Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Travel Blog About My Slog

Welcome to my blog and thank you for coming.  Over the past weeks I’ve learned that creating a blog is no easy thing.  It’s probably worse for me because I suspect I lack the confidence and grit required to brush off cyberbullies.  I worried that random people would read my blog and leave comments like, “L.C., your blog stinks,” or “obviously you know nothing of Russia or its people.”  And putting aside for the moment they might be right, I’d spend countless hours ruminating before writing another word.  Sooner or later I’d crack and shut it down, but not before convincing myself that I’m a no-good hack of a writer, and who cares anyway what I have to say? 

So, to move forward I’ve struck an internal compromise:  I will let the world read my blog, but I must remain anonymous, and (I think) I’ve disabled the comment function.  Sorry if this disappoints.  And, yes, I realize this makes little sense in light of my burning desire to become a published author known the world over.  But I figure it will be easier to reveal myself and swallow criticism once my writing is validated in the form of a handsome book deal.

I’ve been very encouraged by those who have expressed excitement over my blog; however, I feel I must tamp down expectations a bit from the get-go.  My goal here is not to write the world’s greatest travel blog, though perhaps that is in the range of possibility.  Rather, the blog’s main purpose is to keep interested persons current on my goings-on abroad.  Of course I will aim to please with every post, but my best work must be spent on the travel memoir I’ve been writing about my 2007 tramp across the seven continents.  I’m also writing – in real time – a practical guidebook on how to quit working a real job and travel the world on a budget.  So you see I have a lot on my plate.  

With those caveats in mind, let me begin by telling you how the current journey evolved.  Recently I’d been living in Los Angeles, writing in dribs and drabs, with a full-time lawyer job and Seinfeld re-runs constantly interrupting my flow.  Somewhere in there Oprah announced that her last show would air in September 2011, and it was then that I began to seriously worry.  I knew I had to speed things up if my travel memoir would have any chance of being picked for her club.  I started to work a little harder, but it just wasn’t enough.  So I quit my day job and, on my 40th birthday, took off to travel and write full time.  I’ve got a tiny budget, an extremely tight timeframe, and a better-than-even chance of returning home to someone’s couch a broken failure.  In the meantime, I keep my bar dues current knowing there’s always more money to be made off of other people’s legal problems down the road.

A few have questioned why I felt the need to come all the way to Russia in winter in order to finish writing a book.  I don’t have a real logical answer for that one, except to say that I’m writing about travel and travel inspires me to write.  I had just enough frequent-flyer miles to get to Europe, and since my budget won’t afford long-term travel anywhere west of Poland, I asked the helpful US Airways operator to fly me as far north and east as my miles would take me.  That landed me in St. Petersburg, Russia, where I am today.  Soon I’ll begin working my way toward the cheaper environs of Ukraine, then I’ll wind my way through the Balkans and loop back up to Poland.  (Note:  Before posting this, I Googled “the Balkans” to make double sure I hadn’t confused them with the Baltics; see paragraph 1, supra, re: lack of confidence.)

My looks also played a part in the trip planning.  I’ve got some Hungarian and Czech in me, so I figured that would help me blend with eastern-European locals.  My book-writing plan entails sitting in public cafes for hours on end pounding away on my laptop, and I prefer to do that unmolested by gawkers, touts, and other chatty-curious types.  That part of the plan seems to be working.  As I write this I am at the кофе хауз (I believe that’s Russian-Cyrillic for coffee house) on Nevsky Prospect being ignored by a room full of seemingly unsuspecting Russians. 

A final word on the blog’s title.  For several weeks prior to departure, I obsessed over what to call my blog.  My apartment was littered with post-it notes containing scribblings of potential titles like “A Little Latitude,” “A Broad Abroad,” “I Spy,” “Worldwide Sensation” and so on.  At one point I got stuck on a run of “B” titles, as in “Bulgaria or Bust,” “Bunkbed Breakaway,” and “Backpack Bliss.”  I discovered that many titles had already been usurped by fellow bloggers, while others failed to pass the stupid-test among my blog-title focus group participants.

Then one night on the L.A. freeway, “Travelarity” popped into my head, and I knew.  It captures exactly what I want my blog to focus on, and that is the amusing side of travel.  I was almost ready to go when a friend asked, “what if no Travelarity ensues?”  Of course this gave me pause.  But in the end I recalled what past experience taught me:  something funny always happens along the way.  I hope to prove this up in my next post, entitled: “I Went To Russia In Winter And Forgot My Coat.”