When we write about our travels, many of us write lists of where we went and what we saw. With a bit more effort we can write a trip account that recreates our experiences and reveals how we felt about these adventures.
How to do that? Tell a story that draws the reader in. A story has a beginning, middle and end. It takes the reader along with the writer to explore new places, people and ideas.
Here is the beginning of my story about a 70-mile walk my husband and I took with 10 friends to celebrate our 70th birthdays. It begins:
With our 70th birthdays looming, my husband Tom and I marveled that we would soon achieve that august age. We were born two weeks apart and have marked our birthdays together, often with travels over the years. To celebrate this big event, we decided to attempt a symbolic hike of 70 miles from inn to inn someplace in the world.
Hiking is a sport we both enjoy. We have completed several long distance walks over the years and have established three basic rules:
1. We don’t carry heavy backpacks; instead we arrange to have our bags carried for us from inn to inn — by taxi, mule or boat.
2. After each day’s hike we enjoy a restaurant meal and a sound night’s sleep in a real bed; no camping.
3. We walk no more than 8 – 10 miles a day, which allows us to repeat that mileage day after day without over-taxing our abilities.
With those rules in mind, we selected the Cotswold Way in west-central England. It’s a national trail that actually extends 102 miles, threading through a patchwork quilt of stone-walled pastures and tidy villages. The ancient pilgrimage route leads hikers from the historic market-town of Chipping Campden in the north to its terminus in the south at the 15th century Bath Abbey. Along the way hikers pass Iron-Age forts, ancient burial mounds, and medieval ruins that invite exploration. Villages with honey-hued stone cottages and names like Wotton-under-Edge, Birdlip and Old Sodbury offer family-run inns and pub restaurants at welcome intervals along the trail.
We discussed our proposed walk with friends in San Diego, and soon five couples, all in their late 60s, decided to join us. The big 7-0 loomed for all 12 of us. We agreed that we wanted to complete the 70-mile self-guided walk at our own pace, with time to explore the sights along the way, but we also wanted to have our lodging reserved ahead so we could anticipate a comfortable stopping place each night. We hired a local outfitter (Andrew Guppy at www.cotswoldwalks.com) to arrange accommodations for us at village inns about 10 miles apart. He booked taxis to carry our bags each morning and arranged for drivers to pick us up after 10 miles on those days when our pre-booked inn awaited farther down the trail.
While each couple made separate flight arrangements and travel plans in Europe or the UK before our hike, all 12 of us managed to meet in Chipping Campden on our hotel’s sunny patio restaurant at noon on June 4, as we had agreed. We toasted our adventure with a glass of champagne at lunch and then…
(Read more of the story about our 70-mile adventure in the English countryside next month, in my September 1 blog).