Blogging is a modern day, digital form of self-publication, without the need for a bulky printing press in your basement. When I was a journalism student, in my final years of high school and at the beginning of my college career, I envisioned one day being a feature writer for a national magazine, choosing my subject matter, writing “on my own terms,” finding my voice, and telling the stories I was inspired to tell.
As the Lyons Township High School Copy Editor, of The Lion, this pretty much described my educational and journalistic experience. There was great freedom and plenty of room to find my voice. I was a senior writer, in a position to select stories that interested me, and edit the content of the final publication, on my Macintosh Classic II. (It was 1991, after all.)
This romanticized picture, depicting the life of a journalist, chasing down her next cover story, is not the experience of a 1st year undergraduate Journalism major. Instead, I was assigned the courtroom beat, asked to visit the local prisons, and cover city committee proceedings.
I was low man on the totem pole, putting in my time. I wasn’t writing obituaries, or in charge of overseeing the student activities calendar, but those tasks might have been more rewarding. At least then I’d be connecting with families who were grieving a loved one, and I’d certainly know about all the music, art and cultural events on the Marquette campus.
Covering the latest water reclamation debate felt only slightly more creative than being a court transcriber, or taking down meeting minutes, to distribute to absentee committee members. I realize now that there is an abundance of respected environmental publications that would gladly feature such writing, with broad readership. But I wanted to travel the world! My dream, tucked quietly in the back of my mind, even then, was to go on grand adventures, and live to tell about it!
And so, I walked away from the academic study of journalism, and tried to find inspiration elsewhere. I went on a long detour, studying philosophy, psychology and neuroscience, while I tried to find my way. I loved the debate, the intellectual challenge, and even editing draft after draft. . . after draft. . . after draft of 30-page seminar papers. I was playing with ideas. I was playing with words. I was in love with the work.
In 1996, when I was writing my graduate seminar papers, on the grape iMac I’d upgraded to, I couldn’t go to bed at night, after a long session of writing and editing, with out printing out a copy of my draft. I suffered from a profound mistrust of technology. Would my work be there in the morning?
Interests shift, and after 7 years of studying and teaching at the university level, I immersed myself in my passion for photography. I indulged my inner visual artist, producing everything from abstract fine art photography to high school senior portraits, from weddings to pet portrait sessions.
Working as a professional photographer, I began to travel, and I was documenting my travels along the way. To avoid living the life of a starving artist, I took up my family’s longstanding tradition of teaching, training and mentoring. We learn just as much, if not more, by teaching others. Sharing my technical skills, communicating my artistic vision, and inspiring emerging artists became my day-to-day routine.
As I traveled around my territory, I explored everything – the food, the museums and galleries, the music, festivals, and historical sights. I stumbled into unexpected escapades. I wandered, and I started to write about all of it. In the early fall of 2015 “Accidental Wanderlust: the Art, Adventures & Attitude of a Work Traveler” launched on WordPress.
Art – I incorporated my art into the blog, now having a place to showcase it, by publishing blogs that were rather photo-intensive. The images helped tell the story, bringing it to life, and supporting the text that accompanied it. There is no question that the written word is also a form of artistic expression, and I embraced it fully.
Adventures – These are the foundation of the blog, and adventure comes in many forms, some of them grand and others more pedestrian, or common, but impactful all the same. In this third year of the blog, these experiences included Exotic Cars and Cuban Rum, Salem Witches, Lucky Cats & the Kalahari Bushmen. I gazed at the stars, high on a hill in in LA, overlooking the Hollywood sign. I ate Tibetan Momos, drank Italian wine, and explored the legacy of the Quaker Oats company.
Attitude – And it takes a bit of grit. . . gumption. . . moxy. . . – we might call it “attitude” – to get out there and explore. The comforts of a freshly made bed, a hotel hot tub, and free cable might lure others back to the Holiday Inn each evening, but with the right attitude I’d venture out into the city. Rural and remote, or urban and choked with an expanding population, every city was worth exploring, and I let my Wanderlust lead the way.
And this week, we celebrate 3 years of “Accidental Wanderlust,” in words and pictures. We recall a proposal at Sunset – high in the sky, at the top of OUE Skydeck in downtown L.A. There are more memories of days riding my bike than I can count, happy to be in the saddle, and there are hazy memories of the last 10 miles of my 100 mile bike ride. Everything becomes a blur after 90 miles, and you’re ready to be done!
I ventured into the woods of the Columbus Metro Parks – I projected visiting all 19 of the parks in 2018, after getting to 13 during the annual winter hike series. (note: I have around 6 more parks to visit. You do the math. . . ) I have some work to do.
I had the pleasure of experiencing New York at Christmastime, under a gentle snowfall. Then I took a quick tour around the world (in beer at least) at Disney’s Epcot. On the same trip I learned that Christmas is the busiest day of the year at Hong Kong Café, thanks, in part, to fans of The Christmas Story.
Other holiday discoveries included empty airports on Mother’s Day, dragon boat races over Memorial Day, and baseball, beer and bicycles for Labor Day. Oh, and there were food adventures, including munching on crispy hush puppies at White Fence Farm, drinking tiny cups of intense espresso in Italy, and discovering the pleasure of Tibetan dumplings, Momos, at the colorful and intimate Momo Ghar.
I’ve been traveling regularly for almost two decades, quite often for work. Thankfully I’ve also experienced a great deal of travel for pleasure, and I’ve been documenting my adventures for 3 years now! I’ve built up a certain level of confidence, writing about the logistics of the travel itself, and how to travel responsibly and comfortably. (See “Environmental Responsibility Travels with You, if you Invite it Along” and “Accidental Wanderlust’s Top 10 Travel Essentials – or, Stuff Kat Can’t Travel Without.”)
And this year I paid tribute to my father, who passed away over the summer, leaving me with special gifts: his passion for travel, his ability to connect with the people we meet along the way, and a deep love of storytelling.
What’s next for “Accidental Wanderlust”? At the start of 2017 I set the goal of seeing my work in print and being compensated for my contribution to the genre of Travel Writing. In a way I accomplished my goal. I rewrote a May 2018 blog post, so that it was suitable for publication and wider distribution. The story featured a local woman who is making a real difference in her struggling community.
“We All Scream for Ice Cream! What can $1 Really do to Strengthen a Community?” was published in (614) Magazine under the headline “Sugar on Top: Community Builds Around Westside Ice Cream Shop.” Several other contributions have been made, to (614) Magazine and its sister publication Stock & Barrel, a monthly food and drink magazine.
So, “Accidental Wanderlust” is going places, with some input from the publication’s editorial team, a couple of rewrites, the need to trip the word count down to an appropriate 700 – 900 words. I’ve also relinquished the task of capturing the photos for the story, handing that project over to the (614) staff photographers. Perhaps I’ll work my way onto that team one day, bringing my photography experience to the table, along with my writing skills.
I may have “cheated” a little with a few of my stories, bending the definition of Travel Writing (see links below).
I covered a local community theater production, taking my readers off to Neverland, in “Peter Pan, Leader of the Lost Boys, Takes You on an Adventure to Neverland.”
A showing of film shorts, as part of the Banff Mountain Film Festival, takes center stage, in “Outrunning Personal Limits, Fears and Hesitations at the Banff Mountain Film Festival.”
And then there’s the week that my nonfiction book club took over the blog, when I published “Affluence of the Kalahari’s Ju/’hoansi Bushman: Hunter-Gatherer History, Anthropology, Economics and Human Psychology.”
But then, I suppose this isn’t really cheating. It’s my blog! My blog is a space where my voice rings out, loud and clear. It’s a bit of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” experience, on my end. I’ve found a way to live the dream of that young journalist I once was, choosing my own content, writing about the things that inspire me on my travels, and in my exploration of my home town.
Please do join me on my next adventure! Keep reading; I’ll keep publishing! Explore past blogs that you may not have had the opportunity to read. Go back in time with me and let me take you along on every trip.
Let’s go places, together!
Choose Your Own Adventure: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choose_Your_Own_Adventure
“Accidental Wanderlust: the Art, Adventures & Attitude of a Work Traveler”: https://kathleenodowd.com/
Blog Post – “Peter Pan, Leader of the Lost Boys, Takes You on an Adventure to Neverland”: https://kathleenodowd.com/2018/03/21/peter-pan-leader-of-the-lost-boys-takes-you-on-an-adventure-to-neverland/
Blog Post – “Outrunning Personal Limits, Fears and Hesitations at the Banff Mountain Film Festival”: https://kathleenodowd.com/2018/04/10/outrunning-personal-limits-fears-and-hesitations-at-the-banff-mountain-film-festival/
Blog Post – “Affluence of the Kalahari’s Ju/’hoansi Bushman: Hunter-Gatherer History, Anthropology, Economics and Human Psychology”: https://kathleenodowd.com/2018/03/27/affluence-of-the-kalaharis-ju-hoansi-bushmen-hunter-gatherer-history-anthropology-economics-and-human-psychology/
The Lion: https://www.lths.net/domain/102
Momo Ghar: https://www.facebook.com/momogharohio/