie Boys

In "Books, Writing, History and the Ritchie Boys" I share my thoughts on certain books, the process of writing, the experiences of an indie-publisher, short pieces on WWII and the Holocaust, highlights of places from Immigrant Soldier, and, occasionally, profiles of Ritchie Boys. Everything in this blog reflects my personal ideas and feelings–a memoir of sorts, it is my perspective and any errors or omissions are mine.

A Memoir of Love and Travel Van-Life Style

“A journey is more than a vacation; it is an opportunity to challenge our beliefs and expand our minds.   . . . At its best, travel brings cultural understanding between people and helps affirm our common humanity.”    I found this quote many years ago on a travel website that no longer exists: I wish I knew who actually wrote these words as my love of travel has always been based on the ideas expressed by them. 
What was the most influential journey of your life? How has travel changed your perspective? 
The first question is an easy one for me — it was my honeymoon!  Granted, my honeymoon was a bit different than most.  It lasted for two years in the early 1970s and featured four continents via Volkswagen microbus.  For years, I resisted writing about the experience.  When we were traveling, I took notes, thinking I would write a travelogue or a food essay for a cooking magazine when we returned home. However, by the time I was back in California, I realized that most of my notes, by then as much as two years old, were already out of date. I set the idea of writing about our trip aside and proceeded with my life as an artist, a mother, a Girl Scout leader, a cooking instructor, and a traveler. 
For years, I have been amazed by how interested people are when they first hear of my van-life adventures. To me it all seemed like old stories of long ago. However, recently I began searching for a new writing project that would grip me like Immigrant Soldier did. Encouraged by a friend, I began to consider the idea of writing a memoir of my honeymoon travels. Known as “the long trip” among family and friends, the stories from those two years always seemed to fascinate listeners at dinner parties and gatherings.
For the travel details of the story I have been aided by seventy-three letters (over 700 pages of hand-written journal style writing) which I sent home to our parents for safekeeping.  I also have hundreds of photos (yes, slides) taken by my travel partner Tom, as well as drawings and sketches I did along the way.   Because the letters were written to be read by our parents, emotional and intimate details were censored out.   Thus, for the personal aspects of the experience, I have had to rely on my memory.
As I reread the letters, I recognize many things hidden between the lines. What I did write often reminds me of what I didn’t include. Though the memoir can only be my perspective, I have talked to family members about their Katie washing clothes Honduras
memories of the times when they became players in the saga. I have become totally immersed in the project. I feel again the fruitless anger of our first argument at the Guatemala border, the satisfaction of washing Tom’s underwear in a river in Honduras, the terrible heat and disappointment in Panama, the joy of seeing my sister Karen waiting for us on the dock in Barcelona.  I am delighted by the memory of the weeks we shared England and Holland with our nine and ten year old niece and nephew.   I am amazed all over again at Tom’s ability to fix anything that went wrong with the van and I experience again my love for him as he constantly built and improved our tiny home along the way.  I remember the thrill of seeing the bazaars of North Africa, the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, women in burkas in Afghanistan, and the sights and smells of India.

Now that I am actually writing the memoir, I must tackle the second question. How did this experience change me?  I think about the places we saw, the people we met, and the ways we learned to live together in the small confines of a microbus and try to see how it all helped transform me into the person I am today, forty-five years later. I entered the adventure as a twenty-eight year old, single woman—an art teacher off to see the world with her lover. Two years later, I returned to the U.S as half of a committed, married couple, looking forward to having a family and teaching our future children to love travel as much as we did.
After nine months of dedicated work, I am nearing the final section. I have enjoyed creating chapter titles which I hope will keep my readers interested—An Iberian Winter, For Richer or Poorer, Four Peas in a Pod, and Another World Entirely. Though the working title is “Memoir,” I can’t help but contemplate possible titles for the finished work.  Here are my current favorites:
• About the World with Love
• Venus and Mars in a Van
• A Microbus Honeymoon
• Two Years, Two People, and Four Continents
Which of these would make you want to read the memoir if you saw it on a shelf in the bookstore?   I’d love to get your comments and input. 
The Muralist and LBJ, a Secret Hero.


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